It may be best known for its stunning wild landscapes and outdoor activities but Lara Dunn finds out there’s plenty more to enjoy here in the middle of France
Named after the River Corrèze that runs through the département for its entire length, Corrèze is one of the original 83 départements created in 1790 during the French Revolution. Once a significant part of the historic province of Limousin, it’s now part of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine administrative region. The area has managed to maintain its rural and agricultural character over the centuries, largely due to the arrival of the rail network in 1860 which connected Brive-la-Gaillarde to all corners of France, allowing the swift and financially beneficial transport of produce grown in Corrèze (and Limousin at large).
These days, it’s fair to say that the main attractions of the département are the countryside and space that have thankfully endured, with many visitors heading to the area to enjoy the peace and quiet. It remains one of those parts of France that’s a not-so-well-kept secret, enjoyed repeatedly by those who know it well. Highlights of the wilder side of Corrèze include the 314,000-hectare Parc Naturel Régional de Millevaches en Limousin with its heathland, peat bogs, woodlands and meadows and the Massif de Monédières-much loved by walkers and cyclists. The 908m high Suc au May summit near Treignac-sur-Vézère is a popular walking destination and offers a handy topographic guide to the far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside. In the north east, close to the border with Creuse is the Pare Arboretum et Sylvatum de Saint- Setiers. There are signposted trails meandering around the park that is filled with some 130 species of trees-it is perfect for those who prefer a gentle walking option.
With four rivers, including the Corrèze and the Dordogne, as well as several large lakes, this area is well-served for options to enjoy time on or in the water. Those who prefer their watersports self-powered can go kayaking or canoeing, rafting or paddle-boarding. while traditional gabare tours and cruise options also abound, a perfect way to see some of the towns and villages clustered alongside these rivers and lakes.
Corrèze is far from just a rural idyll. The main towns of the area are the département capital Tulle and popular Brive-la- Gaillarde. Tulle is known for its lacemaking (there’s a festival dedicated to it every August) and for its accordion factory. The quintessentially French sound of the accordion is celebrated every September in the town with the Nuits de Nacre festival. Brive-la-Gaillarde (just Brive until 1919) has prospered as the node of the local railway network, connected to the rest of France. It was a regional capital of the Resistance in World War II, and was the first occupied town to self-liberate in 1944. Visitors today can enjoy strolling around the pretty town, with its plentiful gardens and an annual book fair. The regular foires grasses markets are a must for lovers of the local speciality of duck and goose products.
The département can lay claim to no fewer than five of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Collonges-la-Rouge lives up to its name with its unusual pink-hued buildings, best seen as the morning light warms the colours even further. The village of Turenne appears to tumble down the hillside from its impressive 13th-century fortress, while in the far south of the département, medieval Curemonte has more than its fair share of châteaux with three squeezed into the modestly sized town. Ségur-le-Château was an important town in the Middle Ages, controlled by the first Viscounts of Limoges and the ruins of its 12th-century castle can still be seen, as well as its half-timbered buildings. Charming Saint-Robert, with its Romanesque church, sits on a ridge close to the border with Dordogne. In addition to these Beaux Villages there are plenty of other pretty villages to visit in Corrèze, such as Beaulieu- sur-Dordogne, Argentat-sur- Dordogne, La Roche-Canillac, Meymac, Donzenac, Treignac- sur-Vézère and the ‘pearl of Limousin’-Uzerche.