|Before there was
music, there was the Haut Allier. And if artists and musicians have
settled in this part of deepest rural France, it is not because the
area had any inherent musical tradition; they came for the environment
– a magnificent natural environment that to this day is prized by those
who love the great outdoors. This is an area with remarkable wildlife,
a profusion of wild flowers in Spring, birds, butterflies, reptiles and other
creatures great and small throughout the year. In this part of the
Haute Loire department, there is always something to do outside; miles
of old tracks for rambling, rivers for sport or for relaxation, a
natural environment to be enjoyed, photographed, painted, and taken
away in memories.
rafting, swimming, angling.
A number of organisations hire out kayaks and canoes for the afternoon,
the day, or longer. The river Allier between Langeac and Brioude is
ideal for beginners and all ages. However, the stretches of
calmly flowing water are interspersed with gentle rapids, so beginners
ned to be accompanied.
White-water kayaking is possible upstream from Prades, just south of
There are beaches all along this part of the river, and river swimming
is a popular activity in the warm months of summer.
Short term fishing permits can be obtained. Once France's major salmon
river, the Allier is in the process of being restocked. Salmon fishing
is not yet permitted (and will be very expensive when it is), but the
river offers opportunities for fly fishing and normal angling.
Other outdoor pursuits
rambling. The area offers magnificent opportunities for hiking and rambling.
There are kilometres of old paths and tracks, many of them marked,
others needing the help of a detailed map. For the less energetic,
there are short walks without much climbing; but for the energetic,
there are trails climbing from the valley floor , to the summits of the
hills all around, some of which are over 1000 metres.
Many of the walking trails can also be used by cycling enthusiasts.
watching, ornithology, etc.
High Allier valley is extremely rich in bird life;
includes Europe's largest concentration of short-toed eagles,
as well as eagle owls, harriers, shrikes, golden orioles, and plenty
more to whet
the appetite of bird-watchers. The Upper Auvergne. bird centre
in Lavoute Chilhac organises birdwatching field trips. During the warm
months, the area also abounds in butterfly life, with a rich variety of
The area is remarkable for its distinctive plant
life. Near the
villages of Chazieux and Chilhac, small prickly-pear cacti grow in the
wild; and in spring time, orchids grow profusely on the dry hillsides.
There are also rare Pasque flowers, and a wealth of other wild flowers.