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Limousin Region
Limousin Region
Chateaux & Historic Sites
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Chateaux & Historic Sites
There are so many lovely châteaux to visit in the region that it is difficult to pick out a few to list here. Perhaps the best thing to do is decide which direction to head in and then discover the chateaux en route! Alternatively, you can choose to follow La Route Richard Coeur de Lion, and visit the chateaux dotted along its path. The chateaux marked with an asterisk are on the route, although not all have been included here. Most are open all day, every day in the summer, but please note, some are closed half day or all day on Sundays, and religious holidays. Some have activities for children, and there are medieval festivals in the summer that are fun to see.

Many of the chateaux in the area were built in the 11th century and then fortified or altered in the name of fashion. It is common to have parts of the same chateau dating from several different periods. The competition between the Dukes of Aquitaine and their struggle for the thrones of England and France, meant that when it came to castle building a statement about power and wealth had to be made.

There are also hundreds of churches and abbeys of note; many are very ancient and beautiful with that almost mysterious air of calm one finds in old places of worship.

Chateau De Chalus
Chalus is famous for being the final resting place of Richard the Lionheart. The story goes that Richard got word that some fabulous treasure had been discovered (denoted in the coat of arms) and was being kept here, so naturally he wanted his share. When he was refused, this led to the siege in 1199, where he was wounded by a prototype of the crossbow (then a medieval secret weapon). He refused treatment, the wound reportedly went black and he died at the age of 42, one of the most powerful and influential men of the time. Naturally very unpleasant things happened to the archer responsible, despite getting a deathbed pardon from the slain hero.

The castle is surrounded by the imposing granite blocks characteristic of the area, and has several parts dating from different periods, including a cylindrical dungeon.

There is hiking and pony trekking on parts of La Route Richard Coeur de Lion. The Tourist board has suggested itineraries for this.

Chateau De Hautefort
This château really is a fairytale castle (it has been used in Hollywood films). It is very impressive and set above the village, on a huge hill. The formal gardens are lovely and transport you back in time, and are best viewed from the courtyards above, although there is also a nice woodland walk, if you prefer dappled shade, rather than sun-court formality.

Chateau De Boussac
There have been fortifications here since Roman times, and the current building was rebuilt in 1400.

Chateau De Valencay
Valençay is in Berry, but because it is so easy to get to because of its proximity to the A20, and because it is so grand, it is worth a visit. Built in 1540 by Jacque d'Estampes, who married money (his wife's dowry paid for the chateau's construction) and thought his new fortune should be shown off in style!

There are formal gardens with peacocks, black swans and ducks. More unusually there are also deer, llamas, kangaroos and camels! The Musée l'Automobile du Centre is within the grounds, and has over 60 vintage cars.

Chateau Rochechouart
This 15th century chateau is especially intriguing since it is built alongside the 20km crater of an ancient (200 million years ago) meteorite strike. It is also the home of a collection of 16th century frescoes as well as a collection of contemporary art.

Chateau Rochebrune
The Marshal Blaise de Montluc distinguished himself during the Wars of Religion for his relentless pursuit of Protestants. This 16th century chateau is moated and has massive 11th and 13th century towers. The chateau has many relics form the Napoleonic period. Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat Perched on a hilltop above the wide valley, the old church is an example of Romanesque architecture, while the rest of the town is charmingly medieval. It is known for its porcelain and cattle (the rather shaggy brown cows were first bred in these valleys).

Saint Léonard was a 6th century hermit who made his home in nearby woods, and became the patron saint of prisoners. In November the Quintaine is celebrated here by a reenactment of a medieval style jail-break. The town is also famous for Guy-Lussac, the scientist, and there is a museum in his honour here.

Saint Leonard De Noblat
St Leonard is a stunning medieval town with so many charming touches reminiscent of the age, that it is hard not to keep going back there.  The church is famous for its Romanesque architecture, and once you have completed the walking tour of the town there are several great restaurants and patisseries in which to refuel. There is a tiny cinema with huge velvet plush seats (very Cinema Paradiso) called the Rex and several bars. The Tourist Office in town is very good, and it is always worth popping in.
There is also a mill nearby that is a paper mini museum, and is interesting for children.
The drive to St Leonard is very beautiful and takes in several panoramic views.

Ambazac is our local town, and has a very good restaurant, several bars, bakeries, gift shops and a tourist office. It also has a mineral Museum.

Aubusson is in the upper valley of the Creuse is famous for tapestries, which have been made there since the 14th century. In the 1930s a new style of tapestry was created by Jean Lurçat and won such great popularity that a museum and cultural centre has now been devoted to this art.

Nexon has a famous garden for the senses, and is really spectacular, and there is also a chateau to visit nearby, Chateau de Lastours, which has medieval festivals in Easter, the second weekend in August and the third weekend in September. There is also a hands-on museum where you can see tile making  and other activities in July and August.
Saint Junien
This is a lovely place to visit nearby, known for its glove making and paper industry, but with lovely medieval churches, abbeys, and bridges.
Well-know for its beautiful houses, littered with turrets, bell-towers, and encircled by the River Vézère this is a charming town with an interesting history that is worth investigating.

Oradour Sur Glane
There is a centre here devoted to the memory of those who perished at the hands of a German Panzer division on the 10 June 1944. Oradour was chosen, it is thought, because of its very insignificance, as an example to terrorise the French. The entire population of the village, 642 people was massacred.
It is a powerful symbol in a region with a proud history of resistance during World War II.

Bourges is one of the loveliest towns in the area, and its history stretches back to 52BC in the Gallic wars, and it resisted Roman occupation. Recent excavations have uncovered a 2BC fountain and gateway. The cathedral is a world heritage site, and the charming medieval centre has an atmosphere that evokes an old world nostalgia.

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