This post is going to be really useful to you if you are interested in buying a property in the Haute-Vienne, especially if, like me, you prefer the larger villages or smaller towns, with around 1000 to 5000 inhabitants.
Haute-Vienne is a landlocked department, which lies to the south west of central France. It is without doubt one of the best value areas to buy property in France, with an median price of 1,300 euros per square meter. There are scores of lovely settlements throughout the Haute-Vienne from tiny little hamlets in stunning rural areas, to fabulous heritage cities. Some, like Limoges, are well known to foreigners, but others are hidden gems, off the well-beaten tourist tracks.
Transport links to the most populous (and popular) areas are good, with an international airport in Limoges, and other airports just outside the department in Poitiers and Brive-la-Gaillarde. Better still, the fastest trains from Paris to Limoges are direct and only take about 3 hours. Thinking of driving? It takes about 7.25 hours to get there from Calais. You could be there in a day!
Canals and Rivers
Unfortunately, there are no canals within the Haute-Vienne, although the source of the River Charente, which is navigable in its lower reaches, is in Chéronnac in the Haute-Vienne. Despite the lack of canals and navigable rivers in the department, there are some glorious rivers, some of which open out into stunning lakes, and others which feature spectacular waterfalls. There are plenty of others to explore, from tiny tributaries to vast waterways. Here's a full list:
- Ardour - flows 33 km until it joins the River Gartempe near Bersac-sur-Rivalier in the Haute-Vienne.
- Auvézère - the source is at the northwestern edge of the Massif Central, near Saint-Germain-les-Belles in the Haute-Vienne. It soon leaves the Haute-Vienne and flows 112 km, through the Corrèze and Dordogne, to the River Isle.
- Benaize - the source is near La Souterraine in the Creuse department. It flows 79 km through Haute-Vienne and Vienne, until it reaches the River Anglin north of Saint-Hilaire-sur-Benaize in the department of Indre. In Haute-Vienne it passes Saint-Sulpice-les-Feuilles, Mailhac-sur-Benaize, Cromac, Jouac, and Saint-Martin-le-Mault.
- Boucheuse - the source is at Magnac-Bourg in Haute-Vienne. It flows 38 km across the Corrèze department, until it joins the Auvézère near Payzac, in the Dordogne department.
- Brame - the source is at La Souterraine in the Creuse department. It flows 60 km through the Creuse and Haute-Vienne départements. In Haute-Vienne it passes through the villages of Arnac-la-Poste, Saint-Hilaire-la-Treille, Saint-Sornin-Leulac, Dompierre-les-Églises, Magnac-Laval, Dinsac, La Bazeuge, Oradour-Saint-Genest, and Le Dorat, then joins the Gartempe between Thiat and Darnac.
- Briance - the source is at La Croisille-sur-Briance in the Haute-Vienne. It flows 57 km, entirely through the Haute-Vienne, passing through Saint-Vitte-sur-Briance, Saint-Méard, Linards, Glanges, Saint-Bonnet-Briance, Saint-Genest-sur-Roselle, Vicq-sur-Breuilh, Saint-Hilaire-Bonneval, Pierre-Buffière, Saint-Jean-Ligoure, Boisseuil, Le Vigen, Solignac, until it joins the River Vienne near Jourgnac, between Condat-sur-Vienne and Bosmie-l'Aiguille.
- Charente - the source is in the Haute-Vienne département at Chéronnac. It flows 381 km in all. It remains as a small tributary until it leaves Haute-Vienne at Le Moulin Paute, where widens to form a beautiful lake. It flows on through the Charente department. At Angoulême, the river becomes navigable, (it was canalised in 1835), and flows on towards Charente-Maritime, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean near Rochefort.
- Dronne (or Drône) - the source is in the Massif Central, at Les Borderies, to the east of Châlus in the rural Haute-Vienne. When it reaches Firbeix, it begins to form the boundary between the Haute-Vienne and the Dordogne department for a while, passing only small hamlets. It commits to the Dordogne near Lacouchie, but remains a small tributary until it reaches Saint-Saud-Lacoussière. It flows 201 km in all, until eventually, it joins the River Isle at Coutras, in the Gironde department.
- Gartempe - the source is in Peyrabout in the Creuse department. It flows 205 km, roughly northwest, passing through Châteauponsac and Rancon in the Haute-Vienne. Eventually it joins the River Creuse at La Roche-Posay.
- Isle (to follow)
- Loue (to follow)
- Salleron (to follow)
- Semme (to follow)
- Tardoire (to follow)
- Taurion (to follow)
- Valentine (to follow)
- Vienne - the main river in Haute-Vienne, as you would expect! (to follow)
There is plenty of delightfully scenic countryside to enjoy in the Haute-Vienne, not least of which is the Périgord Limousin Regional Natural Park to the south west, and the Millevaches en Limousin Regional Natural Park to the south east. It may also surprise you to hear that there are 300 named mountains in the Haute-Vienne, as the Ambazac mountains of the Massif Central spread over the east of the department. Puy Lagarde is the highest point in the Haute-Vienne at 811 metres. That's much higher than anything in the Peak District. Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, is not that much higher at 978 metres. The most prominent (sticky-outy) mountain is the Puy de Sauvagnac, but I think there are others more beautiful. What's not to love about this sylvain scene near Nedde?
My Favourite Villages
There are so many towns and villages in the Haute-Vienne department - 195 communes in all - that I could not possibly research them all. Instead, I concentrated my efforts on the ones I am most interested in myself - those which have populations between 1000 and 5000. There were 61 in that category, and I went through them all to find my favourites. Some of the villages were picture perfect, but I found some too 'roady', too modern, too urban, too run-down, or too industrial for my tastes. In the end, I whittled them down to seven villages and three towns. They are listed here in ascending size order, together with their populations and their population density per km2. The median population in the department is 67 people per km2. How peaceful is that?
- Peyrat-le-Château — 1029 — 19
- Flavignac — 1070 — 35
- Le Dorat — 1535 — 65
- Solignac — 1576 — 95
- Châteauponsac — 2036 — 30
- Eymoutiers — 2087 — 30
- Bellac — 3619 — 150
- Rochechouart — 3725 — 69
- Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat — 4357 — 78
(SeLoger is the largest French property portal but it is not comprehensive).
Looking for a house in the Haute-Vienne?
Are you seriously house-hunting in the Haute-Vienne? I have some great estate agent contacts in that area, so please drop me a line and I'll fix you up!
Looking for a smaller hamlet or an urban lifestyle?
If you'd prefer one of the many hundreds of Haute-Vienne hamlets, or one of the bigger towns and cities, which are not really my thing, you'll find a complete list of communes in the Haute-Vienne on Wikipedia to do your own research.
Stay tuned for more details
I will be writing about some of these favourite villages soon - and naturally there will be a special emphasis on any waterside property. Please stay in touch if you would like to know more about Haute-Vienne's most beautiful villages.