Nestled in the Creuse Valley, just a few kilometres from each other, Gargilesse-Dampierre and Saint-Benoît-du-Sault are listed among the Most Beautiful Villages in France. To really discover their charm, we suggest you forget any set itinerary and just let the streets lead you. Allow yourself to ‘get lost’ in their tiny lanes. The most wonderful discoveries are those you haven’t planned.
Gargilesse is love at first sight. Tightly-packed houses, sloping roofs covered with small tiles, quaint lanes, a castle, artists’ workshops and more. You’ll feel an irresistible urge to explore, to follow the little streets and see where they take you, to step into the Romanesque church...
…and you’re not alone! Numerous artists have succumbed to the charm of the Creuse Valley. George Sand, an iconic figure of romantic literature, fell in love with this small village, where she bought a house. Not far from her estate in Nohant, the Villa Algira was her little corner of paradise, a haven of peace for her to retreat to. From here, she strolled along the village paths and the local inhabitants and landscapes inspired the characters and stories of her novels.
Like George Sand in another era, we roam the small streets. A magnificent example of Romanesque art, Notre-Dame de Gargilesse church houses a series of murals in its crypt. The oldest ones date back to the 12th century! Romantic Gargilesse continues to charm artists today. A blacksmith, sculptors, potters and of course painters have all settled here. Meet the artists in their workshops. Take the time to talk to them, discover their craft and the passion that drives them, before succumbing to one or more of their creations!
Head next for Saint-Benoît-du-Sault. Perched on its rock overlooking the Portefeuille valley and surrounded by ramparts, this small medieval town is also classed as one of France’s Most Beautiful Villages. Another delightful stroll awaits you here. There are several itineraries on offer to explore the village. Take a trip back in time and follow the trail of the ramparts. Like the guards of the Middle Ages, walk along a part of the ancient patrol path which wove its way around the town.
Keep your eyes open! In Saint-Benoît-du-Sault, every nook and cranny hides a surprise... A church and an abbey, fortified gates, narrow lanes, medieval houses, round or square towers and rose-covered walls...remnants of the past are everywhere and tell the story of the village.
Take a break from exploring and have a drink at the Café des Sports. Hunt for treasures in the antique shops on Place aux Enchères. In Saint-Benoît-du-Sault, time slows down and is there to be savoured.
Breath-taking landscapes of the Painters’ Valley
After the streets of Gargilesse and Saint-Benoît-du-Sault, how about a hike along the trail of the Impressionist painters in the Creuse Valley? Follow the hiking paths which lead you to this Painters’ Valley, where a host of artists have set up their easels over the years! Climb to the Rocher de la Fileuse. Its summit overlooks the Creuse Valley and the river which winds its way between steep rock-faces. If you don’t paint, this breath-taking valley is well worth a few photographs!
You can feel time slowing down in the Creuse Valley. Enjoy a moment out of time and off the beaten track. A welcome breath of fresh air!
Our tip: Gargilesse, Saint-Benoît-du-Sault and the Creuse Valley, to get the very most out of these landscapes and secretive heritage, take the GR® de Pays Val de Creuse hiking guidebook with you!
“Born in Orléans, I have always lived in the countryside between the Loire and the forest of Orléans. I love cycling and walking along the banks of the Loire and along the towpath by the Canal of Orléans.”Discover the experiences