Originally a Roman settlement, Limoges’s early riches came from tin and lead, and later gold and copper.
Renowned for its enamelling since the Middle Ages, Limoges is most famous for the fine porcelain it has produced since the nineteenth century.
See some of the finest china ever produced in the Musee Adrien-Dubouche, plus services made for Napoleon and even Charles and Princess Diana.
Musee Municipal de l’Eveche displays enamelware going back to the twelfth century. Visit the Bernardaud china factory and shop for bargains in a variety of factory showrooms.
Birthplace of the famous nineteenth century artist Renoir, this centre for the decorative arts is a major university town hosting an important September festival of (mainly French-speaking) writers and musicians. Enjoy the superb botanical gardens, church of St Michel-des-Lions’ impressive towers and spires, and Cathedrale St Etienne’s fine stone carvings. Even Limoge’s train station is decorated in Art Deco style.
A medieval town on the banks of the River Vienne, Eymoutiers is set in the heart of the Perigord-Limousine Regional Natural Park and is a gateway town for the Plateau de Millevaches which stretches into neighbouring Correze.
Follow the ‘circuit du patrimoine’ to discover the beautiful architecture of Eymoutiers’s tall houses grouped around its Romanesque church, the Collegiale-Saint-Martin and Tour d’Ayen. The town has a fascinating mineralogical museum - open everyday from the beginning of June to end September - and there are watersports, fishing and rock climbing nearby.
Medieval St-Leonard-de-Noblat was once a fortified town on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. Today, this little market town on a hill above the River Vienne, with its narrow streets and fine thirteenth to eighteenth century houses, makes a lovely place to visit. The eleventh and twelfth century grey granite church has a 6-storey tower and is a striking example of Romanesque architecture. Children will enjoy the working models in the town’s railway museum open Monday to Friday in July and August.
Chalus’s main claim to fame is that Richard the Lionheart was mortally wounded here by a bolt from a crossbow during his siege of the castle in 1199. The siege was successful but Richard later died from his wound and it is said part of his body is buried in the eleventh century Romanesque church beside the keep.
Now known as Chateau de Chalus-Chabrol, the castle ruins dominate the little town, its other main attraction being a museum dedicated to the chestnut.
Chateaux worth visiting whilst you are in the area are; the medieval Chateau de Montbrun on a pretty lakeside setting which is open to the public in July and August and at weekends June and September; and the restored seventeenth century chateau at Nexon which is open all year and has a fine park and stud farm.
The second largest town in Haute-Vienne after Limoges, St-Junien is named after a sixth century religious hermit who settled on a bank of the River Vienne where it meets the River Glane and who was said to cure the faithful with holy spring water.
The eleventh century Romanesque monastery of St-Junien was built around his tomb and is worth a visit for its beautiful sculptures and frescoes. The town which grew up here became important due to the paper mills and tanneries which operated nearby encouraged by the exceptional quality of water from the River Vienne.
Today, St Junien’s many workshops continue to make quality leather goods and this traditional glove-making centre still supplies Paris couture houses. Ask at the tourist office for details of factory visits and tour factory outlets for glove bargains.
Enjoy St-Junien’s architectural heritage including handsome medieval and nineteenth century houses, Saint Armand Abbey and Sainte-Elizabeth Bridge. Take a walk along the river banks to enjoy St-Junien’s beautiful setting which has long inspired artists, including nineteenth century realist painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. If you have brought along your paints, why not set up on the spot dedicated to him along the River Glane where he produced several beautiful paintings.
Traditional buildings in this little village on the west side of the Monts de Blond have been restored bringing to life rural Limousin at the beginning of the twentieth century. Enquire in the school about the ‘Rural Nostalgia’ route to see classrooms and bread ovens, farms, living and work spaces.
The twelfth and thirteenth century church has lovely Limousin gates and the old white tombs in its cemetery are made from regional granite. For more information call Montrol-Senard tourist office, tel: (00 33) 5 55 60 46 82.
For a striking and thought-provoking reminder of the evils of war, take a trip north west of Limoges to visit the ruined village of Oradour-sur-Glane. It stands as a moving twentieth century shrine for inhabitants massacred there in WWII.
General d’Gaulle decreed Oradour-sur-Glane should remain just as it was - cars on the street, furniture in the houses - after the horrific and unexplained attack by the SS on 10 June 1944 which ended the lives of 642 men, women and children. Happily a new and thriving village has now been built beside the old.
One of the largest meteorites to ever hit the earth landed at Rochechouart, 45km west of Limoges, and the museum in this little walled town tells of its history. Open July, Aug and school holidays Mon - Fri, and afternoons at weekends. Afternoons only Mon-Fri for the rest of the year.
Many old buildings, including a chateau, are built of the unusual stone created by the heat blast from the meteorite’s impact. In contrast, part of Rochechouart castle is now a museum of contemporary art which can also be visited.
This restored fifteenth century paper mill on the banks of the River Vienne is now a paper-making museum. Paper for the first French-English dictionary was made here in 1762. The history of the craft is explained, from hand-made paper to the first paper-making machines. Open all year except January. For more information and opening times, tel: (00 33) 55 55 57 18 74 or go to www.moulindugot.com