If you love nature, then you’ll love the Limousin. Known as France’s Lake District and made up of three departments: the Haute-Vienne, Creuse and Correze. Bellac is situated in the northern Haute Vienne – a beautiful and unspoilt part of the world with clean, fresh air and an ever-changing landscape. You can truly relax here with quiet roads and sleepy towns –and just enjoy French café culture and browse in the local shops and markets. Or you can explore the countryside and walk for miles on designated walking routes or cycle through forests and by streams.
In the countryside & grassy slopes you’ll find fields of grazing sheep – Bellac is known as ‘Cité de l’agneau’ and there are several specialist ‘Traiteurs’ in the town centre where you can buy succulent lamb steaks. As well as lamb, the region is also famous for its distinct dark caramel-coloured Limousin cattle – try a tasty & low-fat beef steak in a local restaurant! And for dessert lovers, there are market gardens and orchards full of cherries – enjoy a slice of clafoutis aux cerises – a delicious creamy cherry tart that is a speciality of the region.
The Limousin is one of the few regions in France that’s famous for its cider (and not wine!) – made from the plentiful supply of apples produced annually in the orchards around the region. And, if you’re a beer lover, you can visit the local Brasserie de Bel-Air in St. Bonnet de Bellac, just 5 minutes’ drive from Bellac where you can sample the finest artisan beers and lemonade. You can visit all year round for a specially-guided tour and sample the finest organic beers available.
The Limousin also has a rich history. As well as its connections with the French Wars of Religion and of course, the Revolution, it’s also linked with Richard the Lionheart, whose final attempt to wrest back control of his land from rebellious French lords and viscounts ended in his death here. If you’re a history buff, you can follow the Richard the Lionheart trail which goes through some of the most picturesque towns in the region – pick up a leaflet and get more details at all tourist offices.
Mortemart – The Haute Vienne’s most beautiful Village
There are about 32,000 villages in France and just 151 of them are given the accolade of being one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. The Haute Vienne region has just one – and that’s the pretty little town of Mortemart – just 10mins by car from Bellac.
Mortemart grew up around the 10th century castle built by the then Lord of Mortemart. During the wars of Religion, Cardinal Richelieu ordered its destruction and all that remains today is the tower keep and a few rooms now given over to exhibitions. Also notable is the Carmelite convent now renting out space to local artists and the old covered market in the village centre.
Oradour sur Glane – World War 2 Martyr Village
You can visit this village near Limoges where 642 of its inhabitants were massacred by the Nazis on 10th June 1944 towards the end of the Second World War.
The Museum is open all year round and documents the run-up to events with Audio-visual and video footage – then you can step into the destroyed village and see for yourself the effects of the atrocity on this previously peaceful Limousin village.