La Min-sú de Terrasson

retreat, reflect, refresh

The Vézère Ardoise

Upstream from Terrasson the Vézère river erodes into the central plateau, revealing veins of slate (ardoise), and providing access to Uzerche at the heart of the forests of the Vézère headwaters. Under the name Vézère Ardoise, 47 communities grouped themselves into a Pays d'art et d'histoire.

As the name suggests, the Vézère Ardoise is shaped by two main features: the Vézère river that cuts through the area south-east/north-west, and the ‘bande de schistes ardoisiers’ that cuts roughly south-west / North-east. The Vézère Ardoise area has a large number of villages and small towns, each with its own attractions and hicking trails.

Vézère river

The ‘Garonne and Dordogne river were the two breasts which suckled Bordeaux’.

The lower reaches of the Dordogne end in Bergerac, the Vézère middle section with its towpaths for gabares ended at Terrasson (at Souillac for the Dordogne proper). Up from there, it was one-way traffic descending by floating. Though the Normans did manage to reach and sack the monastery of Vigeois in the 9th century.

Uzerche at the heart of the forests of the Vézère headwaters was a ‘entrepots a la flotte’ (as was Argentat for the Dordogne proper). The flotte was a fleet descending wood by floating, each flotte was determined by the time, the place of departure and the interested merchants. Products included merrain (wood processed to make wine-barrels), carrassonnes (chestnut wood cut to serve as stakes to support vines in vineyards), feuillards (flexible branch split in two which is used to make barrel hoops), brasses (bundles of wood), charcoal as well as wine, chestnuts, juniper seeds, Limousin livestock products and produce of local mining.

The river pattern directed the movement of people, goods and animals. Salmon migrated up river, wood floated downwards depending on the season. Bordeaux was the beacon for the Corrèze bourgeoisie, it send its children there to study and embarked there for the Americas. In the years 1786-1788, studies consider the possibility to push Vézère navigation as far as Tulle (up the Corrèze branch) by the construction a total of 24 locks and some diversion canals. Work restarted under the name ‘Canal du Duc de Bordeaux’, 6 locks got constructed between 1826 and 1828 on the middle section of the Vézère.

The arrival of the railway made the river redundant and redirected movement towards the center of l'étoile Legrand; Paris (1842). By the beginning of the 20th century some 25.000 Correziens lived in Paris (40.000 by the 1920’s). Dynamic uses lost in importance to stationary uses; the construction of hydroelectric dams (1899 and 1930) not only blocked movement, it ‘regulated’ the river flow. The saute de saumon in the Vézère gorges is a reminder of the ecological conduit the Vézère ones was, and now recognized as a Natura 2000 is regaining.

Map of the Vézère Ardoise


Slate mines/quarries in Correze were located on a line which runs from Thiviers (Dordorgne) to Traverssac.

North-west to south-east the towns and villages of Juillac, Lascaux, Chabrignac, Vignols, Saint-Solve, La Roche, Voutezac, Vertougit, le Saillant, Allassac, Esperrut and Travassac. Corrèze slate enjoys an unrivaled reputation for quality due to its geological structure. Unalterable, resistant to bending, perfectly waterproof and resistant to shock - and therefore to hail.

By the 19th century the arrival of the railway and electricity (for pumps evacuating ground water) gave a boast to production, while phylloxera decimated the local vineyards at the same time. Production peaked on the eve of the First World War. After the Second World War, competition from other roofing materials, easier to standardize in size and appearance, and the continued labour intensiveness due to the lack of mechanization led to the mines decline (the last operation stopped in 1977).

By the end of 20th century the use of asbestos based roofing alternatives go out of fashion. And renewed interest in French slate, particularly its best quality grades, leads to the reopening of production in Travassac (1989) and Allassac (2006).

Most closed mines are at best deemed ‘of little interest’ (with the exception of the Pans de Traverssac) and more often a public safety issue. Heritage linked to slate is best visible in the local architecture. Apart from roofing material the quarries provide(d) “leftovers” with a wide range of uses: paving interior and exterior floors, building stones, mulching, lintels, fireplaces, table tops and garden decorations. The black angular stone characterizes the architecture, like the black stone Cesar tower of Allassac.

Towns, villages and (Pre)Industrial heritage

The steepening incline of the rivers ones powered small industries dotting the landscape with cottage industries, and provides hydroelectric power today.

(Pre)Industrial heritage includes the Papeterie de Vaux and Forge de Salignac-Ledier, coalmines of Cublac, abandoned railways Hautefort- Terrasson (1899-1939) and Brive-Thiviers (1898-1940), and the since february 2018 ‘suspended till further notice’, Brive-Limoges served by buses between Objat and Pompadour.

The south-west corner provides the setting of Claude Michelet’s tetralogy ‘Les gens de Saint-Libéral’. Set in the fictional village named after the Saint-Libéral chapel in Brive, and allusion to the ‘Le dernier bastion de la liberté’ that the life on/off/with the land engenders to the author. These seminal works revitalized and brought the to the mainstream the littérature du terroir, the Brive book-fair (with its Prix littéraires du terroir) as well as the école de Brive (the contemporary current of the terroir novel). Though filming was done in Saint Robert the exact location of Saint Libéral keeps internet forums busy, buzzing and divided.

The area is home to brown Limousine cows that leisure in the grassland, chestnut-, walnut- and apple orchards, produces the AOP Pomme du Limousin. The slate produces the terroir (soil) for the minerally Coteaux de la Vézère wines. The area also host some of the Most beautiful villages of France; Saint Robbert and Ségur-le-Château. Pompadour famous for its horses and castle, of special interest to those equestrian enthusiasts. Orgnac-sur-Vézère with its modern stained glass windows, Yssandon and its tower. Vigeois with its pont des anglais and parish church of Saint-Pierre, is the starting/ending point of the long distance walk through the Vézère gorges. Donzenac has an interesting historical walk around the village, but its main claim to fame are the Pans de Travassac.

The beauty of the country, is so various, and in every respect so striking and interesting, that I shall attempt no particular description ... The water rolling over their rocky beds, and dazzling the eye with the luster of cascades ; in every ease the features are interesting and characteristic of the scenery. Some views of singular beauty riveted us to the spot; that of the town of Uzerche, covering a conical hill, rising in the hollow of an amphitheater of wood, and surrounded at its feet by a noble river, is unique.

The immense view from the descent to Donzenac is equally magnificent. To all this is added the finest road in the world, every where formed in the most perfect manner, and kept in the highest preservation, like the well ordered alley of a garden … The view of Brive, from the hill is so fine, that it gives the expectation of a beautiful little town, and the gaiety of the environs encourages the idea; but on entering, such a contrast is found as disgusts completely. Close, ill built, crooked, dirty, stinking streets, exclude the sun, and almost the air from every habitation…

Arthur Young’s travels in France, 1787.

Down stream from Terrasson the 'Valley of mankind' is classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Find more information on the cave-lined Vézère valley and the wealth of prehistoric sites.

(Pre) Industrial heritage

Nestled on the upper reaches of the Auvézère a small cluster of industrial heritage provides a good examples of traditional rural industry; combining locally mined iron ore, locally harvested wood, small hydro-power, surplus agricultural labor (the forges would only operate in winter) and surplus straw.

Savignac-Ledrier forge and castle

A small stronghold in defence of a bridge was constructed here during the Hundred Years' War (1337 – 1453). From this a small castle, and since 1521, a small forge developed. The forge was one of many charcoal fired forges in the region and today the most complete example as it functioned till 1975 and was declared a monument in 1979.

The forge produced pigs iron bars (for use elsewhere), cast iron and some refined steel that was used for the production of local farm implements and arms. The blowing system was hydro-powered, as were the ore crushers at the start and machine shop at the end of the process. The blast furnace went out of production before WWII, the shop kept producing nails from wire and served the niche market of sardine can keys! (Which still litter the site today.) The cluster contains: the wire works, blast furnace, puddling furnaces, refinery, the workshop and the charcoal shed.

The master of the forge inhabited the castle above (only open to the public during the monuments weekend). From the ramparts you have a good view of the forge. A couple of elements on the outside of the castle were probably salvaged from an earlier chapel notably are the widow's portrait and a garden gate with very peculiar ornamentation.

Papeterie de Vaux

Located on a small tributary to the Auvézère this remarkably well preserved site is the last example in Europe preserving the complete production chain. Recommended as one of the 1001 must-see sites of France by the Michelin guide this usine aux champ ceased production in 1968. Originally a 17th century forge, it was converted in to a rye straw paper mill in 1861 combining new technologies of the industrial revolution (with machines made in the close-by cities of Limoges and Angoulême) with time-honored rural skills and practices.

The paper produced here was long used to pack and wrap foodstuffs, but was also used by artists and architects, most famously Le Corbustier, to sketch his plans. Its location in a beautiful valley gives it a special charm, though its isolation might have added to its demise (together with the advancements in technologies and scale elsewhere). The site was acquired by the local community in 1994 and classified a historic monument in 1996.

Pans de Travassac

A visit to the Pans de Travassac will reveal the imprint left by the slaters since the 17th century. Over time a unique landscape took shape as vegetation reconquered the walls and pans.

A slater demonstrates time-honoured skills and techniques. A small subterranean photo gallery in an old work-room recalls slaters stories. Archives, old photographs and tools give an insight into the steps necessary to transform rock into roofing-material.

The use of slate dates back to the Middle Ages, and slate of the Corrèze developed a reputation due to its exceptional longevity and resistance. The tools and skills used in the production process have hardly changed for centuries as the nature of the slate makes mechanization difficult, if not impossible.

In the 17th century production started here with the discovery of a hill with 7 parallel slate veins facing north / south over a distance of 2 km. Under normal geological circumstances such veins are found as a series of horizontal layers, but here movements in the earths surface made them available as vertical layers.

Mining the valuable veins whiles leaving the layers of quartzite standing a series of walls and pans were created. The early slate-miners began to exploit the veins on the surface, digging deeper and deeper to extract the slate. Reaching a depth of 60m over a length of 300m.

By the 19th century the arrival of the railway and electricity (for pumps evacuating ground water) gaves a boast to production, with slate workers peaking at over 600 on the eve of the First World War.

After the Second World War, competition from other roofing materials, easier to standardize in size and appearance, and the continued labour intensiveness due to the lack of mechanization led to the mines decline.

But by the end of 20th century the use of asbestos based roofing alternatives goes out of fashion. And renewed interest in French slate, particularly its best quality grades, leads to the reopening of production in Travassac (1989) and Allassac (2006).

In 1997, the Pans de Travassac were made accessible and opened to the public.

Coal mines of Cublac

One kilometre to the north of Terrasson you find the small community of Cublac.

Cublac was once a coal mining village with a number of mines. Today heritage trails lead you past some of the historical relics on the forested hillsides. An information display on the square next to the church and three trails (all indicated in yellow), help you explore the old workers houses, and the (sealed up) mining shafts.


Coal was discovered here in 1766 and exploitation took place by a succession of companies between 1781 and 1914, with an output in between 1,000 and 3,500 tons per year.

Most of the coal produced was sold to the local glass factories of Terrasson and Le Lardin, in 1848 the glass factory of Le Lardin acquires the concessions for its exclusive use.

Though one of the mines reached a depth of 265m, the main exploitable coal seam was found between 91 and 136m and was on average no more than 50cm thick.

By 1887 the concession was no longer able to supply the needs of the factory and was sold and resold again. Between 1905 and 1913 production falls to 88 tons per year. By 1914, the mobilization for the first world war drains the countryside of potential labour and production ceases.

Hiking trails starting from Cublac
> Sentier historique des mines: 4.5km - 1h15.
> Sentier des mines (long): 7.8km - 2h15.
> Sentier des crêtes: 11km – 3h.
> Sentier de Vieille Vigne: 9km – 2h30.

Beautiful villages

Just over the Corrèze border these villages deserve the one of the most beautiful villages of France classification!


Located in a loop of the Auvézère, Ségur-le-Château is, as its name suggests, a secure place, that was chosen by the 9th century feudal Viscounts of Limoges to build a castle. The city of Ségur remained the seat of the Viscounts of Limoges for six hundred years.

Though Ségur never was the actual capital of the Viscount the lords resided here regularly, attracting families of knights-vassals and a number of officers.

During the Hundred Years War, the fortress of Ségur was occupied by the English between 1361 and 1374, then confiscated by the king of France it became a royal stronghold.

At the junction of the County of Périgord and the Viscounty of Limoges, the headquarters for the Court of Appeals was installed, rendering justice over hundreds of lordships of the Périgord and Limousin.

This Court of Appeals functioned as a first appeal between the ordinary seigniorial justices and the Royal Parliament of Bordeaux. This explains the large number of quality noble houses and hotels dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries in this out of the way corner that today seems to be located in the middle of no where.

In 1750 the Court of Appeals was suppressed by an edict of the king and the bourgeois families left Ségur little by little. In 1795, the castle was bought by Hautefort.

The ruins of the castle (1) and its outer walls overlook the scene. The place and rue des Claux’s beautiful group of 15th century half-timbered houses (2), exquisite mullioned windows (stone window bays with crosspieces), a small alley taking you up to a group of 15th century sculptures adorning the Saint Anne well (3).

A bridge connects to the Place du champ de foire (4) from where you can explore the Place Jean de l’Aigle (5). With its 15th century former presbytery with a cork screw staircase in the tower, on the left in the impasse you find another ancient manor with tower.

Walk to the church or pass the 15th century Maison des Appeaux (6) on your way back. A small pedestrian bridge will help you cross the river to the main road for splendid views on your way back.

Cross the Place des Claux and find another bridge next to the watermill leading to the circular flamboyant Gothic styled Saint-Laurent tower (7) with its mullioned windows (15th century).

On the other side of the road a hotel adorned with a square tower from the same era (8). A little walk takes you to the Domaine du Chédal (9) dating from the 17/18th centuries with a large landscaped park labeled jardin remarquable (visits only in group and by appointment during summer).

Saint Robert

Strategically located at the top of a limestone plateau, the fortress, the ramparts and fortified towers of Saint Robert still impress today.

The pilgrimage church of Saint Robert (1) is at the center, a listed historic monument since 1862, and worth a visit. The Church was damaged and destroyed several times over the course of history, then rebuild with new additions.

At some time the nave was broken down, leaving an interesting cluster: the chancel, the ambulatory, transept and apsidal chapels (all 12th century), square towers and an octagonal lookout tower. An ambulatory (circulation gallery around the chancel), allowed pilgrims to kneel in front of relics kept in the apsidioles.

Make sure not to miss the garden in the left of the church down the stairs with a panoramic view of the landscape from the rampart (2).

The village is build out of local limestone and a short walk passes a 16th century chapel (3), three fortified gateways (4), a pigeon's loft (5) back to the central place with its wrought iron cross full of symbolism (6), the Beauroire manor (7), ancient mansion (8) and the 12th century monastery (9).


A Mecca for equestrian enthusiasts, Pompadour, the City of the Horse (la Cité du Cheval), has been labeled Terre de Jeux 2024, and welcomes foreign delegations to prepare for the Paris Olympics, 2024.

The Haras National de Pompadour

Contributed to the birth of the Anglo-Arab horse breed in the XIXth century, whiles the Société des Courses de Pompadour has been organizing horse races since 1837. Pompadour hosts 160 days of sports-, culture- and tourist-related equestrian events every year. The two major events are the Grand National Pro Elite and the Grande Semaine (young horses national finals). Other events include horse breed shows and Harness racing (where horses pul a driver in a sulky).

The Puy Marmont equestrian stadium (4), the racecourse (5) and its magnificent cross-country course (steeplechase), are all set against the backdrop of the Pompadour castle (2), providing a setting rich in history and local heritage.

Madame de Pompadour

Even to the non-horse enthusiasts the name ‘Pompadour’ might conjure-up some associations with french court intrigue and style (hairstyle, porcelain). Today, the French Presidential Élysée Palace has a Salon Pompadour (as do many posh hotels)to receive special guests, hold meetings and occasional dinners.

The intrigues starts as Jeanne Antoinette Poisson is born to François Poisson (1684–1754) and his wife Madeleine de La Motte (1699–1745). Or was she? Her biological father might have been either the rich financier Jean Pâris de Monmartel or the fermier général Charles François Paul Le Normant de Tournehem. Any how, Le Normant de Tournehem became her legal guardian when François Poisson was forced to leave the country in 1725. From the age of 5 Jeanne Antoinette received the finest quality education and was recognised for her wit and charm. Tournehem arranged for Jeanne Antoinette to receive a private education at home with the best teachers of the day who taught her dancing, drawing, painting, engraving and the theater.

At the age of nineteen, Jeanne Antoinette gets married to Charles Le Normant d'Étiolles who fell passionately in love with her. She vowed to never leave him till death or King would set them apart. Jeanne Antoinette visited celebrated salons in Paris, where she crossed paths with principal figures of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire and Montesquieu.She opened her own salon at Étiolles, which was attended by many of the cultural elite (among them Voltaire and Montesquieu). Her salon, as well as her grace and beauty, attracted the attention of king Louis XV. By 1744, she divorced her husband, moved to Versailles and became the king's mistress.

To become a member of the French court however, she required a title. And here enters the Pomdadour castle and family. The House of Pompadour reached its political height 1513, when it was elevated to a marquisate.The king acquired it, when due to the lack of a successor, it became vacant and gave the estate, with title and coat-of-arms, to Jeanne Antoinette. Allowing for the Marquise de Pompadour to make her formal entry on 14 September 1745.

As a member of the French court, and the official chief mistress of King Louis XV, she took charge of the king's agenda, was a valued aide and advisor, and remained influential till her death (at Versailles). The Marquise de Pompadour was a major patron of the arts and the philosophes of the Enlightenment. Some historians argue that the critics of Pompadour were driven by fears of her overturning of social and gender hierarchies that she, as a woman born outside the aristocracy, represented.

Pompadour greatly influenced and stimulated innovation in what is known as the "Rococo" style in the fine and decorative arts: through her patronage and the constant refurnishing of the fifteen residences she held with Louis. Again, this style was seen by some as a pernicious "feminine" influence.

Village and castle

The stronghold of the Lastour and Pompadour families, the château was founded in the 11th century. In 1182, Richard the Lionheart attacked the castle as part of his campaign against the supporters of France’s King Phillip II. Although nothing remains of the original Lastours castrum, the Château de Pompadour (2) rebuilt in the 15th century, is registered as a historical monument. Part of the castle are open to the public as are the gardens (great views of the race course), the Marquise stables and the Orangery stables (3).

The Puy Marmont equestrian stadium (4) is just outside the castle, a walk around the village should include the Chapel of Saint Blaise (6). Restorations often allow for modern elements to be introduced (most often windows), but here all of the interior walls became the canvasfor artist André Brasilier who spent almost five years creating a monumental (over 300m²) wall painting depicting stories from the Bible.

When we first visited Pompadour in 2018 found the railway ‘suspended till further notice’, and the station (1) served by buses. The same notice was still around in 2021, and a visit to Vignols revealed this might not change anytime soon.

Le Saillant

Allassac was once famous for its vineyards until the phylloxéra epidemic arrived in 1876 .

Though vineyards and livelihood disappeared, the centuries of cultivation had left their mark on the landscape. In the architecture of the wine merchant houses, with their presses and cellars. And in the terraces and wine cabanes still dotting the hillsides despite the new land-uses.

The vineyard Coteaux du Saillant - Vézère has replanted 21 hectares of the schistose slate soil of Allassac, Donzenac and Voutezac with Chemin, Sauvignon-gris, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet-franc.

Le Saillant is the starting point for hiking trails exploring the Vézère gorges and the series of small hydro-electric dams.

Chapel of Saillant

The village has a small chapel build between 1620 - 1624, during the restoration of 1978 the stained glass windows were replaced with a series created by the famous artist, Marc Chagall. In 1982 the stained glass windows of the nave were installed, making them the last works by Chagall realized during his life. The second series originally had a yellow colour scheme which has not resisted time, but the dark blue, green, red and the rose window remain vivid. The chapel of Saillant is one of only four chapels with Chagall windows and was declared a national monument in 2008.

Coteaux de la Vézère wines

This is not a nostalgic museum, it has its eyes on the future, and was the first to plant the fragile and delicate Chemin variety in the South-West wine area (more usually found in the Loire valley).

The modern approach is either biological or raisonnée cultivation. Raisonnée translates to integrated or sustainable agriculture. Compared to biological it’s a less emotional/dogmatic (more reasoned) break from the intensive agriculture. Keeping the soil covered to preserve the soil, limited artificial inputs, pruning, thinning , suckering and harvesting by hand. Though new parcels do now go straight into biological cultivation. 

The chai uses modern metal tanks to produce wine from different grape varieties parcel by parcel. This allows the master wine maker to select particular qualities of the year, and create appropriate mixtures or varieties or wines of a single grape variety. Not using wooden barrels allows for the preservation of the ‘minerality’, in which the schistose slate soils contribute to the terroir. 

The owner allows the public to hike over a trail and visit the vineyard unguided, best done walking down hill from the village of La Chartrouille towards Le Saillant. The views are spectacular and going this way has the added advantage of arriving at the chai for a little wine tasting afterward!

Vézère gorges

The Vézère gorges combine ecologically important area (Natura 2000) with an industrial heritage site. The first dam was constructed between 1899 and 1902, 3m high and 37m wide, today submerged by the Saillant dam. The generator building today serves as an office building. The new dam (28m high and 96m wide) and its generators came into service in 1930.


Hiking trails starting from Le Saillant
> Boucle du Vieux Saillant: 2km – 1h.
> Boucle des Coteaux de la Bontat: 2.5km – 1h15.
> Boucle des Pans Ardoisiers: 4km – 3h.

For the real hikers there is a long distance trail (GRP:Grande Randoneé Pays) from Vigeois to Saillant through the Vézère gorges. You can hike the right way round or the left, heading to Estivaux (10km) and on to Vigeois (14km). Or pass by Orgnac (12km) and on arriving over the old english bridge of Vigeois (12km).


The village of Aubazine was constructed in the hard local pinkish gneiss, framed with the easier to work sandstone, topped with slate roofs.

Construction of the two monasteries started in 1140, followed by the famed Canal des Moines in 1147. Today the abbey church (1) and major parts of the men's monastery (2) still stand at the centre of the village.

Inside the church the shrine on the grave of Saint Etienne dates back to the 13th century, its rich decorations, its light colour and design contrast with the austere Cisterian church. The more remarkable is so few richly decorated tombs have survived the trails and tribulations of history.


A stroll through the village reveals many re-used elements from the former monasteries. The former orphanage(3) sheltered Jewish children during the WWII, it was the place where fashion master, Gabrielle Coco Chanel spend her teens learning sewing.

The ruins of the women's monastery can still be found 500 metres outside the village. A stroll through the village reveals many interesting buildings. Follow the classic enamel Plaque Michelin/TCF signpost for Tulle (30,000 of these signs accompanied the original Michelin guide and were made available for free in between 1911 and 1914 to listed communities in collaboration with the Touring Club de France).

On you right side, the starting point of the monks canal walk that passes the Espace Muséographique et culturel (6) with its garden. The road passes the lavoir (4) alimented by the Canal des Moines, and turns at the Byzantine chapel (5), which is a recent addition to the village. The frescos date from 1989 and are in accordance with the Byzantine and Greek tradition.

Le Canal des Moines

The canal was constructed to bring water to the male monastery and is still flowing today. Flowing naturally along a 1.5 kilometres diversion of the Coyroux stream.

Following the contours of the mountain, at times hew through rocks at the Brèche Saint Etienne (7), at others flowing through a channel 'pasted' to the rock supported by stacked walls and an arch spanning a ravine (8).

Declared a historic monument in 1966 it is a showpiece of medieval art and engineering! It provides an enjoyable walk through an otherwise rough landscape (at points 40 metres cliffs overhang the canal) and forests. At the end of the canal a small basin with a sluice and overflow (9) distributes water between the canal and the stream.

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