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Leisure Lakes of the Languedoc - Perfect Property Location?

A guide to leisure lakes in the Languedoc with details of five of the best

Popular property request - a house beside a lake

One of the most popular requests for estate agents charged with finding a property for British buyers in France is to find a house close to water. That means not just the seaside (Property near Sailing Ports / Marinas in France), but also close to the rivers and lakes of France, often set among stunning countryside (French Properties with Lakes). Imagine waking on a crisp but sunny morning in the mountains, and gazing out onto a lake shimmering with the reflections of the snowy peaks... or perhaps sitting on your terrace in the early evening of a balmy summer's day watching colourful little yachts and windsurf boards criss-crossing the calm blue waters of the lake on your doorstep. Sounds idyllic? Plenty of people think so.

The Languedoc has both natural and man-made lakes

The Languedoc-Roussillon region (Languedoc-Roussillon Property Guide) is probably better known for its Mediterranean beaches and the Pyrénéan Mountains than it is for its lakes, but it is, in fact, a region with a great variety of lakes, both natural and man-made. There are tiny mountain lakes, tranquil and beautiful, huge man-made reservoirs where many water sports are available, and the fascinating natural salt lakes found near the coast in this unique land.

Leisure lakes in the Languedoc

Lakes which are often referred to as "leisure lakes" are ones at which leisure activities can be practiced, as opposed to lakes where no sports are allowed. The amount of leisure activities that are on offer vary from just fishing (Fishing in France) to swimming, sailing, jet skiing and other motor powered water sports (Sport in France). Many larger and more popular leisure lakes also have further facilities on their shores and close by, which can include children's play areas, tennis courts, petanque courts, cafés, restaurants and more. It is important to check what facilities are available and also what sports and activities are allowed at each lake.

A selection of some of the best Languedoc lakes

Of the many lakes found in the Languedoc department, which would you choose to live beside? Everyone has their own preferences, but the following is a selection of some of the best.

1. Lac de Thau

The Lac de Thau, sometimes also called the Etang de Thau or the Bassin de Thau, is the largest and perhaps the most unusual of the Languedoc lakes. Covering a massive 7,500 hectares, the Thau Lake is a natural, saltwater lake found in the department of the Hérault (Hérault Property Guide), and it lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the land. Things to enjoy around and on the lake include eating the superb shellfish for which it is noted (take a look at the beautiful oyster fishing village of Bouzigues (Bouzigues Property Guide) for fabulous shellfish experiences!), revitalising spa treatments at Balaruc les Bains (Balaruc les Bains Property Guide), and sunbathing and swimming from the sandy beaches of the town of Mèze (Mèze Property Guide).

Go wine tasting in Marseillan

You can also visit the wine caves and Noilly Prat base of Marseillan (Marseillan Property Guide), hire cruise boats from here and enjoy other water sports on the lake. Sète is also lovely, lively in summer and packed with sights and cultural entertainment (Sète Property Guide). Nature lovers will also enjoy the spectacular sight of the big wading birds that populate parts of the Thau Bassin.

Property near Lac de Thau

Property around the lake tends to be fairly expensive, but keeping a keen eye on the market pays dividends. If you are prepared to do a little renovation or updating work it helps too, as this type of property can be found at considerably lower prices, and represents a great investment in this very desirable location (House Renovations in France). Leaseback properties are also worth considering here (Leaseback Property in France), as they represent another way to find a holiday home in this idyllic area. Those with plenty of money to spend could hardly find a lovelier place to invest than around the Thau Lake.

2. Lac Salagou

Also in the Hérault is Lake Salagou, one of the best known of the Languedoc lakes. This one is situated inland, north of the Lac de Thau, and covers more than 800 hectares. Salagou is an artificial lake which was created by flooding a river, and it is said that the lake contains a "drowned village" within its depths. The countryside around the lake is lovely, with rolling hills and unusual vegetation, and it is extremely popular with bathers and water sports enthusiasts. All around the lake are walking and cycling trails, while other facilities at the lakeside include a sailing club where you can enjoy drinks and snacks and hire windsurfers or sailing boats.

Why not consider property in Clermont l'Hérault?

If Lake Salagou appeals to you, a good town to consider if purchasing property might be Clermont l'Hérault (Clermont l'Hérault Property Guide). It's a lively little market town with good amenities and plenty going on. Currently on the market are some delightful renovated stone character properties in a hamlet very close to the town, all just a short distance from the lake. Prices start from just 231,000 Euros.

3. Lac de la Cavayère

Set just five kilometres from the stunning mediaeval walled city of Carcassonne (Carcassonne Property Guide) in the department of the Aude (Aude Property Guide), lies the Lac de la Cavayère. The lake was created in 1988, after forest fires caused terrible devastation, and is hence known to some as the Phoenix Lake, an area of natural beauty that has literally risen from the ashes. To most local people, however, the lake is commonly referred to as Carcassonne Plage, or Carcassonne Beach, in English!

Leisure lake par excellence

The lake covers eighteen hectares and is surrounded by a lovely conservation area which is home to many species of flora and fauna, all a delightful part of any visit. It is also a leisure lake par excellence, with numerous activities on offer ranging from swimming to sailing, children's play areas and adventure parks, picnic areas and even crazy golf. Swimming areas are designated and supervised, while boats can be hired for sailing and canoeing.

Property near Lac de la Cavayère is highly sought after

Lac de la Cavayère is a fabulous place to have close at hand, whatever the time of year. Its location, being so close to the fairytale city of Carcassonne makes it even more attractive, and it is hardly surprising that property close to the lake is highly sought after. It is also easily accessed, being close to the auto route and to Carcassonne's own little airport, served by Ryanair from several UK airports. The outskirts of Carcassonne will keep you close to the lake, and there are many opportunities to buy reasonably priced property once you get away from the popular town centre.

4. Lac Ganguise

Still in the Aude, but leaving the city and its environs behind to head into the countryside of the Lauragais, one finds the glorious turquoise lake of Ganguise. All the ingredients for perfection are here, with a backdrop of the Pyrénéan Mountains and soft, rolling hills and sunflower fields surrounding the lake. Ganguise owes its wonderful turquoise colour to a natural alga, and on a summer's day it is a truly stunning sight. The lake is some 278 hectares, and has an unusual shape in the form of two arms, giving the impression of containing an island in the centre from some angles.

Watch competitions or try the activities for your self

It is an artificially created lake, designed for irrigation purposes, but today it is also a delightful leisure base as well as a feature of great beauty. The lake offers a sailing club and clubhouse where you can hire boats and windsurfing boards (no motor sports allowed), enjoy drinks and snacks, book lessons for sailing and windsurfing and from which you can watch the competitions that take place on the lake from time to time. You may also experience the amazing sight of a water collecting aeroplane scooping water from the lake to dump on forest fires... so if you happen to be swimming or sailing at the time when you hear a siren, vacate the water quickly! Ganguise has camping areas, tennis courts and designated barbecue areas for added enjoyment.

Numerous options when it comes to property

The lake lies in very peaceful countryside, and there are numerous choices when it comes to choosing a village or even a more isolated location for property. Access to Ganguise is quite easy, as the lake lies between Carcassonne and Toulouse, both of which have good air links to the UK.

Property with views of the lake as well as the mountains is scarce

St Michel de Lanes is a very pretty village, dominated by a traditional chateau, while Belflou is another village set right on the edge of the lake. If you are really lucky, you may even find a property that incorporates views of both the turquoise lake and the snow-capped Pyrénéan Mountains. They exist, but they don't often come onto the market! A little further away, but still with easy access and good opportunities for finding affordable property, is the attractive market town of Castelnaudary (Castelnaudary Property Guide).

5. Lac de Montbel

This one may be said to be cheating slightly, as it actually lies on the border of Languedoc-Roussillon's Aude and the Ariège department (Ariège Property Guide) of the Midi-Pyrénées region (Midi-Pyrénées Property Guide). However, as many of the surrounding towns and villages are in the Aude, it is certainly worth a mention. Montbel is hugely popular, utterly beautiful and a superb base for outdoor activities both on and off the water. Once more, this is a turquoise lake, its colour made even more glorious by its setting beside the soaring mountains of the Pyrénées. Montbel has all the usual water sports together with swimming areas, cafés, lakeside walks and it covers 5,500 hectares.

Property seekers will be spoilt for choice

Property seekers who wish to be beside or very near to Montbel will find themselves almost spoilt for choice. The traditional villages of this area are numerous and charming, with very reasonably priced property often for sale. Take a look at Chalabre (Chalabre Property Guide), a really pretty bastide town close to Montbel which has featured in the Tour de France, or perhaps St Colombe sur l'Hers. Larger towns not far from the lake with a wide choice of property available include Mirepoix (Mirepoix Property Guide), Limoux (Limoux Property Guide) and Quillan (Quillan Property Guide).

Lakeside living better than the seaside?

Lakeside living in the Languedoc is about as close to paradise as you can find. The lakes and their villages are often utterly unspoiled and much quieter than their seaside counterparts, yet you still benefit from all the fun of the seaside, with fishing, swimming, sailing and lounging around on the beaches. Property is often less expensive, and the scenery usually even more beautiful. The five mentioned above are all well known and offer a good range of activities and facilities, but there are many more all over the region to discover and to fall in love with.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Golf in Languedoc
Best Beaches in Languedoc
Battle of the Best Languedoc Cities
The prettiest villages in the Languedoc
Languedoc Property - Top 10
Languedoc-Roussillon Property - an insider's guide

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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