Area Guide to the Regions of France

Regional Guide to Limousin

Château de Brie, Limousin

Château de Brie, Limousin

At a Glance

  • Located in central France on the plateau of the Massif Central mountain range.
  • A landscape of forests, gorges, rivers and moors. Its "1000" lakes make it popular for water sports and fishing.
  • Sparsely populated and predominantly rural there are few large towns.
  • Most famous for traditional Arts and Crafts (Limoges pottery and ceramics, Aubusson tapestry, Tulle silk and lace), red ‘Limousin’ cattle and for traditional fetes and celebrations.
  • Located next to the Dordogne, the region is gradually becoming more popular amongst foreign buyers. However property prices and living costs are still marginally cheaper than in the neighbouring regions and renovation projects are more likely to be found here compared to other regions.
  • Recent focus on economic development offers subsidies and incentives to businesses wishing to locate here.

Location

Limousin is located in central France, on the north-western plateau of the Massif Central mountain range. A granite plateau of moors, springs and waterfalls, known as the Milles Vaches surrounds the elevated valleys, gorges and peaks of the central eastern part of the region. The region extends into the lower, flatter country of the Brive basin towards the southeast.

The region is bordered by Centre to the north, Poitou-Charentes and Aquitaine to the west, Midi-Pyrenees to the south and Auvergne to the East.

There are three departments within the region: Corrèze [19] to the south, Creuse [23] to the northeast and Haute-Vienne [87] to the west.

The capital Limoges is located to the west of the region in the department, Haute-Vienne.

Maps of Limousin

Google Interactive Map

Map of Limousin with Departments

Map of Limousin with Departments

Regional Capital:

Limoges

Department / Capital:

Correze (19) / Tulle

Creuse (23) / Guéret

Haute-Vienne (87) / Limoges

Description

Limousin is one of the most rural and sparsely populated regions of France and cultural traditions have been largely unaffected by the pace of modern life. The region is known for its traditional Arts and Crafts, and for its tranquil, remote and unspoilt landscapes.

The mountains of the Massif Central occupy the eastern part of Limousin, and the majority of the region is located on the surrounding granite plateau. Most of Limousin’s rivers have their source in the plateau of Milles Vaches, and deep gorges and valleys have been carved into the rural landscape of moors, pastureland and forest. The abundance of rivers, streams and lakes in the region make Limousin popular for bathing, fishing, kayaking and sailing. Further south, the low lying Brive basin has a much flatter landscape of vineyards and orchards, and the churches, abbeys, and chateaux built by the renowned Limousin masons can be found throughout the region.

The regional capital Limoges is the largest town in a region more commonly associated with small villages whose cultural traditions, industries and celebrations are well preserved.

These traditional industries not only bear important cultural relevance within Limousin, but are also still important to the regional economy and continue to thrive alongside the newer industries that have developed in the region due to de-centralisation.

Though still relatively undiscovered, Limousin is starting to become more popular as a destination for second-home buyers due to its scenic landscapes and relaxing pace of life. Tourism is definitely set to develop as an important sector within the region’s economy.

Climate in Limousin

Average Max and Min Temperatures

Average Temparature in Limousin

Average Rainfall

Average Rainfall in Limousin

Due to the different landscapes and elevation changes of the region (the highest peak, Mont Bessou is 984m above sea level), Limousin experiences a varied climate.

Winters in the mountains are characterised by frost and snow with an average midwinter temperature of 0°C while the summers are crisp and clear though certainly cooler than in the lowlands. Temperatures in the Brive basin regularly exceed 30° C during the summer months, while the winters are less harsh than the mountainous regions.

Culture

Limousin has a strong arts and crafts tradition of pottery and ceramics in Limoges; tapestry and weaving in Aubusson; Crozant as a centre of the impressionist art movement; Tulle lace and silks, and goldsmithing and stone masonry throughout the region. It is also the birthplace of Auguste Renoir. The landscape of Limousin has inspired many painters throughout history and Aubusson is home to the National School of Decorative Arts, founded in 1869.

There are few large towns in Limousin and the landscape is dotted with charming villages, where folk traditions have survived and traditional fetes and celebrations are common. There are numerous abbeys and churches built between the 10th and 15th centuries along the Pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.

 

Countryside, Limousin

History of Limousin

No other region in France has more Saints than Limousin and the Ostentations is a septennial parade of relics through the street of every village. Much of Limousin’s historic legacy is borne in the abbeys and churches, castle and chateaux, and historic centres of the larger towns.
Bourganeuf in La Creuse is a historically important centre of the Knights Templar and La Souterraine in the north of the region is of religious significance due to the 13th Century crypt that forms part of the Pilgrim route to St. Jacques de Compostela.

Artistically, Limoges, which pre-dates the Roman Empire, is the birthplace of Auguste Renoir, and Crozant is the historic centre of the late 19th/early 20th Century art movement commonly termed L’Ecole de Crozant.

The name Limousin is derived from, the Gallic Lemovices tribe, who inhabited the region prior to Roman conquest in 50BC. The region formed part of the province Aquitania under Roman rule and was subsequently ruled by the Merogovian and then the Carolingian Franks between the 5th and 10th Centuries AD. By the 10th Century, the region was governed by a number of feudal counts and the majority of the modern day region of Limousin was subordinate to the Duke of Aquitaine. In 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Henry Plantagenet, the future King of England, brought Limousin under the suzerainty of the English crown.

Technically this made Limousin an autonomous feudal state, whose international affairs were governed by the English King, but whose internal affairs were controlled by the regional counts.

Possession of the region was subsequently contested by the English and French throughout the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries, most famously by Richard the Lionheart, who was fatally wounded in battle at the Chateau of Chalus-Chabrol, in Haute-Vienne (his remains are buried in the castle chapel). The region remained under French suzerainty, following the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) and came under direct royal control in 1607.

Curemonte, Limousin

Curemonte, Limousin

Monastic life was hugely important throughout the region during the Middle Ages and the many Romanesque abbeys and churches found in Limousin today are evidence of this. Many of these are adorned with the stained glass for which the region is famed.

During the 18th Century, Limousin found itself in a period of economic growth, thanks largely to the world-renowned porcelain of Limoges. Since this time, the Arts and Crafts industries have expanded and modernised and the region world famous for its porcelain, enamel, tapestry and stained glass.

Economy

As it’s one of least populated regions in France, tourism is becoming an increasingly important economic activity in a region, traditionally famed for its ceramics and textiles production, which continues to be one of Limousin’s major assets. Although the region is not heavily industrialised, the primary industrial sectors are food and drink production, electronics manufacture, metallurgy, ceramics, paper, leather, and timber processing. The rivers here provide hydroelectricity.

In recent years the Limousin has been the focus of economic development and companies have been offered incentives and subsidies for locating here.

Industrial Sectors

Food and drink production are leading sectors in Limousin, due the agriculture of the region.

The manufacture of electrical components and mechanical equipment is largely based around Limoges and La Creuse with the industries well represented, by companies such as Legrand and Dagard.

Metallurgy involves almost 10,000 employees and is a leading manufacturing sector within the region. As well as many small scale businesses, Renault Trucks and Valeo are also well established in the region.

Limoges is world-famous for the ceramic and porcelain industries that developed here in the 18th Century. The traditional techniques have been modernised and the industry continues to thrive led by large companies such as Haviland, Bernardaud and Allia. In addition to sanitary ware and products for the building trade, tableware and decorative items are also produced here.

The forests of the region support the paper, furniture manufacturing and timber industries.

Paper is a traditional industry and employs more than 3000 people, with large European and American companies established alongside smaller businesses. Similarly furniture production is also a traditional activity with the primary employers being Ozoo France, Meubles Sauthon, Stratobois and Eguizier.

The timber industry is a relatively new sector within the region, but with one third of Limousin covered by forest, the industry is expanding rapidly i.e. timber production has doubled over the past 20 years.

Other industries that are key to the region’s economy are; the leather industry, with leading manufacturer, Weston located in the region; the graphics industry and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, which though relatively small are undergoing a period of expansion in the region.

Agriculture

Agriculture in Limousin, is dominated by cattle farming, in particular the famous Limousin breed. With over 800,000 hectares of agricultural land available, almost one third of Limousin is given over to permanent pasture. The granite plateau that surrounds the mountains is known as the “Milles Vaches”, which translates as ‘A thousand cows’. Although cattle farming accounts for 85% of regional agricultural output, sheep farming is also common in the Northern parts of Haute-Vienne.

Cereals, chestnuts and potatoes are widely grown in Limousin, although many of the cereal and root crops are cultivated as animal fodder. The soils of the Brive basin are far more fertile than those of the plateau and the countryside here is a tapestry of vineyards and orchards.

Limoges, Limousin

Limoges, Limousin

Cuisine

Limousin cuisine is characterised by the exceptional quality of its meat, (in particular, beef and veal, but it’s also known for its lamb, hams, duck and geese), by the fresh water fish of the rivers, lakes and streams, and by the chestnuts and mushrooms of the forests.

Traditional dishes are often simply prepared and make the most of the quality of the produce, slow cooked hearty stews are common. Pâté aux pomme de terre Limousin (Limousine potato pie) is a traditional dish that often accompanies the meats of the region. The charcuterie, sausages and pâtés of Limousin, often feature the chestnuts, morelles and cèpes mushrooms that grow here. The fresh water fish that are caught in the rivers and lakes include trout, pike and perch.

The strawberries, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrants that are grown in the area are used to make liqueurs, jams, tarts and pastries. The region is home to a number of traditional cakes and puddings i.e. Clafoutis aux Cerises Noires (cherry clafoutis), Apple Flaugnarde (a soufflé-like cake) and the almond gâteaux made in La Creuse. Walnuts are grown around Turenne and are a feature of sweet cakes and puddings, as well as savoury breads and pates that are traditional to the area.

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