Photo of Gatinais-Francais Parc

The Gatinais is a region of forests, open fields, orchards and hedgerows about 120 kilometres to the south-east of Paris and 50 kilometres east of Orleans. The Gatinais falls within three separate regions: Paris-Ile-de-France (Essonne and Seine-et-Marne departments), Centre (Loiret department) and Burgundy (Yonne department).

The area designated as the Regional Natural Parc is within the Paris-Ile-de-France region near Milly-la-Foret.

river in centre of Montargis

Although not a major travel destination in itself, the Gatinais park is well placed for a pause if you are travelling across France between Burgundy and the Loire Valley.

As well as having the Seine River to the north, the park is also crossed by several smaller rivers - the Juine, the Essonne et l’école - and the presence of these waterways and numerous small lakes and ponds also plays an important role in the landscape and history of the region.

The combination of forests, waterways and open countryside make the area very popular with hikers and cyclists, who visit to discover the protected flora and fauna of the park.

There are several towns with Tourist Information centres within the boundaries of the Gatinais-Francais Regional Natural Park: Ferrieres-en-Gatinais to the north; Douchy and Chateau-Renard to the east; Lorris in the south-west; and Nogent-sur-Vernisson and Chatillon-Coligny in the south.

Apart from the natural environment, although there are no large towns within the boundaries of the park there are some highlights of interest such as the two churches and lavoir in the centre of Ferrières-en-Gâtinais and the château de la Motte at Chateau-Renard, and numerous small village churches.

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A good place to start a visit is at the Espace Nectars at Saint Sauveur sur Ecole, which presents the traditions of the region in a quiet countryside setting.

There are several interesting castles surrounded by parkland in the area. Although these castles are usually quite modest when compared to the grander castles of the Loire Valley to the west, exploring them is very pleasant. Among the most popular with visitors:

  • the park of Chateau Soubiran: situated at Dammarie les Lys, park open every day and free to enter
  • the park around the Chateau de Courances: open weekends only, April to October, entrance charge payable
  • the park and castle of Chamarande: park open every day, free entrance, castle open March to November)

Several other parks and gardens are open to the public including the Arboretum national des Barres at Nogent-sur-Vernisson and and you will also enjoy a stroll around the Park next to the Town Hall at Pringy.

If you have limited time available we suggest that you follow the path through the grounds of the Parc du Chateau Soubiran, which is especially pleasant in late spring and autumn.

roman ruins at Sceaux-du-Gâtinais

Other places of interest include the roman ruins that have been excavated at Sceaux-du-Gâtinais, and several of the villages also have small museums representing the traditions of the region.