Haute-Vienne is one of the three departments that together form the region of Limousin, the others being Corrèze and Creuse. The region is one of the least densely populated in France so peace and quiet are in good supply. The primary industry in the area is the manufacture of fine porcelain. Limoges porcelain is known throughout the world and owes its existence to the deposits of china clay that were discovered around St Yrieix-la-Perche in the late eighteenth century. The growth of the industry ensured that Limoges (originally founded by the Romans) became the capital of the region. One of Limoges’ more famous residents was the artist Renoir who reputedly developed his artistic skills whilst working in the porcelain factories painting designs on the china.
Outside of Limoges the landscape is a beautiful mixture of rolling plains, forests and lakes. Limousin is famous for its beef and as you pass the verdant fields dotted with the distinctive brown Limousine cattle contentedly grazing in the sunshine you can understand why. The climate is ideally suited to the sweet chestnut tree and the forests of these trees provide many pleasantly shaded lanes and tracks meandering through the region. The chestnut is important to the people of Limousin. The wood is ideal for producing fence posts, parquet floors and fuelling wood burning stoves. The chestnuts themselves are much used in local cooking - the boudin de châtaignes is a tasty delicacy - and there are also several liqueurs based on the chestnut.
If you are interested in history then there is plenty here to whet your appetite. From pre-historic menhirs through Roman bath-houses, medieval castles and villages and nineteenth century mine workings to relics of the German occupation; evidence of the people and their lives is all around. The Limousin has close associations with Richard the Lionheart, indeed he was fatally wounded outside the now ruined château of Châlus.