An insider’s guide to Orne in Normandy, including the main attractions to visit on holiday, the best towns and villages to live in, the major festivals and events, and buying property in Orne
Orne has a turbulent history of wars and destruction, similar to its neighbouring departments in the region of Normandy (and previously divided into Upper and Lower Normandy). There is a lot of history and culture to uncover in the department including the numerous stunning castles that dot the towns and villages within the department.
Along with neighbouring Calvados, the Orne department shares the countryside known as Suisse Normande, renowned for a landscape studded with dramatic wooded hills and gorges. Although it doesn’t boast any coastline, there is plenty of gorgeous rolling greenery to explore either on foot, upon horse or by bike.
Due to its close proximity to the UK, easy access via ferry and cheaper property prices, expats looking to relocate or those after an affordable home abroad flock to Orne.
Plane: There are seasonal flights to Caen airport in neighbouring Calvados
By train: Eurostar to Paris, take the TGV to Le Mans and then regional services to Alençon are available
By road: Alençon is 374km from Calais
By sea: Normandy has ferry ports in Caen, Cherbourg, Dieppe and Le Havre
Places to visit in Orne
The department’s capital, Alençon, is a quaint town, home to the world-renowned point d´Alençon fine lace. The lace-making industry grew rapidly during the reign of Louis XIV and a Royal Workshop was established in Alençon in 1665. Just 10 years later the unique Alençon lace style emerged, the history of which is vividly recaptured today in the town’s Museum of Fine Arts and Lace.
Make sure to visit the 16th century Notre Dame church while in the town’s old quarter – the architectural gem was a source of inspiration for the French novelist Honoré de Balzac. The 15th century Chateau des Ducs is another iconic monument to admire with its remaining castle towers that provide an impressive entrance into the building.
The Orne department is also home to the renowned spa town of Bagnoles de l´Orne. A Belle Époque town, Bagnoles keeps up to date with the latest in luxurious treatments, boasts thermal spas to relax in and has plenty of pretty scenery to admire while you stroll around the town.
Things to do in Orne
Nature lovers are well catered for here, with the several forests within the Normandy-regional natural park providing plenty of opportunities for a day of riding, fishing or hiking.
Hugely popular with hikers and walkers, the area has also earned a reputation for being a centre of equestrian excellence and boasts numerous racecourses, such as that found in Argentan and studs, including the national stud, Le Haras du Pin.
The department is also home to many bridleways and invites you to discover its equine connection at your own pace, with both pony trekking and donkey rides being popular ways to discover the area’s natural beauty.
Further north in the department is the village of Camembert, where cheese aficionados can learn about the history of this iconic French cheese in the local museum. The soft, creamy cheese is said to have first been produced in the 18th century in the eponymous village and is still a firm French cheeseboard favourite.
Buying property in Orne
For those seeking peaceful, rural surroundings, easy access from the UK and affordable house prices, Orne could be the perfect place for prospective homeowners to relocate or purchase a second home. The popular property styles in Orne are usually built with stone including farmhouses, townhouses and even larger manor houses. There are also half-timbered properties usually built with local materials.
The average property price in this department is around €97,000, significantly less expensive than the average property price in France (€157,600) and the least expensive department in the Normandy region (€132,500).
Property prices throughout Orne tend to be around a similar price, with the most expensive being the department’s stunning capital of Alençon with an average property price of €113,300 while the smaller historic town of Argentan has an average property price of €93,000.
You can find properties in Orne for sale on the France Property Shop website.