The prettiest villages in the Limousin

A guide to six of the most beautiful villages in Limousin

Limousin

The Limousin (Limousin Property Guide) is a region that is found in the heart of France, slightly south-west of the centre. It is known for its lush green meadows (home to the famous doe-eyed Limousin cattle), its extensive woodlands, its proliferation of beautiful lakes, and, sometimes, for its rather wet (although also often sunny) climate. The region is also notable for its lovely small towns and villages, some of which are classified as the most beautiful villages in France, although there are many more which are equally beguiling, although lesser known.

1. Treignac

The village of Treignac (Treignac Property Guide) is located in the southern Limousin, in the department of the Corrèze (Corrèze Property Guide). Lying at the foot of the Monédières Mountains, the landscape around the town is soft, lush and typically Limousin. The village is officially classified as one of France's most beautiful, a classification which refers not just to its aesthetic charm, but also to its authenticity as a representative of its period and its region.

Mediaeval, rural and beautiful

Treignac is all of these things, and more. Mediaeval and beautifully preserved, the village offers a taste of rural France at its best, with architectural evidence of a history reaching back over the centuries, physical beauty in itself and its surroundings and an ambience that will make you wish to return time and time again.

What makes Treignac special?

Treignac, like all the "Plus Beaux Villages de France" is strongly representative of its region, so expect to find typical southern Limousin ambience and architecture, with houses built of local granite, slate-roofed and almost all the buildings being of a uniform and distinctive design, peculiar to this part of the country. Other features that support Treignac's claim to mention here are: its traditional market place, with covered centrepiece; its rather lovely arched stone bridge that spans the rushing waters of the River Vezère; its three castles; and the three ancient gateways to the village.

Treignac once on the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostuela

Treignac is a mediaeval village, and the narrow streets, twisting and turning around the town call this period vividly to mind. It was once a passing point on the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostuela, and it is worth looking closely at the old buildings as many bear the tell tale pilgrim symbol of a shell.

And in addition?

Treignac is a lively little place, unmarked by modern times, yet offering a good range of shops, cafés and a quite magical chocolate shop. The village hosts an atmospheric weekly market in its old market square, and is a paradise for lovers of adventure sports as the River Vezère is perfect for all the thrills of watching or testing your skills and nerve by participating in white water sports. The beautiful, peaceful countryside of the Corrèze spreads out all around the village, with a superb leisure lake, woods and opportunities to discover other local beauty spots by walking the many miles of waymarked nature trails.

Any drawbacks?

The Limousin climate is not noted for being the most reliable in France, although it is temperate with summer being usually warm and sunny, but it is always a good idea to pack a mackintosh just in case! (Weather in France.)

2. Collonges la Rouge

"Rouge by name and rouge by nature" could be said to be a very accurate description of Collonges la Rouge, a gorgeous village which is set in the green landscapes of Limousin's Corrèze department. This village, once again listed as one of the most beautiful in France, is strikingly different from the rest, but every bit as rewarding to visit. It has beauty, history, romance and a very distinctive characteristic!

What makes Collonges la Rouge special?

Collonges la Rouge has one feature that instantly strikes you and makes it very, very special indeed in this Limousin region of grey granite houses and green fields. The village is built from the reddest of red sandstone, and this, together with its very distinctive architecture including fairy tale "pepper pot" turrets on many of the buildings, earns Collonges la Rouge its billing as one of the "Plus Beaux Villages de France".

Colourful Collonges la Rouge oozes charm

Of course, just being red would not be enough. Collonges la Rouge oozes charm, with a multitude of beautiful gardens, filled with colourful flowers and shrubs in summer, and providing yet more colour, as if more were needed in this village of contrasts. The village also has an 11th century church which stands out from all the other buildings, resplendent in pure white stone. The green Corrèze countryside, which surrounds the village, provides yet another colour contrast, and adds to the overall picture and makes Collonges la Rouge an absolute must see on anybody's tour of the Limousin.

And in addition?

Collonges la Rouge hardly needs any more to recommend it than we have already found, but it has more to offer anyway! Popular with tourists, you can find a colourful collection of shops, cafés and restaurants catering for all tastes and pockets. The countryside near the village also supports many sports and leisure activities, with lakes for fishing (Fishing in France), swimming and boating and rivers for canoeing and rafting. Peace and tranquillity are there for the taking in the Corrèze.

Any drawbacks?

As with any popular tourist trap, Collonges la Rouge can suffer a little in the summer months, simply by being so beautiful that everyone wants to visit it! If you want to escape the crowds and discover this precious gem of a village for yourself, try coming in the spring or the autumn, when the streets are quieter and the true character of Collonges la Rouges is able to shine through.

3. Magnac Bourg

Our journey through the prettiest villages of the Limousin takes us now to Magnac Bourg (Magnac Bourg Property Guide), a delightful if lesser known village situated in the Haute-Vienne department (Haute-Vienne Property Guide) in the north-west of the region. The village, distinctive with its creamy stone buildings and slate roofs, glories in its setting amidst some of the most unspoilt countryside in France.

What makes Magnac Bourg special?

The village of Magnac Bourg is full of local character, and as you wander around this special little place you will almost certainly find yourself succumbing to its many charms. Even the village houses have a fairy tale quality, with their cream-coloured walls, slate roofs and unusual shapes, often with turrets imparting a sense of grandeur more common to a larger town. The village church, built in the 15th century, has remarkable stained glass windows, and is a popular site of interest on the tourist agenda. Magnac Bourg is a real, living village, and its lively traditional street market bears testimony to this fact.

Surrounded by apple orchards

The surroundings of a beautiful village are often as important as the village itself in bestowing beauty, and Magnac Bourg scores highly in this respect, being set amidst acres and acres of delightful apple orchards, giving rise to a colourful and quite spectacular apple festival each October. Nearby you can also find a beautiful lake, wonderful trails for horse-riding, cycling (Cycling and motorcycling in France) and walking (Finding property in the best walking areas of France), and numerous other activities.

And in addition?

Magnac Bourg is tranquil and rural, yet it is no sleepy backwater devoid of modern conveniences. There are a good number of attractive and useful shops, restaurants and other amenities in the village, all of which add considerably to the quality of life for both villagers and visitors.

Any drawbacks?

Magnac Bourg has become a designated stopping place for tourists travelling through France, and while this has been a definite plus point for the village economy it can mean that the hotels and restaurants can be rather busy in popular holiday periods.

4. Turenne

Turenne, another "Plus Beaux Villages de France" classified village, brings us back, inexorably, to the southern Limousin and the department of the Corrèze. Turenne is, once again, a mediaeval village, but differs from the previously mentioned villages in that it sits atop a hill, giving it a marked resemblance to the Italian hilltop towns so typically found in Tuscany. As you approach the village it is immediately enchanting, its soft, weathered stone houses climbing up the hill with Turenne's imposing towers visible on the skyline.

What makes Turenne special?

It isn't difficult to see why Turenne has earned a listing as one of France's most beautiful villages. The whole place is a delight, from the hilltop location offering glorious views to the prolific greenery all around, the colourful flower baskets on the walls of the houses, the tiny mediaeval alleyways with their cafés and curiosity shops and the dramatic castle and towers that dominate the skyline. Night-time is especially magical, as the castle and towers are illuminated in a most artistic and atmospheric fashion. The village dates back to the 13th century, but the oldest of the two towers, the César Tower, is even older, having been built in the 12th century. The other tower, the Clock Tower, was built some 200 years after.

And in addition?

Turenne doesn't have much in the way of shops, although there are a few basic shops and café bars as well as a tourist office. It is really a place to relax, to escape the stresses of modern life and to simply bask in the beauty of the village and its surroundings. Supermarket shopping can be done in the nearby large town of Brive (Brive La Gaillarde Property Guide).

Any drawbacks?

Apart from the lack of large shops, the only real drawback to Turenne is that you will need a car to visit it... unless you are prepared to take on a long walk up a very steep hill!

5. Bourganeuf

Leaving aside for a moment, the towns and villages officially designated as the most beautiful, we travel to the north-east of the Limousin region to a small town (some call it a village, the point is arguable as the population is just 3,500) which is found in the Creuse department (Creuse Property Guide). The Creuse is perhaps the least well known on the tourist circuit of Limousin, but none the less worth exploring as it has some of the loveliest and least spoiled countryside of anywhere in the country. Bourganeuf (Bourganeuf Property Guide) has plenty to recommend it to you, with history and legends, an intriguing tower and a chateau.

What makes Bourganeuf special?

The little town has an understated elegance, and a walk around town is always a pleasant experience. It has an interesting past, having once been the headquarters of the Knights Templar, the mysterious movement implicated in the Da Vinci Code stories, making it a must visit for anyone enthralled by the Dan Brown book. Bourganeuf also boasts a chateau, an elegant church, a traditional street market and a beautiful lake. Surrounded buy the lush Creuse countryside, Bourganeuf is certainly worth a visit.

Tour de Zimzim

However the feature that makes Bourganeuf a worthy incumbent of this article is its tower, the Tour de Zimzim. This tower, with its five storeys and massive oak beams, is said to have been constructed as a refuge for a Turkish prince, Prince Djem. Legend has it that Prince Djem's brother was trying to have him killed, and the tower enabled him to escape his brother's ire. The tower is open to visitors in the summer, and offers magnificent views from the top.

And in addition?

Bourganeuf has an Electricity Museum, which is much more interesting than it sounds, and a good selection of shops and restaurants. The area also offers numerous sporting activities, courtesy of its rural setting with lakes, walking trails and riding stables.

Any drawbacks?

The Creuse is a rural department, and you will need a car to get around if you want to leave Bourganeuf. Also, being set in the north-east of the region, expect a certain amount of rainfall, particularly in the spring.

6. Uzerche

Uzerche (Uzerche Property Guide) is another choice which is perhaps more of a small town than a village, but again, its population of 3,200 leaves it somewhere between the two. Whichever you choose to call it, though, it is undeniably beautiful. Known as the "Pearl of the Limousin", Uzerche is in the southern part of the region, and brings us back once more to the department of the Corrèze.

What makes Uzerche special?

Uzerche occupies a commanding position on top of a hill, and this alone projects a picturesque quality. The town has narrow, twisting streets, rambling up to the top of the hill and taking you on a fascinating journey from the Pont Turgot, a very pretty stone bridge over the River Vezère, to the fine, grand granite houses and church tower at the top. The views from the top are as spectacular as the views from the bottom, the first allowing you to gaze across prime acres of Limousin countryside and the river, the second offering a magical view of the town above you, looking for all the world like a story book Kingdom. Points of interest include the old town gates and the lovely Romanesque Church of St Pierre, but the overwhelming glory of Uzerche is its romantic ambience. It is a place for lovers, without doubt.

And in addition?

Uzerche has plenty of shops, bars and restaurants serving the best of the excellent local fare, and this makes a stay here the ultimate Limousin experience.

Any drawbacks?

The River Vezère, which lies at the foot of Uzerche, is often used for canoeing, but newcomers to the sport should not be tempted as the waters can be savage and dangerous for non experts. (Sport in France.)

Rich hunting ground

The Limousin is a rich hunting ground for pretty villages and small towns, and there are many more deserving of your time and attention as well as those mentioned here. The Corrèze department has yet another three which are listed as being among "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France", and, of course, there will be a multitude of tiny, unknown villages and hamlets that have their own unique charms. Take time to get to know the region and discover them all for yourself.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

The prettiest villages in the Languedoc
The prettiest villages in Poitou-Charentes
Normandy property - Top 10
Brittany Property - Top 10
Languedoc Property - Top 10
Holidays in France
Brive Airport

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

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