Where to buy a bargain rural retreat in France
PUBLISHED: 15:23 05 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:15 06 March 2018
Looking for a peaceful rural retreat in the French countryside on a small budget? We found 8 French departments where you can buy a cheap rural house with as few neighbours as possible
If your dream is of splendid isolation – a rural retreat where you can really enjoy the great outdoors – then you’ll have a wide choice of affordable property.
Sparsely populated areas, where there are fewer work opportunities and less efficient communication networks, tend to be the cheapest places to live.
Here are some of the least populated departments in France with the lowest average property prices.
Population density: 15/km²
Average property price: €85,000
In the north of Occitanie (previously in Langeudoc-Roussillon), this rural department contains part of the Cévennes national park as well as the spectacular Tarn gorges, Aubrac plateau and limestone Causses. Almost half the department is forested and there are many rivers and lakes; even the main towns of Mende and Florac are low-key. The nearest airports with UK flights are at Clermont-Ferrand, Montpellier and Nîmes. Popular activities include hiking, caving, kayaking, skiing and fishing. The average house price is less than half the price of neighbouring department Gard.
Population density: 22/km²
Average property price: €65,000
Now part of Nouvelle-Aquitaine (previously in Limousin) and within the Massif Central mountain range, Creuse is characterised by rolling green hills, dissected by rivers and dotted with small towns and villages. Cattle, including the distinctive red Limousin breed, outnumber people here, especially on the Millevaches plateau. Lac de Vassivière, one of France’s largest lakes, is popular for watersports, and you’ll also find the Loups de Chabrières animal park here, home to some of France’s last remaining wolves. The main towns are Guéret and Aubusson (famous for its tapestries and rugs), and there are airports at Limoges and Brive. House prices are among the lowest in France.
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
Population density: 23/km²
Average property price: €179,500
In the south of France, in the French Alps but within striking distance of the Riviera, and on the border with Italy, this department is one of contrasts, with towering mountains as well as fragrant lavender fields. Ski resorts include Praloup and Sauze/Super Sauze, while the mountains are popular with walkers in the summer and the Verdon Gorges are a particular attraction for rock climbers and kayakers. Most people live in the south of the department where the main town Dignes-les-Bains is located. Other towns include Manosque, Sisteron, Barcelonnette, Castellane and Forcalquier, and nearest airports are at Nice, Marseille and Avignon. The average house price is €179,500 which is more that the average for France but considerably less than neighbouring Alpes-Maritimes (€415,000).
Population density: 26/km²
Average property price: €91,000
Located on the edge of the Massif Central, in the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Cantal is named after the range of extinct volcanoes running through it. In the regional park of the Auvergne volcanoes, it has several impressive peaks including Puy Mary (1,787m) and Plomb du Cantal (1,855m) which are popular with hikers and paragliders. Cantal also has a number of ski resorts for winter sports enthusiasts. The capital is Aurillac, a pleasant old town with narrow streets and shady squares, and there are two Plus Beaux Villages, Salers and Tournemire. Cantal is famous for its cheese of the same name. The nearest airports are Clermont-Ferrand, Rodez and Brive which have seasonal flights to from the UK.
Population density: 29/km²
Average property price: €80,000
With some 1,800km of waterways, thick forests and rolling farmland, the rural department of Haute-Marne is a haven for nature lovers. Property prices here come in at €80,000 on average. The capital, Chaumont, was prominent in the world of glove-making in the 19th century and now hosts the International Poster and Graphics Festival, as well as religious festival Le Grand Pardon de Chaumont. Local specialities include the orange cheese from Langres, which is matured in champagne for a distinctive flavour.
Population density: 31/km²
Average property price: €100,000
Nestled in the Pyrénées mountains bordering Spain and Andorra in the south of France, Ariège is sparsely populated and largely unspoilt, with over 50% of the territory mountainous and 491,000 hectares of forest. Property prices here average €100,000. There is the Orlu valley nature reserve and the Pyrénées-Ariégeoises regional park to explore, plus a number of prehistoric caves, Cathar castles and pretty villages such as Mirepoix and Tourtouse. Its capital, Foix, is the least populated departmental capital in France, with just 9,000 inhabitants. There are several ski resorts in Ariège as well as a spa town, Ax-les-Thermes.
Population density: 32/km²
Average property price: €76,400
Scattered with small villages and vineyards, Nièvre is a very rural department with only three towns of more than 100,000 inhabitants. Property prices here average just €76,400. The capital, Nevers, can trace its history back to Roman times and stands on the River Loire, with most of its buildings dating from between the 14th and 17th centuries. Nièvre is well known for its AOC white wine Pouilly-Fumé, which is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. A boat trip on the Canal du Nivernais is an excellent way to see life in the department from the slow lane.
Population density: 32/km²
Average property price: €118,500
In the former region of Midi-Pyrénées (now part of the larger Occitanie region), rural Aveyron is full of bastide towns and quaint villages. The pilgrimage route of St-Jacques de Compostelle passes through the department and Conques, home of the Ste-Foy statue, is an important stopping point on the pilgrimage route. Other pretty villages to visit include Najac and Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, while the capital Rodez is a pretty city dominated by its Gothic cathedral. The world’s tallest bridge, the Millau Viaduct, can also be found in Aveyron. The nearest airports are Rodez and Toulouse.
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