Chambres d’Hôtes & Gites
The Auvergne is a former administrative region of France. It comprises of four departments: Allier, Puy-de-Dôme, Cantal and Haute-Loire and since 1st January 2016, it has become part of the new region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. The administrative region of Auvergne is larger than the historical province of Auvergne, and includes provinces and areas that historically were not part of Auvergne.
The average annual temperature is 12 °C (54 °F), and the region receives 510–1,020 mm of rainfall annually. The region is altogether very dry, and has very long winters paired with short summers.
While agriculture is important, Auvergne is a relatively industrial region as well. The main industry in Auvergne is the tyre industry, represented by Michelin, with its headquarters located in Clermont-Ferrand, and Dunlop, based in Montlucon. A diverse range of small industries also exists: metallurgical, mechanical, pharmaceutical, food, cheese and mineral exists in the region, particularly in the Puy-de-Dôme and the Haute-Loire.
Despite its small local market, the Auvergne region has developed many national and international companies, such as Michelin, Limagrain (seed), the group Centre France-La Montagne (regional daily press), Volvic mineral water (group Danone) and numerous dynamic SMEs around the two universities and large schools (engineers, doctors and business school) of its capital, Clermont-Ferrand. Most of these companies are exporting more than 75% of their production.
The Auvergne is also one of the premier research areas in France with more than 8,000 researchers in the fields of chemistry, tire, steel, medical and pharmaceutical sciences in agricultural research (INRA's laboratories and Limagrain's laboratories), in biotechnology, seismology, meteorology, etc.
Allier (03), Cantal (15), Haute-Loire (43), Puy-de-Dôme (63)
Auvergne is bordered to the east by the Rhône-Alpes region, to the south by the Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrenees regions, to the north by the Centre-Val de Loire and Burgundy regions, and to the west by the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Auvergne has a surface area of 26,013 square kilometres equivalent to 4.8% of France's total surface area. Prior to the merge of regions in January 2016. the Auvergne was one of the smallest regions in France.
The region contains many volcanoes, the last confirmed eruption though was around 6,000 years ago. The volcanoes began forming some 70,000 years ago, and most have eroded, leaving plugs of hardened magma that form rounded hilltops known as puys. Together the Monts Dore and the Chaîne des Puys include 80 volcanoes. The Puy-de-Dôme is the tallest volcano in the region, with an altitude of 1,465 metres. The Sancy Massif in the Monts Dore is the highest point in Auvergne (1,886 metres).
The northern region is covered in hills while the southern portion is mountainous and dotted with pastures. The Domanial Forest of Tronçais covers nearly 11,000 hectares and is the largest oak forest in Europe.
There are also two major rivers running through the Auvergne. The Loire runs through the southeast and borders the northeast, and the Allier runs from north to south down the center of Auvergne, with branches going east and west. Over many years the Allier river has created what are known as the Allier gorges. Auvergne has about 50 freshwater ponds and lakes. Some are high in the mountains and have volcanic origins with the Guéry Lake being the highest lake in Auvergne.
The region of Auvergne was named after the Arverni, one of the most powerful Gallic tribes. It was composed of the Gabali, the Vellavi, and the Cadurci, whose sphere of influence included the regions of Languedoc and Aquitaine. Vercingetorix was granted the title of king in 52 BC. His father, Celtillos, elected as a king before him, had been killed by his companions who opposed Celtillos' goal of having the title be hereditary.
In the winter of 53/52 BC, Vercingetorix created alliances with all the Celtic tribes surrounding him by holding as hostages daughters or sons of the kings of each tribe. With this threat, he gained their guarantees of faithfulness and alliance. Based on reports in 2007 of excavations by archaeologists, the capital of the Arverni is believed to have been situated between Gergovie, Corent, Aulnat and several other significant areas within a 35 km area. Researchers estimate a population of 150,000 inhabitants living in the centre of this area, and a total of more than 400,000 inhabitants living in the region of these towns.
In the 7th-century, the Franks and the Aquitani competed for control of the Auvergne. During the Middle Age, the earldom of Auvergne covered the current departments of Puy de Dome, the northern half of Cantal, as well as a small third in the North West of Haute-Loire, with the county of Brioude. The other part of Cantal constituted the direct territory of Aurillac Abbey, and a part of it was indentured to the viscounts of Millau, to form the Carlades.
One century after the Hundred Years’ War, the Auvergne plunged into religion wars. Some Calvinist militia made incursions in the Highland taking by surprise, castles and catholic villages. They then gave them back, asking a ransom in return. And this is how the city of Aurillac had been taken over, and its abbey completely destroyed. The Queen of France, Catherine de Medicis, inherited the last part of the earldom from her mother, which allowed the integration of the last feudal fiefdom, at the heart of Auvergne, to the royal territory.
In 1665, Louis XIV temporarily set up an exceptional criminal court in Clermont-Ferrand and Le Puy en Velay, in order to comply with the plaints of the people, who were victim of violence and abuse of officials and noblemen of Auvergne. During the 18th-century, the economic situation of the farmers got considerably better, thanks to the wise politic of the Auvergne intendants, who took the reins after the abbeys, and who developed farming, cheese manufacturing, agriculture, glasswork, ironwork and roads.
During WWII, Vichy was the headquarters of the government of the French State.
The volcanic landscapes, mountains, rocky gorges and picturesque villages and castles give the Auvergne region has a very distinctive character that grows on you the more you explore.
The big draw for the region is the varied and beautiful scenery and is perhaps best known for the forested volcanic landscapes within the Natural Regional Park of the Volcanoes of the Auvergne, and the scenic Parc Naturel Regional Livradois-Forez.
Cantal is a peaceful, slow-moving department to the south-west of the Auvergne with traditional unspoiled towns and attractive scenery to discover. Highlights here include the town of Aurillac and the cathedral town of Saint-Flour.
The Puy-de-Dôme is best known for its natural highlights, especially the volcanoes around Puy-de-Dôme itself. Highlights of the Regional Natural Park of Auvergne Volcanoes include the Monts-Dome, Monts-Dore and Cantal mountains. In particular it is the Chaîne des Puys and the views across this row of extinct volcanoes from Puy-de-Dôme that attracts many visitors to the region.
To the east of the Puy-de-Dôme department you can also explore the countryside of the Livradois-Forez Regional Natural Park. Clermont Ferrand, the region’s administrative centre with its imposing black cathedral, sits within the department of the Puy-de-Dôme.
Further south sits the area of Mont Dore within which can be found place like Riom and the spa town at Volvic, famous worldwide for its bottled water. Thiers, best known for the famous Thiers knives and cutlery produced in the town, also has an attractive historical centre. La Bourboule and Mont-Dore have both been established winter sports and thermal spa treatments centres since the 19th-century.
The Haute-Loire department is especially well known for the pilgrimage town of Le Puy-en-Velay. Established since medieval times as an important pilgrim route, Le Puy has an impressive selection of interesting historical monuments and is the most visited town in the Auvergne. The Allier river crosses the Haute-Loire department, and you can follow the Allier gorges as the river passes through some magnificent scenery.
The Allier department is less visited than some parts of the Auvergne but contains some noteworthy destinations if you are in the region and is a taste of a France largely unchanged across the years. The best known town in Allier is Vichy, famous for being home to the Vichy Government during the Second World War. The medieval centre of Montlucon to the west of the Allier department is also well worth a visit.