French Connections

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If you’ve ever driven the main autoroute through central France, you may, like me, have looked across at the distinctive emerald  volcanic hills that roll across the Massif Central and thought, ’I’d love to see those some time’. Now is your perfect chance to plan a visit, as the Puy-de-Dôme, home to the biggest extinct volcano, is our region of the month.

Puy-de-Dôme lies in Auvergne at the heart of the Massif Central, a mountain range with a chain of long extinct volcanos known as'puy' – and yes, this is where those delicious lentils come from. There are more than 80 former volcanic cones, from Puy-de-Dôme in the north, through the vast volcanic hills of the Monts du Cantal, to the basalt slopes of the Monts d'Aubrac in the south.

The Puy-de-Dôme mountain rises to 1465 metres and the panoramic view from the top is unforgettable. You’ll also find a visitor centre with a fascinating exhibition about the volcanoes and other sites of interest. This area of outstanding natural beauty is a glorious outdoor paradise perfect for holidays all through the year – for  walking, cycling, and rock climbing as well as fishing, canoeing and enjoying the amazing range of wildlife.

The capital is Clermont-Ferrand, the original home of Michelin tyres. Its old town is centred around the cathedral Notre-Dame-de-l'Assumption and the place de la Victoire, where quaint old fashioned houses have lava stone courtyards. The cathedral is a lovely Gothic building of the 13th century and is unusual as it is the only cathedral in France made of black volcanic stone.

You can fly direct from the UK (London City airport) to Clermont-Ferrand. There are also flights from Paris and several other European cities. The journey by road from Calais to Clermont-Ferrand is approximately 700km and should take around 6.5 hours.

Most of our holiday homes in this area are beautiful old stone farmhouses. They retain a wealth of traditional character with beams, exposed brickwork and massive fireplaces,  but at the same time offer all the modern comforts and convenience you would expect, often including a swimming pool. Or you can stay in one of our houses set in beautiful medieval villages, where small independent shops and cafes are on your doorstep and you’re guaranteed to experience a reall slice of la vie Francaise.

See all the details in our guides to Puy-de-Dôme and the Auvergne