Gascony: the French Tuscany

Gascony: the French Tuscany

It’s southwest France, but not as you know it: Gascony is peaceful, spacious and abundantly green – Annaliza Davis reveals why it could be the perfect spot for your home in France

The images conjured by a mention of ‘the south of France’ – crowded beaches, sweltering cities, luxury sports cars and designer boutiques – tend to come from the eastern side. That’s not Gascony. This swathe of southwest France encompasses all the coast from the estuary northwest of Bordeaux, down to Bayonne, then reaching inland to northern Spain and almost to Toulouse. Definitions will vary as it’s an historical region that no longer officially exists, but it includes the modern areas of Gers, Gironde, Landes and Hautes-Pyrénées.

Its nickname of the French Tuscany gives you an instant impression of its open, rural landscape, the quirky little towns and terracotta-topped villages sprinkled between vineyards. Influenced by the Mediterranean and Atlantic climates, the land is fertile and peppered with small farms and vineyards, so everything you eat from the grain, meat and vegetables to the wine and fresh fruit here can be sourced locally. It’s the most agricultural part of France.

Visitors are drawn by the warm and sunny climate, averaging around 2,000 sunshine hours a year, with summer extending into October and mild winters that don’t seem to last very long. Those who live here value family, friends and food, the lack of pollution, the majestic presence of the Pyrénées to the south and the sense of heritage and belonging.

If this appeals to you, along with properties that are both attractive and affordable, you may have fallen for Gascony.

Lavardens, in the historical province of Gascony – Shutterstock

When you buy in this region, your investment can go a long way. France’s average cost for property sits at €2,749/m2, while here the average is €1,949/m2 , however, there is huge geographical variation. Buying a 50m2 property will cost you an average of €65,300 in Hautes-Pyrénées, €67,050 in Gers, €99,350 in Landes and €158,100 in Gironde. In Bordeaux, this shoots up to €236,150, while in rural St-Sever it’s just €72,450.

Where’s the best place to buy property in Gascony?

This is a place with plenty of space, yet there’s a considerable difference depending on location. Gers’ population of 191,377 live with 30 people per square kilometre and Haute-Pyrénées presents a similar profile (229,567, 51/km2). Landes is in the middle (413,690, 45/km2) and Gironde has 1,623,749 residents with a far higher population density of 163/km2 , as well as a younger profile of residents with greater disposable income. The good news within this diversity is that whether you prefer city life or rural bliss, you can absolutely get what you’re looking for in Gascony.

Auch (population 23,000) is the area’s capital, sitting on the ancient pilgrim trail to the Pyrénées and known for its impressive cathedral.

Interestingly, 53% of properties in Auch are occupied by a single person, and 86% are primary residences (not holiday homes) so there’s a strong market here for smaller one-person dwellings. A 50m2 studio in the centre costs from €55,000, although one in an historic building will be closer to €90,000 and townhouses tend to be upwards of €140,000.

For city life, head to Pau, which sits 85km north of the Spanish border roughly between Biarritz and Toulouse. Around 25% of its 76,000 residents are between 15 and 29 years old and Pau is one of the top-ranking cities for students, thanks to its lifestyle and affordable housing, with a studio costing an average of €380 per month. For investors, there’s a wide choice of studios, particularly if you have €45,000 to €55,000.

Located between Auch and Agen, Lectoure is one of the region’s most historic towns, overlooking the surrounding countryside. Filled with sumptuous townhouses and historic buildings, it is also home to one of France’s oldest museums (the archaeological museum) and was renowned as a spa town. A budget of just €85,000 here gives you a choice of a four-bedroom 100m2 townhouse, a spacious bungalow with 1,200m2 of land or a stone-built village house.

Biarritz and its famous sand beaches – Shutterstock

For coastal living, you’ll be drawn to Biarritz, which is a similar size to Auch, but while 44% of its 25,000 residents are over 60, tourism draws a far younger population. Summers can be crowded, but its reputation as a surf spot attracts people all year round: 41% of Biarritz properties are holiday homes. But its location, climate and year-round tourism come at a cost: a 25m2 studio here starts at around €180,000 and a house is closer to €500,000.

Other tourist hotspots are the pilgrim destination of Lourdes and the region’s Plus Beaux Villages including Larressingle and Fourcès – wonderfully preserved medieval villages that truly represent the picturesque and historic side of Gascony.

If, however, you’re seeking a rural getaway, try looking inland between Dax and Auch, where you’ll find move-in-ready homes for less than €150,000 with plenty of land that’s not overlooked and open countryside views.

For renovations, Gascony is a great area for finding long-empty properties that need a bit of structural work to restore them to their former glory. Just €30,000 puts you in reach of townhouses, village homes and barns, and €75,000 brings you into the bracket of detached family homes with gardens near bigger towns. There’s no shortage of building plots either. These start at €15,000 if you’re happy to build inland and a little off the beaten track. Closer to town or the coast, a budget of €50,000 would buy a 1,500m2 plot with views and planning permission, perhaps already connected to mains services.

A word of warning, as always, for anything listed as viager as this means that you’ll also get a tenant! While it could be an option for you, it’s a particular investment and you might prefer a property that’s ready for you to use.

Basilica Notre Dame in Lourdes – Shutterstock

While Gascony covers a vast area, there are broad similarities across its four departments. Across the region, unemployment sits between 8.2% and 9.9% and those of working age are mostly likely to be salaried, primarily in small to medium-sized businesses of up to nine employees. Around 9% of working-age adults are self-employed in this region, and the number of start-up companies has increased greatly in the past five years – particularly since 2020.

Regarding industry sectors, the most agricultural department in Gascony is Gers (the least being  Haute-Pyrénées) and the one that most relies on the service industry is Gironde (62%). Tourism is important to all areas in the region, with hotels and campsites having the same presence in Gers and Landes. In Hautes-Pyrénées and Gironde, you’ll find nearly double the number of hotels compared to campsites.

Getting to Gascony from the UK

By air, the nearest international airport is Toulouse (with flights taking around 1h45 from London or Bristol airports) or Bordeaux (1h35 from London). Trains from London to Bordeaux take about eight hours, while Paris to Agen has a journey time of around three hours. By ferry, there are several possible crossings, but as a guide, driving from Calais to Auch will take around 10 hours on the autoroutes.

Looking for more location guides?

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Lead photo credit : Rolling Gascony countryside with snow-topped Pyrenees - Shutterstock

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