Haute-Vienne Geography and Natural Beauty

Lac Vassiviere one of France's largest lakes, Haute Vienne, Limousin, France

Lake Vassiviere

This beautiful man-made lake, covering over 1,000 hectares, is one of the largest in France and a well known leisure spot.

Formed by damming the River Creuse, Vassiviere provides quiet inlets offering opportunities for swimming, and a range of water based leisure activities.

Walk the easy trails around Vassiviere’s wooded shores or voyage to its central island sporting a sculpture park, café and museum. There’s superb carp fishing too, either boat or shoreline.

Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park

This unspoilt rural area covering 1,800km² stretches from the south of Haute-Vienne across its border into the Dordogne.

200km of walking trails will take you through a landscape ranging from damp areas and peat bogs, lakes and limestone plateaux displaying orchids to chestnut forests. Discover pretty villages and the diversity of the Park’s fauna, with a chance for bird-watchers to see dipper and banded hoopoe, and flora including the honey yielding plants loved by Maisonnais-sur-Tadoire bees.

Ask at visitor centres for themed walks and festivals such as the Mushroom and Nature days at Bussiere-Galant and Chestnut days at Dournazac - both in October. Within the park, traditional arts and crafts have been revitalised.

Watch ‘feuillardiers’ (chestnut woodworkers) now making modern garden furniture. There are also great opportunities for leisure pursuits such as rock climbing, horse riding and fishing, swimming and canoeing on lakes and rivers.

River Vienne

One of the most important rivers of South West France, the River Vienne rises in the Millevaches Plateau flowing westwards through Limoges in Haute-Vienne and north to Confolens before joining the rivers Creuse and Clain in the department which also bears its name.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, produce bound for the Atlantic Ocean was carried along the river in flat-bottomed barges. There is now little commercial traffic above the confluence with the Creuse making the waterway in Haute-Vienne ideal for leisure pursuits such as swimming from river beaches, canoeing and kayaking.

For those with more energy to spare, there’s water polo and the river has stretches of racing water which offer opportunities for white water rafting and radelage - both requiring skill and fitness.

Monts de Blond and Monts d’Ambazac

The wooded granite hillsides of the Monts de Blond near Bellac form the first rising ground of the Massif Central with the highest points reaching just over 500m. This mystical area scattered with lakes, dolmens, menhirs and bizarrely shaped rocks has many stories surrounding its stones and a wealth of short and long distance walking trails.

Look for the strangely eroded granite rochers du Puychaud at the village of Blond and the wobbly Pierre Branlante de Bosscartus. Include Montrol-Senard on the west side of the Monts de Blond in your itinerary. The whole village has become a museum to traditional life in the Limousin.

Peaking at 701m on the Puy de Sauvagnac, the Ambazac Hills north east of Limoges give magnificent views from their rounded granite slopes of deep valleys, streams and lakes. The sparsely populated countryside is rugged, with oak, chestnut and pine forests and moorland alive with golden broom and purple heather.

The 350km network of way-marked trails are popular with French ramblers and range from gentle walks through woodland and pretty hamlets to longer more serious routes. Make your base the lively little town of Ambazac which is full of history with a lake for watersports close by.

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