The traditional agricultural activity of La Chataigneraie Cantalienne has been for centuries, as you can guess, the production of chestnuts.
La Chataigneraie is bounded by the Monts du Cantal and the Mauriac region in the north, theLozère department in the southeast, the luxuriant Lot Valley and the Aveyrondepartment in the south, and the departments of Lot and Corrèze in the west.
Its altitude ranges from 250m to 800m.
It is thus a region of contrasted landscapes, with rounded mountains and hills eroded by the millennia, and cut by deep valleys.
The subsoil is mostly composed of schist and granite.
This steep and relatively poor land has been traditionally associated with chestnut culture, as well as goats breeding for dairy products, and pigs for local deli.
Walnuts and buckwheat culture were later introduced, but the production of chestnuts is still dominant and has been diversified with the production of a local aperitif called Birlou.
The breeding of dairy cows was developed for the production of the delicious AOC Cantal cheese.
The northern end of La Chataignerie has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters, while the south has a more temperate climate.
La Chataignerie is a quintessential region dotted with medieval towns and villages that have retained their architectural and cultural heritage.
Many are ranked among Les Petites Cités de Caractère du Cantal – small towns of character.
Aurillac, the capital of the Cantal department, is also the largest city in La Chataigneraie.
Mourjou, a small village of 326 inhabitants located in the heart of the region, is recognized as the ‘capital’ of La Chataigneraie.
Situated at 400m above sea level, Mourjou is nestled in a beautiful hilly area.
The village enjoys a mild and temperate climate that certainly earned it its original name of Monjovis, which meant Mount of Joy.
Mourjou boasts a 200-year old chestnut tree, which was entered in the contest of L’arbre de l’Année 2015 – The Tree of Year 2015.
This magnificent tree has naturally become the symbol of La Chataigneraie region.
For the last 25 years, it has been used as the cover La Foire de la Châtaigne, an annual chestnut festival, which takes place the penultimate weekend of October and attracts nearly 25, 000 visitors.for the poster advertising
Mourjou’s chestnut tree was also selected in 2014 to be included in Les Saisons (The Seasons), a film by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud.
The village’s inhabitants are very proud of their chestnut, and will tell you that, within living memory, it has never been cut nor pruned!
You would have guessed by now that the emblem of Mourjou is the chestnut!
Petite Cités de Caractère du Cantal – La Chataigneraie
If you like the Auvergne medieval architecture, you will be charmed by the many picturesque towns ranked among LesCités de Caractère du Cantal.
Marcolès is right in theof La Chataigneraie, and offers several summer festivals such as “Les nuits de Marcolès ” and“Lez’Arts of the Street”.
Senézergues, located farther south, is renowned for its Fête de la Noix in October (walnut festival).
Its 13th century castle is not open to the public, but you can admire its four round towers peeking above woods and meadows of a green valley.
Maurs, another medieval town nestled behind its ancient walls, is located on the western part of La Chataigneraie.
The 14th-15th abbey church, Eglise Saint-Césaire, contains wooden stalls and statues, today classified as Historical Monuments, and the reliquary bust of Saint-Césaire.
Montsalvy is located not far from there.
The Château de Montsalvy was built on the foundations of the village’ ancient ramparts.
An impressive 18th century tower earned the mansion the label of ‘castle’.
The chateau de Montsalvy is today a retirement home.
Laroquebrou is renowned for its medieval architectural heritage.
The village grew along the Gorges de la Cère, aof superb canyons located in southern Cantal.
You’ll find the Château d’Anjony in Tournemire, another superb small town situated some 20km north of Aurillac.
The beautifully restored 15th century castle contains superb frescoes dating from the 16th century.
Its four massive round towers overlook the village of Tournemire, which is ranked among the PlusVillages de France.
La Chataigneraie is not only renowned for its landscapes and medieval architectural heritage, but is also a region with a deeply rooted culinary tradition!
Local specialties include among others:truffade, porc sausages, walnut and chestnut liqueurs, and of course the delicious AOC Cantal fermier!
We’ll talk about these towns in details in future