The bocage countryside and huge forests of Indre make wonderful walking country. There are a variety of trails to follow either on organised walks or alone and local Tourist Offices can give helpful information.
Follow the red and white signs of the long distance GR46 walking trail from the department of Indre-et-Loire to Tarn where it passes through Indre for 170km. Join it in Boischaut-Sud at places like Sarzay, Le Chatre and Sainte-Severe-sur-Indre. The GR654 pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela travels 110km across Indre crossing George Sand country’ and returning to the Creuse Valley at Gargilesse.
Take a botanical walk through the 500 hectare Chateauroux oak forest. Mix walking with learning from information boards along the picturesque nature trails around the Brenne, as from Beauregard to Blizon. No need to plan if you don’t want to as there are also organised walks here in the landscape of the old salt smugglers. Discover public footpaths around some of Brenne’s private lakes including stretches of the Etang de la Mer Rouge and Etang du Sault. The Ramblers Federation in Chateauroux has guide books on themed walks suitable for the whole family on subjects ranging from chateaux to cheese. Tel: (00 33) 2 54 35 55 63.
The secretary of state to Napoleon I, Prince Tallyrand, was once the owner of this great Renaissance chateau with its towers and turrets, said to resemble Chambord. See daily shows with costumed actors arriving to tell Valencay’s history. Much of the magnificent First Empire furniture from the early nineteenth century remains and can be seen on the guided tour. Free audio guides in several languages including English are available. Make reservations for Valencay’s spectacular son et lumiere on tel: (00 33) 2 54 00 04 42. Shows begin at 10pm on selected evenings in July and August. See website in 2010 for dates.
The large park has areas for children with climbing frame in the form of a little chateau, bouncy castle, maze, little farm and new 4km Princes ride by electric car. Gardens include a new floral checkerboard. Open end of March to end October. Tel: (00 33) 2 54 00 10 66 or go to www.chateau-valencay.fr
Valencay also has an exhibition of over 60 vintage cars which has moved to a museum on av. de la Resistance close to the Chateau. Open end of March to beginning of November. See French website www.cc-valencay.fr for more details including son et lumiere dates.
Set in the heart of the Brenne, this lovely chateau dating from 1250 has a wealth of additional fifteenth and eighteenth century architecture. The luxuriously furnished rooms include a medieval hall, bedrooms and kitchen. Hunting trophies decorate the walls including a huge crocodile and stuffed pet wolf which the then owner, Mr Luzarche, had reared from a pup and taught to hunt with his hounds. The Chateau and its grounds now belong to the city of Tours and the parks and woods of Azay-le-Ferron are a great place for a walk or to take a picnic. Grounds include a topiary garden of sculpted animals and scenes plus yew trees shaped like chess pieces. There are flower gardens - including an English-style rose garden - vegetable garden, vineyard and orchard with plum, pear, cherry and apple trees.
The park is open all year except January. Chateau open beginning of April to end September. See www.chateau-azay-le-ferron.com for times or tel: (00 33) 2 54 39 20 06.
The large 312 hectare lake formed in 1926 when the Eguzon dam was built to generate hydro-electric power on the River Creuse is known both as Lac Chambon and Lac d’Eguzon. Reputedly the largest stretch of water in France’s Centre Region, the lake has become a wonderful leisure site for on and off the water pursuits. Sailing, water skiing and tobogganing are popular and there’s a water ski school at Eguzon. Jet skis however are not permitted. Hire pedalos and swim from safe, sandy lake beaches. Follow 200km of walking trails around Lake Chambon’s perimeter, enjoy a quiet spot of fishing and relax at lakeside cafes and restaurants.
Take an hour’s cruise by vedette from St Plantaire to Crozant with commentary including the history of the dam. April - Oct. Tel: (00 33) 5 55 89 81 96. From April to end Sept there’s a free 3 minute boat trip between the main beach at Chambon and Saint-Plantaire.
The Creuse Valley Museum in pretty Eguzon gives a history of the dam and crafts of the valley.
The rivers and lakes of Indre have everything a fisherman needs for a great day out, whether beginner or professional. Trout, salmon, pike, zander, grayling and carp can all be found along with American crayfish and even certain types of frog. Premier category waters are found around La Chatre and on the Rivers Creuse and Anglin and second category year-round waters on the Rivers Creuse, Indre and Theols along with lakes in the Brenne Regional Park and Boischaut-Nord. Indre has over 50 fishing associations, and a total of 24 fishing routes have been created across the department by the Indre Fishing Federation. Map-based information packs showing best sites, starter guides, lake opening times and more are available from local Tourist Offices or the Fishing Federation, 19 rue des Etats-Unis, BP 102, 36002 Chateauroux Cedex. Tel: (00 33) 2 54 34 59 69. Remember to check closed season dates which must be observed. You do need a fishing licence (with photograph) and these can usually be obtained at fishing tackle shops and local tabacs.