You’ll succumb to the charm of Loire Forez, a destination full of authenticity and stunning views. Between the Loire Gorges and the Hautes Chaumes plateaus of the Monts du Forez massif, you’ll enjoy the tranquillity of nature as you explore the great outdoors and villages full of character. Here you’ll find everything you need for a memorable holiday with your partner, family or friends.
The gorges of the Loire
Several kilometres from its source between Velay and Plaine du Forez, the Loire River has shaped stunning gorges that will leave you speechless. 4,000 hectares of rocky escarpments, sandy stretches, and steep forests offer unspoilt authenticity. With Natura 2000 status, this is a land with an abundance of flora and fauna, rich in its astonishing diversity. The view across this landscape, sculpted by the river is, quite simply, stunning! It can be fully taken in from the roof terrace of the Château d’Essalois, or from the top of the Donjon de Chambles.
The Hautes Chaumes
Between sky and land, the horizon stretches as far as the eye can see… Do you long to lose yourself in infinite vastness? Head for the summits of the Monts du Forez. There, between 1,400 and 1,642 metres in altitude, you’ll be amazed! The vast plateau covered in moorland that stretches north to south has an unreal quality, as if it’s suspended in the air. Everywhere you look, the panoramas are stunning. To the east lies the Plaine du Forez, the Monts du Lyonnais and you can sometimes even see the Alps. To the west is the Vallée de la Dore, the Puy-de-Dôme and Sancy.
About a thousand years ago, in the place where the mountains join the plain, the idea to create a city was born. The counts who ruled Forez at the time designed the outline of the town. The historic centre, which has the largest concentration of listed monuments in the department, can be discovered on foot. Take the time to stroll, before relaxing on a terrace in the shade of the plane trees. A top tip: Saturday is a good day to stop in Montbrison. It’s market day, and the market was voted best in France in 2019! The town is lively and filled with the colours and fragrances of local produce. Your taste-buds will remember the experience.
Usson-En-Forez, family and the great outdoors
Are you looking for a countryside destination for a family holiday? The green holiday resort of Usson-en-Forez is ideal for you! Located south of the Monts du Forez, at 900 m altitude, between Ambert (Puy de Dôme), Puy en Velay (Haute-Loire) and Saint-Etienne (Loire), for some years it has enjoyed the status: “Family Plus – Nature”. Here, you will find all the ingredients you need for an enjoyable holiday in the countryside: relaxation, nature, leisure and more.
Saint-Bonnet-le-Château, capital of OBUT boules
Need a break? …To disconnect? Arriving in St Bonnet le Château, you’ll notice the silhouette of the Collegiate church, which dominates this “Petite Cité de Caractère” (small town with character), located at 800m in altitude, to the south of the Monts du Forez! It invites you to stop to discover its history, its traditions, its historic quarter and the treasures of the Collegiate church…
The Bâtie d’Urfé, one of Forez’s heritage treasures
The Forez region is inspirational to writers. It was central to L’Astrée, the “novel of novels”, written in the 17th century by Honoré d’Urfé. This author lived in the Renaissance Chateau of Bâtie d’Urfé, with its gardens for day dreaming. For a complete immersion into the novel, take the “Chemins de l’Astrée” path along the River Lignon, and pause at the Priory of Montverdun, at the Château de Goutelas, and at the educational ponds at the Réserve de Biterne and the Ecopôle du Forez.
The Volerie du Forez, an impressive bird park
When passing Marcilly-le-Châtel, don’t miss a stop at this fortress with its black stone, standing above the vines. You may even see a few birds of prey circling the castle towers. Why not take a closer look? People are always attracted by the height: there’s a spectacular panorama from the top, take a breath of fresh air while walking through the vineyards and there’s guaranteed laughter during the Volerie du Forez shows.
The Fortress of Couzan, a remnant of great historical events
You can see them from afar, through the mist, the majestic ruins that overlook the village of Sail-sous-Couzan… Up there, a giant sleeps: the Château de Couzan, whose towers could tell a thousand stories. Take the time to climb up on a clear day and the incredible view will take your breath away. On the way back down, recover from the emotion by tasting the village’s chalybeate mineral water, the craft beer, or the famous “boudin pâtissier au chocolat” (chocolate sausage speciality) if you go as far as Boën…
Champdieu and the vines
We love these peaceful little villages, full of charm. Champdieu is one of these secret, intimate detours that you’ll love to stroll around. As you walk along the cobbled streets, the Middle Ages speak through the ramparts, fortified gates, parapets and fortified church. There’s no castle, but a sublime Romanesque church with the strange appearance of a fortress. You will be familiar with Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, and the walls of Champdieu Priory have their own interpretation of it.
Marols, a village with character
A little village nestled in the Monts du Forez, Marols has much character and several attractions! Come here to discover its fortified village, to see the artists who work in workshops scattered around the village, to taste delicious biscuits at the Pause Marolaise, to enjoy the delicious cuisine at the Auberge de Marols… or to hike to one of the highest villages in the department offering a breathtaking panorama and located just a few steps away: Montarcher!