The Magnificent Valley of the Painters

Path marker

The Valley of the Painters is an area of beautiful and rugged landscapes, made famous by Monet who did several paintings of it. A visit here will leave you in no doubt as to why he found it so attractive.

Monet was one of the first of the Impressionist painters to discover the area and others followed, hence the name Vallée des Peintres. Their paintings of the Creuse valley are now exhibited in major galleries all over the world.

The Creuse river flows along between steep wooded cliffs. Explore this visual feast along country roads twisting and turning with the contours of the river. It is a haven for nature lovers who ramble along the many kilometres of marked footpaths or get out on the river in a canoe or on a boat.



Around the Valley

Our tour of the valley visits two pretty villages, Crozant and Fresselines, and continues into Dun le Palestel, an attractive market town between the Painters' Valley and the Three Lakes. Surrounded by picturesque and sometimes wild landscapes, history and the arts come together in this quiet backwater:

  • Marvel at the medieval fortress that once resounded to the clash of steel upon steel during the battles for its possession
  • Wander around the Artists' Village where studios and art galleries line the street
  • Travel back in time and sit by the painters with their easels out on the hills

  • Stroll in a remarkable garden, part of the rugged countryside that has been 'tamed' over many years



Exploring the river, streams and gorges

Walking

There are many walks in the area. For a stroll along the river banks, by the streams or along the cliff path, these are not difficult although they are all a bit steep in places: 

On the river

The gorges tower over you and the mighty Creuse flows under you. Actually being on the water, in a canoe/kayak or on a pleasure boat, with Crozant fortress high above and seeming to disappear into the sky is a memory that will stay with you for a long time.

On horseback

Discover the countryside around the valley from the riding centre in Saint Sebastien, Ecurie des M.  


Valley of the Painters

View a larger version of this map

G   Fresselines

H   Fresselines church

I     Monet-Rollinat Centre

J    Confluent of the rivers

K    Arboretum de la Sedelle

L   Dun le Palestel

M   Dun le Palestel church

N  Tourist Office

O  Former castle ditch

P   Lavoir

Q   Chabannes forest


Crozant

Crozant

Crozant is one of the jewels of the region and one of our favourite places in this part of Creuse. Although it is hard to imagine nowadays, it was once an important seat of power in France. 

The medieval fortress towering over the gorges of the Creuse and Sedelle rivers confirms that in the past this was an area that was bitterly fought over. The noisiest sound you are likely to hear today is the gentle chugging of a boat along the river.



Medieval fortress

Much of the fortress dating originally from the 10th and 11th centuries is now in ruins. It had links over the centuries with some of France's most prestigious families, the Bourbons, the Armagnacs and the Plantagenets. In the 1600s, the French King Charles VII had the castle restored.

The Wars of Religion and an earthquake caused a lot of damage and it was abandoned as its strategic position became less important.

The fortress is being renovated to maintain what is left. Built on a cliff top overlooking the river with great views all round, so that the occupants could see all the comings and goings below them.

Overlooking the ruins behind the church
Crozant fortress

Opening times

During school holidays:-

April: daily 10.00 - 12.00 and 14.30 - 18.00
October, November: daily 14.30 - 18.00
1 July to 18 September:
daily 10.00 - 12.00 and 14.30 - 19.00

Other times:-

May, June, September, October:
Weekends, Bank Holidays 14.30 - 18.00

Your guide is a multimedia tablet that is included with the admission price.



The Lépinat Centre

Lepinat Centre

The first of the painters arrived in Creuse in the late 1800s. In the centre of Crozant, the Hotel Lépinat provided lodgings and food. It was here that they gathered in the evenings for a good meal and a few drinks with friends.

The former lodging house has been transformed into an interactive exhibition centre  where you will discover the valley as seen through the eyes of the artists. Ride with them in the train carriage to St Sebastien and then in a horse drawn cart to Crozant, a journey that took several hours. Sit in a room at the inn and see how people lived in this isolated village from the 1830s to the 1930s.

In the painter's studio, learn about the techniques used by the artists and see photos of them around Crozant and on the hillsides with their easels. 

With touch screens, computers, film shows and regular exhibitons, you can just browse or have an in-depth learning experience. There are activities and displays for children and regular workshops throughout the year, especially during the school holidays.


Opening times:

Mid-March, May, June, September to mid December (outside school holidays)
Weekends, Bank Holidays 14.30 - 18.00


April, October school holidays
Daily 14.30 - 18.00

July to mid September
Daily 14.30 - 19.00

The Painters' Trail 

Crozant village

Starting in front of the Hôtel Lépinat, follow the 4km circular route around Crozant taking in the fortress, the church and the village, before going along the Sedelle river and returning through the woods.

It is a lovely walk and information panels along the way explain the particular connections with the artists.


Painters Trail Panel
Valley of the Painters forest path
Sedelle river



Eating out

You are spoilt for choice in Crozant as there are excellent restaurants, a cafe and a tearoom. We have eaten at three of them and had a lovely meal every time. 


L'Auberge de La Vallée

Enjoy traditional French gastronomic cuisine in one of the best known restaurants in the area.


Open all year from 12.00 - 14.00 and 17.00 - 19.00.

Closed Monday and Tuesday evenings and all day Wednesday.


Hôtel des Ruines
 

Delicious food always and a fabulous view overlooking the gorge if you get a window seat.


Open lunchtime and evening from Easter to 1 November. Closed Thursday.

In July and August, open daily at meal times and in the afternoon for drinks and cakes.





Hôtel du Lac

Just on the outskirts of the village, the restaurant is open at lunchtime every day except Monday serving set meals or à la carte.

When the sun is shining, cool down with an ice cream or a drink sitting on the terrace overlooking the river and up to the fortress ruins, at any time of the day.

Le Fournil Crozantais

The baker's shop and tearoom, in Place Presbytère.






L'Eclat de Soleil 

Open all day for drinks and light meals to eat in or takeaway on the main street.




Exploring

WALKING

  • A 7km cliff path along the river leads to the beach at Fougéres and Chambon Lake. This walk starts across the bridge on the road going out of Crozant towards the Restaurant du Lac. 

Or you can drive to St Jallet, go through the village and turn left to Montet where you will find a car park. Look out for the statue of a fertility god! 


Walk down along the road and bear right to go through the forest to Rocher de la Fileuse. You will be rewarded by a terrific view over Crozant fortress and the valley where the Creuse and Sedelle rivers meet.


  • St Plantaire Forest is on the road towards St Jallet. Look for the sign at the parking area on the right as you go up the hill. A footpath goes through the forest and then along the river towards La Brousse.

ON THE RIVER

Canoeing - go up or down the river at your own leisurely pace.

Take a boat trip to the dam at Eguzon. 

Canoe/kayak hire and the boat trips leave from the Restaurant du Lac, just outside Crozant.




Fresselines

Fresselines

Whichever way you approach Fresselines, the road starts to twist and turn as it descends to the bridge spanning the river and you catch glimpses of the village sitting on the rocky hillside high above. After crossing the bridge, follow the road up the hill.


The church dominates the centre of the small, but very pretty, Artists' Village as Fresselines is known. The artistic tradition started by Claude Monet continues with several art galleries and studios on Rue Léon Detroy.



The Espace Monet-Rollinat pays tribute to Monet and other valley painters. Maurice Rollinat was a poet who also found inspiration in the Creuse. In the summer, there are exhibitions, family activities and guided tours of the village.

Open daily July to August and weekends in May, June and September 14.30 - 18.30.

At 6 rue Claude Monet, the Galerie l'oeil et la main shows the works of various artists and holds regular cultural events. Courses in painting, writing and calligraphy are also offered.

Open May, June, September at weekends and Bank Holidays, daily July to August 15.00 - 19.00.

As you stroll around, watch out for the scarecrows. Each village in the commune contributes one to be displayed in Fresselines.





Eating out

Les Artistes du Confluent, on the church square, is the village restaurant. Offering delicious French cooking, we highly recommend it.

Open daily 12.00 - 14.00, Tuesday to Saturday 19.00 - 21.00.




Exploring

In the footsteps of Monet 

Follow the sign along the road at the water tower to the car park. This beautiful and peaceful 3km walk descends through the trees to the confluent of the Creuse and Little Creuse rivers, one of Monet's favourite viewpoints. Stroll along the river bank and up through the woods to return to the village. Maybe you too will be inspired to put paintbrush to paper!



On Tuesday evenings from 12 July to 23 August, the theatre company Taiko will guide you along the trail with tales of Monet's life and works. Meet in the village at 17.00.



Arboretum de la Sédelle

Between the Valley of the Painters and Dun le Palestel, the Arboretum is a beautiful 6 hectare landscaped park with walkways through and down to the banks of the Sedelle river. Since 2002, it has been recognised as a 'Remarkable Garden'. It also provides a unique setting for musical events and plant fairs. 

See the nature photos of Céline Jaquinet in the grounds from 7 May to 26 June. And from 14 July to 14 September, there is a painting exhibition, 'Art and light'.



Dun le Palestel

Dun le Palestel is a small market town about halfway between two of the most visited parts of this part of Creuse - the Valley of the Painters to the north and the Three Lakes to the east. It is a nice town with local shops, a supermarket and a couple of restaurants.

The beautifully renovated Post Office, in the centre of town, used to be part of Dun Castle. Over the years, it has been used as a prison, a police station, the town hall and the local school. The tower was added in 1896 to give the building a more manorial look.

In the 12th century, the castle was surrounded by deep ditches. Part of the ditch can still be seen if you go past the Post Office entrance and along the footpath behind the Mairie.

Dun le Palestel church
Dun memorial statue


The church was built in the early 1900s. An earlier church was demolished and its doorway was used on what is now the retirement home. In the memorial garden just in front of the home, stands a statue originally built to commemorate the 64 local men who died in the First World War.



The old 'lavoir de Dunet' has been restored and the area planted to make a pleasant place to sit for a while.  Just across the road, is the 'three lobed' fountain. Made from a single granite block, it came from the castle at St Germain Beaupré and needed 10 pairs of oxen to pull it over the 10 kilometres.



Eating out 

Restaurants

Brasserie Le Commerce - traditional French dishes - on the corner of Grande Rue and Rue des Sabots

Le Paleteau - traditional French and Creuse cooking on Rue des Sabots

Takeaway

Pizza Régal on Grande Rue



Exploring

Chabannes forest


If you want to linger for a while, Chabannes forest is nearby with lovely woodland walks and viewpoints. Follow the sign for Gueret when leaving Dun le Palestel and take the next left after the roundabout. The road winds up through Chabannes. The turnings into the forest are on the right when you leave the village or drive further on to enjoy the far-reaching views from the road over the lovely Creuse countryside.





Whats happening around the Valley of the Painters

Weekly market in Dun le Palestel on Thursday morning. The first market of each month is larger than the others with more stalls. 

P'art-queterie

La p'art-queterie has a varied programme of events:

  • Concerts ranging from Irish music to blues and rock 

  •  Arts activities including exhibitions and painting lessons   

  •  A motorbike day followed by an evening concert   

Visit their site for full details.
     

April

3rd

Dun le Palestel

Village fair and parade of floats from 15.00.

6th

Dun le Palestel

The Dunois Canton Tour is a national amateur cycling event around the local villages. The riders leave at 14.00 and return about 17.00. 

8th - 9th

Lafat

Theatre production in the Salle Polyvalente.

17th

Crozant

Crozant is one of the starting points for the annual Peregrine Jacquaire, an organised hike on part of the St Jacques de Compostelle route through the Berry and Limousin. You choose how far you want to walk between Eguzon and Bénévent L'Abbaye. Register to take part and the bus will take you to your starting point.

24th

Saint Sebastien

Bric a brac and used goods stalls, all day market with snacks and drinks stand.



May

5th

Saint Sebastien

Heritage afternoon - come and discover the history of Saint Sebastien and its villages during a guided walk. There are 4 circuits from 4km to 14km and a free visit to Klepsydra, a small museum displaying local artefacts.

7th - 8th

Arboretum de la Sedelle

A springtime visit to this "Remarkable Garden' is a good time to appreciate the delightful setting and the enormous variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. During this Spring Plants weekend, gardening professionals and stall holders are on hand to give advice. Entry 6€, and there is a food tent on site.

8th

Fresselines

Plant fair, market and car boot sale.

14th

Saint Sebastien

Concert - Louis Baudel sings the songs of Jean Ferrat  and Serge Reggiani. Book before 10th May at the Mairie. Ticket costs 12€.

15th

Crozant

Regional products market, bric a brac stalls and funfair from 8.00.

29th

Fresselines

Petanque competition starting at 9.00.



June

5th

Crozant

La grande boucle - join other walkers on a circuit of 7km, 14km or 21km. Start from 8.30 with food and drinks served at the end. Non-member fee 4€.

12th

La Chapelle Baloue

The Méchoui is a traditional French meal usually accompanied by a live band and dancing. There are two sittings today, at 12.00 and 20.00.

18th

Dun le Palestel

As part of the Fête de la Musique, be at Place Ph.Daulny near the Bibliothèque from 17.00 to hear several bands and singers  throughout the evening.



July

9th

Dun le Palestel

Street market during the day and a traditional open air dance in the evening, weather permitting.

10th

Fresselines

Festival of the Horse from 15.00.

13th

Crozant

Join friends and families for a lovely juicy steak in the village hall at this soiree from 19.00.

14th

Naillat

Annual village fête with hiking and cycling routes setting off from 8.00. At 15.00, the fun starts with a sit-on mower race around the field, a funfair, dancing in the evening and fireworks at dusk.

14th

Fresselines

Various events during the day including organised walks, a petanque competition and a parade through the village, a meal and dancing, finishing with a grand firework display at dusk. 

15th

Fresselines

At Les Forges is a beautiful little chapel. Come along at 14.30 to visit and hear about its history.

16th

Naillat

A sit down meal in the Foyer Rural from 20.00.

17th

Naillat

In the afternoon, relax at the Petanque competition.

20th

Saint Sebastien

Evening market with local artisans and regional food stalls. In the centre of the village from 19.00.

20th

Crozant

From 21.00, as dusk falls, go into the old fortress ruins with only a flaming torch to light your way whilst you listen to tales of the past. You will need to book in advance.

22nd

Sagnat

A small village with a large church. The guided tour at 15.00 reveals its history.



August

4th

Crozant

Medieval Fête 
Stalls lining the streets, jousting on horseback, processions with music, medieval dancers and choral music in the church all make this a fun day. Many of the villagers and visitors dress in period costume. Book in advance for an evening meal or just enjoy the dancing of a more modern style in the village hall and fireworks over the castle at dusk.

6th

Dun le Palestel

International Race Night, a very popular Saturday evening with cyclists, including riders from the Tour de France, competing on a course around the town centre from 19.00 to 23.00. Hundreds of spectators line the streets, cheering on their favourites.

7th

Saint Sebastien

Festival of the Horse with equine displays, entertainment and games for all ages. In the sports stadium from about 11.00.

13th - 14th

Crozant

Moto Cross racing on the Puy Bariou circuit,  with the riders competing for the Limousin UFOLEP trophy.

The only time it can be said to get noisy in Crozant!

13th

Fresselines

Summer market at La Belardière with regional produce, local crafts, food stalls and a bar. All day from 10.00.

20th  - 21st

Fresselines

Village Fête - two days of fun events including walks, petanque and fishing competitions and street entertainment.

21st

La Chapelle Baloue

Join the locals for a typical midday meal in the village hall. 

27th

Dun le Palestel

Stalls and an agricultural show in the town centre.



September

18th

Dun le Palestel

Around Dun Bike Ride - a 20km family route, or for the more hardened riders circuits of 50km and 60km can be undertaken.

18th

Colondannes

Car boot sale and stalls.



October

8th

La Chapelle Baloue

Tonight is Sauerkraut evening in the village hall from 20.00.

15th - 16th

Arboretum de la Sedelle

At this time of year the garden is resplendent in its autumn colours. Over the weekend you will be able to purchase plants and talk with other gardening enthusiasts. Entry fee: 6€



November

5th

Dun le Palestel

The social event for the cycling community. Dinner and dancing with a special guest from the cycling world. In the gymnasium from 22.00.

18th

Saint Sebastien

Beaujolais nouveau evening in the village hall. The first glass is free. Eat, drink and be merry!



Pretty places near the Valley of the Painters

In and around La Souterraine

The Three Lakes



› The Magnificent Valley of the Painters