Living Magazine - Away from the crowds
We’re social creatures, but after a prolonged confinement, and with an open-ended need to avoid big social gatherings, the idea of heading off to enjoy the great outdoors is sounding more attractive than ever before. Fortunately, here in Nouvelle-Aquitaine we don’t need to venture too far to find perfect peace, so here are some of our favourite away-from-it-all spots.
Canoe or kayak on the Dordogne (24)
When visitors are jostling for parking spaces at Périgord’s attractions, both big and small, why not take to the water and see things differently at your own pace? You can hire a canoe or kayak from various locations on the Dordogne (and other rivers around the region). Choose from a short 90min taster or a longer trip lasting up to a full day, paddling gently downstream to a pick-up point for a bus-ride (included) back to where you originally set off.
Pointe de l’Aiguillon (85)
Located on the tip of a modest peninsula extending into the Baie de l’Aiguillon below La Tranche-sur-Mer, there’s a satisfying sense of away-from-it-all remoteness among the windswept sand dunes. The nearby reed-beds, tidal mudflats and wetlands at the mouth of the Sèvre Niortaise river make this a halt for countless migrating and nesting birds, so the spot is a protected nature reserve. There’s also a small beach, if you feel like a bracing stroll.
There are few more relaxing pastimes than gazing idly into the gently flowing currents of one of our rural waterways. They make great walking or cycling companions, and the antics of those messing about on the river can be high on entertainment value, particularly when negotiating locks. Vibrac, between Angoulême and Jarnac, offers just this kind of escape, as the River Charente divides briefly into three courses – and there’s a lock.
Côte Sauvage (17)
This near endless succession of fine sandy beaches between Ronce-les-Bains and La Palmyre offers lots of opportunities for anyone in search of some plage-style open space (with more beaches almost to Royan). Along the way lie some interesting landscape features, including WWII defences and the incredible Phare de la Coubre lighthouse overlooking the Gironde Estuary. There are lots of cycling opportunities too, including a section of the 1,200km Vélodyssée long-distance route.
Lac de la Vassivière (23/87)
A glance at the map reveals the vast scale of this outdoor playground straddling the Creuse/ Haute-Vienne border. With a surface area of 1,000 hectares and shoreline paths extending to around 30km, there’s plenty of potential for walking, cycling, fishing or waterborne activities – or simply finding your own secluded space away from the rest of the world. Here and there you might almost believe you’re in Canada, and there’s lots more landscape to explore on the surrounding Plateau de Millevaches. habitats, flora and fauna makes this a protected national nature reserve. Freely accessible all year, there’s a 2km discovery trail to help you get the most from your visit – or join a guided tour.
Fôret de la Braconne (16)
Get back to nature with a host of flora and fauna for company in the ancient Forêt Domaniale de la Braconne, which covers around 4000 hectares of the Charente landscape between Angoulême and La Rochefoucauld. The kind of forest you always hoped you’d find, around half of the trees are noble, mature oaks, among which are way-marked trails, with interpretation panels giving information about wildlife you might encounter. There are also picnic tables plus a 4km discovery circuit, supported by a ‘Défi Braconne’ smartphone app. Find out more – see our dedicated feature in the Oct/Nov 2018 issue of Living.
Trek with a horse or pony (86)
Robert Louis Stephenson famously travelled through the Cévennes with a donkey, and you can still do something similar nearby with a fourlegged friend for company. You’ll find that it’s an enjoyable way to unwind for an afternoon, and if you want more you can do it in style by spending several happy days exploring lanes and tracks through villages, peaceful valleys, rivers, streams and much more in the rural landscapes of Poitou and Limousin. Everything is organised. You’ll be following a carefully pre-prepared itinerary, and can sleep soundly each night under canvas, in a caravan or if you prefer in chambres d’hôtes. More: www.cerfcheval.com