Corrèze: France’s heart of stone

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- Credit: Archant

Quaint stone cottages in quiet rural villages sit among the majesty of the huge Limousin landscapes, as Carole Cusworth explores her home department of Corrèze

Life in the beautiful Corrèze department of Limousin turned out to be all that I hoped for. You have a real feeling of getting away from it all here, with landscapes to take your breath away, a journey back in time, extraordinary natural sites, pretty granite stone houses, pleasant little towns, villages and hamlets, and a slower pace of life.

Named after the River Corrèze, which runs through the department, the landscapes here are mountains, plateaux and valleys, home to many lakes, rivers, gorges and natural wonders. The Millevaches natural park is situated in the heart of the Limousin region, extending across the departments of Corrèze, Creuse and Haute-Vienne, and covering an area of more than 3,300km².

Highlights of the department include the valleys of lower Corrèze around Meymac; Mont Bessou, the highest point of Limousin at 977m); the mountain springs around Millevaches; the Gorges du Chavanon to the east; and the Monédières hills.

Water is the most abundant natural feature on the vast Plateau de Millevaches, also known as the ‘plateau of a thousand springs’, along with heathland, wetlands and ancient broad-leaved forests.

Here the peat bogs, springs and rivers of the Loire and Dordogne basins are home to many remarkable species, in particular the otter, the symbol of the area.

The skill and expertise of past inhabitants of the plateau can be seen in the many monumental crosses gracing its byways and crossroads, as well as the medieval bridges, wells, fountains and agricultural buildings that are found here.

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Perfect for hiking and outdoor activities, the Plateau de Millevaches is criss-crossed with numerous footpaths, cycle routes and mountain biking trails.

A few miles north-west of Tulle lies Gimel-les-Cascades, one of the most beautiful natural sites in the department. These waterfalls consist of three successive cascades along the Montane river with a total height of 143m: Le Grand Saut (45m), Le Redole (38m) and La Queue de Cheval (60m), the latter plunging into the Gouffe de l’Inferno. Waymarked paths allow visitors to explore the waterfalls, which were laid out by the painter Gaston Vuillier between 1893 and 1899.

COLOUR AND CULTURE

But there is so much more to Corrèze than just natural wonders, such as the colourful markets, cafés and shops around many villages and towns such as Brive-la-Gaillarde and Tulle. The wonderful town of Collonges-la-Rouge, entirely built with red sandstone, is one of the most visited sites in the whole of Limousin.

The number of spectacular views never cease to amaze, thanks to the landscape and combination of villages and towns in the area. Corrèze has five villages belonging to Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, so watch out for Collonges-la-Rouge, Curemont, St-Robert, Ségur-le-Château and Turenne.

On Saturday mornings, I can take a trip to the medieval town of Treignac to visit the moreish chocolatier and relax with a coffee outside the pretty café overlooking the beautiful architecture, before taking my pick of the many lakes in the area, such as Lac Viam or Lac de Barriousses for a leisurely stroll with the dog.

Or I could take a trip to Brive-la-Gaillarde for a spot of shopping or experience some cultural heritage before heading off to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne to soak up the splendour of its fascinating history, or take a cruise along the stunning Dordogne river.

Corrèze is superbly located and served by low-cost airlines to two airports: Limoges and Brive. The TGV rail network from Paris and the motorway connects you from the very north of France to Spain and beyond.

With first-class sports facilities and opportunities for walking, hiking, cycling, horseriding, canoeing, swimming and fishing, it’s easy to understand why Corrèze is becoming increasingly popular with overseas property buyers, and with the French themselves. Whether you crave the peace and quiet of the countryside or are hungry for activity and adventure, there is something for everyone here in Corrèze.

The very best thing about Corrèze, apart from its breathtaking scenery, beauty and charm, is that much of it is still unspoilt and unknown. Working as an estate agent here, I am still amazed at some of the incredible sights that I discover when visiting new vendors, and showing my clients the area and the selection of very affordable properties it has to offer.

PROPERTY MARKET

Limousin is often described as one of the cheapest French regions in terms of property. It will depend of course on the location and your property expectations but in general you do get a lot for your money.

Less than 12% of the properties in Corrèze are second homes but the number is climbing as it is highly sought after for quality holiday homes, setting up B&B businesses and for permanent residences. A range of different properties are popular with British buyers at the moment, from village centre houses to the traditional and rustic stone-built cottages and farmhouses. In my experience so far this year, the purpose of buying a property in Corrèze is for a permanent move for a slower pace of life in a beautiful part of France.

On my books, I have properties to suit all budgets: properties under €50,000 with work to be carried out, mid-range stunning barn conversions, ecological wooden houses and traditional stone-built properties from €100,000 to €300,000 and high-end large manoirs and châteaux.

Carole Cusworth is a property agent working in Corrèze and southern Haute-Vienne

www.agencenewton.com

www.my-french-home.com