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Great Lakes of Poitou-Charentes

Great Lakes of Poitou-Charentes

Why not visit one of the many beautiful lakes in Poitou-Charentes? They offer plenty of opportunities to swim, boat, fish and generally enjoy splashing about in water and are a welcoming change to the busy beaches in summer. Ron Cousins shows us the best across the region...

The August sun is beating down, and as you wilt in your parched garden you have one desire: to throw yourself into an ocean of refreshing water!

This summer why not swop the regular trip to the beach for a trip to one of the many lakes dotted throughout the region? We don't tend to think about visiting a lake in the same way we dream about the beach. Yet there's every reason to enjoy being at the lakeside as much as the seaside. For a start, there is a natural beauty in a grassy-banked, tree-lined Jake waiting to be discovered in its hidden dell among the fields and hills. The tranquility that you can find in these secret, nestling oases is far from the hustle and bustle of the beach.

lake kids

In stark contrast, the larger lakes cater for those looking for activity, with a combination of water and tree-based sports in the same area.

Bouncing back sunshine like diamonds scattered from the heavens, the lakes of the Poitou-Charentes conjure up all that is best about Mother Nature - yet most of them owe their existence very firmly to the hand of man. The larger lakes were built to provide drinking water or enable the flow of rivers to be controlled, while many of the smaller ones are 'Plans d'Eau' - artificial lakes commissioned by communities to provide local water-based activities. In Deux-Sèvres alone there are seventeen of these and they provide an important basis for the tourist industry. So, where are these lakes? And what exactly do they offer? We have selected some of our favourites to tell you about - not only the lakes themselves, but also the other things you can do while you're refreshing yourself in the area.

Lakes of the Haute Charente

The best known and largest lakes are Lac de Mas Chaban and Lac de Lavaud near Chabanais, which are known as the Lakes of the Haute Charente.

Lac de Mas Chaban controls the flow of water into the upper reaches of the River Charente and has fishing and rambling along the wild, mint-covered banks, as well as sailing, windsurfing and canoeing with qualified instructors. There is a specially adapted landing stage for disabled access, Cruzeau Village, on the left bank, provides holiday accommodation in restored 18th century cottages. While adults generally relax and unwind, the kids can have fun at the nearby ‘Aventure Parc' with tree climbing and aerial runways on offer. Snacks are available at the lake, and the restaurants at nearby Massignac include L'Auberge Des Lacs and Les Tournelles.


Lac de Lavaud is the largest lake in Poitou-Charentes, and serves as a reservoir for storing water from the springs of the west side of the Plateau de Millevaches. It is also a major ornithological site with over 170 species of birds recorded at the observatory on the west bank where birdwatching with expert commentary can be arranged.

Plage de La Guerlie and Plage de Videix on the east bank are two beaches for safe swimming, with lifeguards on duty. Across the lake, a water sports centre caters for all things afloat. There are superb disabled facilities and also an audio-place guidance system for the visually impaired. The excellent Le Solei! Couchant lakeside bar serves food all day, often has live music and is open all year round. There are also boats, canoes and pedalos for hire.

Around Angouleme

Just a few kilometres from the restaurants, shops and museums in the bustling centre of Angouleme there's a welcoming 26-hectare tranquil oasis: Le Plan d'Eau de Saint Yrieix. As well as a sandy beach for swimming there are small boats to hire and, for the more ambitious, a sailing school and windsurfing club where instruction is provided. Tennis, volleyball, petanque, walking and cycling are among the land bound activities at hand while for the less athletic there are constantly changing exhibitions of paintings, photography and sculpture at the Tourist Office. An added bonus is the handy lakeside cafe. Right next door is Nautilis which has an Olympic size swimming pool and water slides.

Plan d'eau de St Yrieix

Towards the south

Further south, near the point where Charente links arms with Charente-Maritime, Dordogne and Aquitaine, the chance to own a lakeside holiday home is just one thing on offer at Etang Vallier, a couple of kilometres outside Brossac. There's a choice of rental holiday accommodation, while a sandy beach with a lifeguard on duty allows safe bathing in the 4-hectare lake; there's also a separate pool. Children have a games area, mini golf, bike hire and pony riding and there's a cyber cafe with WiFi. Anglers will love the lake, while 3km away is a quad bike and jet ski centre. Right by the lake is the Quai Sud restaurant where, apart from a varied menu including tapas, the speciality is the 'Cucaracha' - a mixture of coffee liqueur, vodka and vanilla set alight by owner Fabrice. There are Thursday evening open air concerts in Brossac, and a visit to Chalais should take in the 12th century Church St Martial and its cloisters.

Heading north

The 185-hectare Barrage de Cebron just north of Parthenay is the largest lake in Deux-Sèvres, created to supply drinking water by damming the River Cebron. The huge lake is an important breeding ground for migratory birds and an ideal area for bird watching; but there is also plenty of scope for swimming, tennis, mini golf, camping and picnics. Anglers can fish from the banks, but not between the 1st February and 31st May.

The nearby town of Airvault has a Romanesque bridge over the River Thouet, an underground fountain under the square in front of St Pierre church and an abbey that houses a museum of traditional arts and crafts. Well worth a visit is the Saturday market in the 18th century market place where goat's cheese is a speciality. Among the town's restaurants are the Cafe des Promenades and La Vallee D'Or.

Between Niort and Parthenay, the banks of the 150-hectare Plan d'Eau du Soleil Levant and Barrage de Ia Touche-Poupard near the Foret de Ia Saisine welcome walkers, cyclists and horse riders. There is also a beach for swimming and designated fishing areas as well as picnic spots and the L'Etang des Saveurs restaurant and bar. Camping facilities are first class with a modern toilet and shower block and launderette. Golfers will find a club at Mazieres-en-Gatine., while interesting places to visit include the castle at Cherveux, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays, and the abbey at St-Maixent l'Ecole, where choices of restaurant include the riverside Le Logis St Martin and La Marmite.

Just to the east of Niort, the Base de Loisirs du Lambon at Prailles has a lot to offer. As well as swimming, fishing, canoes and pedaloes, there are hiking and cycling tracks, mini golf, tennis, archery and train rides. Campers are well catered for - there are caravan facilities and a large modern holiday village. Children have a games area and their own mini club, while the bar and restaurant caters for all the family.

lake sailing

Into the Vienne

Nature lovers will enjoy the Plan d'Eau de Saint Cyr midway between Poitiers and Chatellerault in the Vienne, where an 80-hectare quarry site of old sand and gravel in a bend of the River Clain is now being restored to a wetlands area. Pathways and wooden observation areas, with good disabled access, have been built around the very deep lake. This is an important stopping off point for many species and among the varieties of birds visiting are osprey, eider and whistling duck. Angling also takes place and the lake has a reputation for very big carp.

Anyone with an interest in motorbikes will love the Musée Auto Moto Velo in Chatellerault, where over 200 vintage machines from all over the world are on display. Rare machines from revered makers like Norton, Rudge and BSA can be viewed any day except Tuesday

On the Vienne's border with Deux-Sèvres. the 9-hectare Lac du Gue du Magne at Moncomour is home to Teleski Nautique, a ski lift that permits wake-boarding and ski-boarding without speedboats or the associated noise. There is a beach for swimming, water toboggans, kayaks and pedalos, while on the bank you have mini golf, skateboarding, holiday chalets and a waterside bar and restaurant.

 Across to the Charente Maritime

You're pretty close to the Gironde estuary when you visit Pole Nature Vitrezay in Charente- Maritime. The 20-hectare lake has Sailing, kayaking and fishing as well as an exhibition centre covering bird and aquatic life. Regular guided tours of the surrounding marshes provide a fascinating insight into how wildlife exists where saltwater and freshwater merge into one. The Restaurant Vitrezay on the water's edge at the ancient fishing village of Port Vitrezay has a bar and tea room for relaxing after the walk.

Royan, with the beautiful Grande Conche beach and wonderful market, is nearby - as is the picture postcard village of Talmont where the St Radegonde church has assured Christians that God does control the elements by standing firm on a rocky outcrop for almost one thousand years.

Across the bay from the hollyhocks and artists at Talmont are the troglodyte caves at Meschers: Grottes de Regulus et des Fonraines and Grones de Matata with its adjoining Matata Caves Creperie. There is also the opportunity to take a closer look at the Carrelets, the traditional fishing cabins with suspended nets.

There's a whole team on hand to organise entertainment for adults and children at Les Etangs de Mina at Saint Sornin from April to October. The three lakes provide good fishing for trout and coarse fish and there is a swimming pool, bar, snack bat and shop. Holiday caravans can be hired and the camping facilities include a launderette and internet connection. Oyster lovers can drool over the thought that just down the road at Marennes, their favourite sea food is packed shell to shell in over 6,000 hectares of the largest cultivated oyster beds in Europe.

The Plan d'Eau de St-Jean-d'Angély is an attractive 2-hectare lake close to the town. It is popular with fishermen and has holiday chalets and a campsite with good facilities. The town's name is derived from its ancient Roman title Angetiacum - and that of John the Baptist, who allegedly graced the town with a part of his presence when in 1016 Abbot Alduin discovered the relics of his head in the basilica of 9th Century Abbaye Royale. Today, the Centre of European Culture is based at the abbey where meetings, conferences and workshops aim to educate young Europeans in the continent's cultures and encourage cultural tourism. The abbey gardens are the setting for open air theatre throughout August. The town has a number of restaurants; but lovers of fish dishes should enjoy Le Petit Gourmet in Avenue General de Gaulle.


These are just a few of Poitou-Charentes' lakes and their surrounding attractions, there are many more geared up to welcome visitors for a short or long visit, for active sports or slumbering in deck chairs. Many provide the basic amenities free of charge while access to others is usually no more than a few euros. All are family-friendly and up to the high standards set by the Tourist Office.

So, if you can take your bathing water without a pinch of salt and the cries of seagulls, the lakes of Poitou-Charentes make a great alternative to the seaside.


Address Book

Lakes of the Haute Charente

Village de Gites, le Cruzeau, 16310 Lesignac Durand.

+33 (0)5 45 67 39 20

Aventure Parc, lacs de Haute Charente, 16310 Massignac.

+33 (0)5 45 24 07 43

l'Auberge des lacs. Le Bourg, 16310 Massignac.

+33 (0)5 45 65 30 10

Domaine des Etangs. 16310 Massignac.

+33 (0)5 45 61 85 00

La Chassagne holiday village

+ 33 (0)5 55 03 72 73

Le Soleil Couchant lakeside bar, 16310 Verneuil.

+33 (0)5 45 65 23 67

Haute-Charente Office de Tourisme. Maison des Lacs, 16310 Massignac.

+33 (0)5 45 65 26 69

Around Angoulême

Plan d'Eau de Ia Grande Prairie, 16710 Saint Yrieix sur Charente  

+33 (0)5 45 68 42 46

Towards the south

Etang Vallier. 16480 Brossac.

+33 (0)5 45 98 77 15.


Quai Sud de I'Etang Vallier, r Etang Vallier. 16480 Brossac.

33 (0)5 45 98 44 18


Heading north

Barrage de Cebron

+ 33 (0)5 49 64 84 51

Cafe des Promenades, 25 pl Promenades, 79600 Airvault.

+33 (0)5 45 64 71 72

La Vallee D'Or. 1 bis rue Ia Chaperonniere, 79600 Airvault.

+33 (0)5 49 70 84 04

Plan D'Eau du Soleil Levant et Barrage de La Touche Poupard, 79400 Saint·Georges·de-Noisne. 

+33 (0)5 49 63 25 73

L 'Etang des Saveurs, Froidelond, 79400 Exireuil.

+ 33 (0)5 49 33 60 89

Golf du Petit Chene, 79310 Mazieres·en·Gatine.

+33 (0)5 49 63 20 95

Château Cherveux, 79410 Cherveux.

+33 (0)5 49 75 06 55

Le Logis St Martin, 2 chem Pissot, 79400 St Maixent l'Ecole.

+33 (0)5 49 05 58 68

La Marmite, 33 pl Marche, 79400 St Maixent l'Ecole.

+33 (0)5 49 05 75 74

Base de loisirs de Plein Air, Le Lambon, 79310 Prailles.

+ 33 (0)5 49 32 85 11


 Into the Vienne

Lac de Saint·Cyr, 86130 Saint·Cyr.

+33 (0)5 49 62 57 22

Musée Auto Moto Velo, 3 r Clement Krebs, 86100 Chatellerault.

+ 33 (0)5 49 21 03 46

Lac du Gue du Magne, 86330 Moncontour.

+ 33 (0)5 40 98 93 67


 Across to the Charente Maritime

Pole Nature de Vitrezay, Saint-Sorlin-de-Conac.

+ 33 (0)5 46 49 89 89

Le Vitrezay, Port de Vitrezay, 17150 Saint-Sorlin-de-Conac.

+ 33 (0)5 46 49 89 93

Grottes de Regulus et des Fontaines, 81 bd de Ia Falaise, 17132 Meschers.

+33 (0)5 46 02 55 36

Grottes de Matata & Creperie, 67 bd de Ia Falaise, 17132 Meschers,

+33 (0)5 46 02 70 02

Les Etangs de Mina, 17 route de Rochefort, 17600 Saint Sornin,

+33 (0)5 46 22 82 61

La Guinguette, Ile de La Palue, 17000 Saintes

+ 33 (0)6 80 06 22 37

Plan d'Eau de St Jean d'Angély:

+ 33 (0)5 46 37 04 72

Centre de Culture Européenne, Abbaye Royale, 17400 Saint Jean d'Angély.

+33 (0)5 46 32 60 60.

Le Petit Gourmet, 64 ave du Général De Gaulle, 17400 St Jean d'Angély.

+33 (0)5 46 26 39 93