As one of the least populated departments of France, it is small wonder that the wide-open green spaces of Creuse are a paradise for horse riders. There are acres of fields and forest to explore, quiet country roads and marked trails.
Creuse has 24 stables and riding schools and 30 hostels able to take horses.
For example the Equestrian Centre of Domaine de la Bussiere at St-Pierre-Bellevue is open all year.
Contact the Creuse Tourist Board for a brochure with details of 6 mapped circuits they have produced with the National Equestrian Federation.
The information lists places to see, horse events and even where to stay for the night for you and your horse! Tel: (00 33) 5 55 51 93 23.
A spa since Roman times and the only thermal spa in Limousin, Evaux-Les-Bains is still visited for it curative powers. Soldiers in World War I came here to recover from bayonet wounds and today the new baths built in 2000 are amongst the most modern in France, offering special treatments for rheumatism and ‘heavy legs’.
The town also offers tennis, horse riding and other activities with a variety of fetes, markets and a vintage car rally. If the treatments leave you refreshed, you may like to walk 9km past the old gold mines at Chalet, to see where the hot springs bubble out of the ground at 60 degrees C.
You will find canoeing and kayaking spots on most rivers and lakes with places to hire equipment such as Broussas on Lake Vassiviere. Aubusson has rafting and canoeing lessons together with equipment hire.
The Kayak-Club Marchois at La Celle Dunoise on the River Creuse is approved by the French Canoeing-Kayaking School. They can give individual training for adults and children, run improvers courses, swimming lessons, and also organise excursions such as a family trip from La Celle Dunoise on the Creuse downstream to Fresselines. All equipment can be hired. For more information tel: (00 33) 5 55 61 98 33.
If you’re planning a trip yourself on the River Creuse, it’s worth knowing Topoguides now do waterproof river cards in English covering all sections of the river which will adhere to the side of your canoe!
With so many lakes and rivers - the region is sometimes referred to as the Lake District of France - there’s no wonder fishing is a favourite pastime. Creuse has 39 public and 10 private lakes covering 3,000 hectares both first and second category, as well as 4 fishing centres.
There are 3,400km of category 1 trout rivers and streams and 400km of category 2 rivers. Trout, tench, roach, carp and pike are all plentiful. Fishing licenses can often be obtained in a tabac and the local town hall or tourist office should be able to help with locations.
Follow in the footsteps of Impressionist landscape painters such as Monet and the post-impressionist Crozant School who fell under the spell of the beautiful Creuse Valley, from the gorges of Anzeme to Argenton-sur-Creuse in the nearby department of Indres.
Create your own itinerary, perhaps starting at Crozant where the Rivers Creuse and Sedelle meet and where nineteenth century French writer George Sand encouraged artist friends to come and paint in the outdoor fashion.
Monet painted a series of canvases in the 1880s in Fresselines where the calm waters of the Grande Creuse meet the lively spring water of the Petit Creuse. The Painters of the Valley of the Creuse Artistic Centre here displays work by him along with Leon Detroy, Armand Guillaumin and contemporary artists.
George Sand chose the Plus Beau Village de France of Gargilesse in neighbouring Indre as a refuge in 1857, wrote 13 novels there and entertained artistic friends. Gargilesse also inspired artists of the Crozant School.
Take a wander along its river banks to see why many artists, craftsmen and musicians choose to live here today. Visit George Sands’s cottage, now a museum - tel (00 33) 2 54 47 84 14 for information on visits April - end October.
Gargilesse’s castle can be visited April - Sept. Includes an art gallery which also displays glass and ceramics.
Reputedly the largest maze in the world, Le Labyrinthe Geant covers more than 2 hectares in La Foret de Chabrieres near Gueret and provides a fun day out for all the family. Open March to beginning Nov. For details of times tel: (00 33) 5 55 41 01 97.
This tree-top adventure park, located at Faux-la-Montagne near Lake Vassiviere, offers new sensations for adults and children alike. Includes 7 aerial rope course circuits, 90 games, giant swings, tyrolean zip and more. Adult routes and supervised children’s courses. Under 16s must be accompanied. Open daily 9.30-19.30 in July and Aug.
For other times and more information visit: www.arbreenarbrevassiviere.com
The ski areas in Limousin are centred on Gentioux-Pigerolles, Feniers and Peyrelevade on the Millevaches Plateau at around 900m - the Puy de la Mijoie rises to 949m. In all, there are 6 different pistes totaling 90km. Access is free and skis can be hired from the Association of Cross-Country Skiing at Pigerolles. For more information go to http://pigerolleski.free.fr