The town of Cognac lives and breathes its world famous product - 80% of which is exported - and many producers offer free tastings.
The Hennessy Cognac Company has been in the same family for 7 generations and makes a good starting point for a visit. Their tour begins with a film explaining where cognac can be produced and the various factors affecting its quality.
Alternatively, Martell offers excellent tours in English with full information on the distillation and blending process, a visit to Jean Martell's 'Founder's House' and a tasting session.
Or, visit Distillerie Otard based in the medieval chateau where Francois I was born. 18km northwest of Cognac, between Migron and Authon, the ‘Ecomusee du Cognac’ gives a history of the double distilled brandy, including tastings of cognacs, liqueurs and cocktails.
Try Pineau des Charentes -an aperitif made from brandy and sweet, unfermented grape juice. Notice the black fungus growing on warehouse roofs caused by evaporation as the spirit ages.
Set between the valleys of the Loire and the Dordogne, the delightful unspoilt countryside of Poitou Charentes offers the setting for some challenging courses proving popular with holidaymakers.
There are over 20 reputable courses to choose from around the region, such as Golf de la Pree (18 hole) at La Rochelle-Marsilly - a typical Scottish links course 8km from La Rochelle and overlooking the Ile de Re.
Probably the best course in the region is Golf de Royan (18 hole) at St Palais sur Mer, in the heart of the Foret de la Coubre, which has a newly extended clubhouse to relax in.
There are also several interesting courses around Poitiers, one of France’s oldest cities, such as Golf du Manoir de Beauvoir and Golf du Petit Chene - both with trolley and equipment hire and restaurants.
Canoeing and rafting are great ways to work off energy in the racing waters of Poitou Charente’s rivers.
Radelage (like rafting) on the River Vienne needs fitness and skill. Parents and children can have a go at kayaking and canoeing on the River Tardoire at Montbron or at Aubeterre on the Dronne. The Rivers Anglin and Gartempe flowing north towards the Loire are both popular for canoeing and white water rafting.
‘Club Canoe Kayak de Saint Jean Louay’ near St Jean d’Angely and ‘Aire de Rejallant’ near Ruffec offer opportunities to enjoy the meandering River Charente through beautiful countryside.
Contact Comite Departmentale de Canoe Kayak de la Charente (ditto Charente-Maritime) for information on rivers and guides.
‘Pescalis’ at Montcoutant is an international nature and fishing centre for fishermen, their families and friends. The 150 hectare estate includes 100 hectares of lakes set amongst woodland, fields and hedgerows with separate fishing areas for adults and children.
Beginners and advanced lessons, new techniques and night fishing are all available, plus rental or purchase of equipment if required.