Exploring the Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park
The Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park is in south-west France, between Angouleme to the west and Limoges to the east. The park is within two different French departments: the northern part of the Dordogne, between Nontron and Jumilhac-le-Grand, and the Haute-Vienne department of Limousin to the south of Rochechouart. It covers a region of almost 2000 square kilometres.
When you are exploring this area it is the diversity of the countryside that you will enjoy, with a large amount of woodlands and forests, lots of lakes and streams, and also a substantial amount of open moorland type scenery.
France This Way comment: The Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park has a great deal to enjoy and is a very peaceful environment - a good way to discover the 'traditional France', or France profonde as it is known. The roads in particular are ideal for cycling, being very quiet and generally not too hilly. We suggest that you stay in or near Brantome and spend a day or two exploring the parc to the north.
The Maison du Parc, the information centre dedicated to explaining the natural environment of the Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park and suggesting activities, is at La Coquille to the north-west of Jumilhac-le-Grand and the ideal place to start your visit. Many of the other towns and villages in the parc also have tourist information offices.
Generally speaking the landscape falls into three broad categories:
- the northern part of the parc is more open, with small traditional farms and fields separated by hedgerows and also numerous woodlands and waterways. This region is called the Bocage Limousin;
- there are more forests, typically of oak and chestnut, across the central part of the parc which is known as the Le Massif des Feuillardiers ;
- the southern part of the parc has more mixed scenery, with small woodlands and valleys being typical. The Jumilhac plateau and the valley of the Isle river are to the east and the Dronne Valley to the west
Each of these regions merits exploration and you will find plenty of trails, activities and other leisure opportunities across the whole of the Perigord-Limousin Parc.
Of course, it is the diversity of the countryside that also assures the diversity of the wildlife in the park, and there are numerous species of animals, birds and plants here. Exploring on foot or by bike is the best way to enjoy the natural environment.
Among the natural highlights are the Saut du Chalard, a scenic small waterfall at Champs-Romain and the Chapelet du Diable, a 'river of boulders' at Saint-Estèphe. A more recent 'natural highlight' is the Lac de Lavaud, west of Rochechouart and created when a barrage was built in 1989 (within the Charente department).
You will also come across various historic monuments in the Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park. These include:
- the modest castle of Château de Richemont at Saint-Crépin-de-Richemont;
- the Chateau de Montbrun at Dournazac, a 15th century castle in an attractive waterside location;
- the Chateau de Jumilhac in the south-east of the park, an impressive castle with attractive gardens and a nice view across the Isle River;
- the ruined medieval castles of Château de Chalus-Chabrol and Château de Châlus-Maulmont in the traditional market town of Chalus.
Towns and villages
The principal towns in the parc are:
- Nontron, a small market town that is well placed to explore the southern part of the park and also nearby Brantome: see Nontron
- Rochechouart, a small town with a castle in the north of the park and famous for the meteorite that crashed to earth here 200 million years ago: see Rochechouart
- Villars, on the southern edge of the parc and with several interesting monuments and sights of interest including the ruins of the Abbey of Boschaud, the Grotte de Villars and the Chateau de Puyguilhem.
- at Brantome, just outside the southern borders of the Park, you can see the Abbey of Saint-Pierre and enjoy a stroll around one of the prettiest small towns in the Dordogne
This is a peaceful area although, with the exception of Brantome and Jumilhac, the historic sites are of less importance than the chance to simply enjoy the countryside.