The Region

France’s Best Kept Secret


The Auvergne is an undiscovered region, probably one of the last truly unspoilt regions in France; a region of hills and mountains, valleys, forests and rivers where the hustle of city life is left behind and time seems to move at a slower, more agreeable pace.

The region of The Auvergne has 4 departments:


The Allier


…in the north – mostly an area of plains and valleys, with small hills and good agriculture, covers more or less the historic province of Bourbonnais, the original  land of the Bourbons,  one of the largest royal families of Europe.

The Allier’s best known city is Vichy, situated on the river Allier, is a famous spa town with something of an old-fashioned atmosphere.  It was the capital of “free” France during the Second World War, a role that it prefers to forget today.  It prefers to brand itself as a relaxed place where people still come to take the waters.

The eastern edge of the department is a hillier area, with a small area in the extreme south east of the department reaching over 1000 metres in the Monts de Madeleine, bordering on the Puy de Dome.


The Puy de Dome

… in the middle – largely mountainous, but with a large fertile agricultural plain; Clermont Ferrand, the departments ‘capital’,  lies at the juncture between the fertile agricultural plain of the Limagne and the Massif Central mountains behind and is dominated by the 1500 metre Puy de Dome, a massive dormant volcano.  This is the most famous peak in the “chaine des Volcans”, the largest dormant volcanic region in Western Europe.

The Massif du Sancy, a small alpine-looking cluster of mountains slightly higher than the Puy de Dome itself and culminating in the Puy de Sancy, at 1885 metres, the highest point in the central part of France. This area is popular for skiing and all other types of winter sports. The waters that have fallen on these hills and mountains over the centuries emerge, well mineralised, at famous springs in towns such as Le Mont Dore, Volvic or Saint Nectare.

To the east of the region is the Livradois Forez, a designated National Park and an area of outstanding natural beauty, a haven for those who love the great outdoors.

Another town of note is Issoire, with the church of Saint-Austremoine at its heart; built on the site of an older chapel raised over the tomb of St. Austremoine (Stremonius) affords an excellent specimen of the Romanesque architecture of Auvergne.




The Haute Loire


… in the south east is the driest and sunniest part of the Auvergne. The north centres on the market town of Brioude, with its magnificent Romanesque basilica, the largest in the region.







The southern part of the department is known as ‘le Velay’; its capital, Le Puy, was a major centre in the middle ages, a starting point on the route to Santiago de Compostella, and to this day the city’s cathedral and St Michael’s chapel remain remarkable examples of early mediaeval architecture.


The Cantal


… in the south west with the towns of Aurillac and St Flour as its principal centres. St Flour is an ancient town perched dramatically on the top of a volcanic outcrop, whilst the lower city (ville basse) extends on the banks of the Ander.

The centre of the Cantal is dominated by the Plomb du Cantal and the peaks around it, a massive volcanic cluster marking the heart of The Massif Central mountains.

The Auvergne is the ‘cheese capital’ of France and the Cantal plays a major part in the regions claim, notably the eponymous ‘Cantal’ cheese and the delicious Auvergne Blue, blue d’Auvergne.

A notable monument of the Cantal is the famous ‘Viaduc de Garabit’ designed by Gustave Eiffel which spans the gorge of the Truyere River, and can be admired from the visitors centre.


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