Leave Cognac town and vineyards are soon joined by rolling fields of sunflowers...
Hire a bicycle or explore the area on horseback – you’ll find hundreds of kilometres of quiet country tracks, and details of circuits suited to both families and experienced riders are downloadable from the Cognac tourist office website. Alternatively, for a day out with a difference, hire a donkey to carry your picnic for you from the Perennis association (www.perennis-cognac.org, tel +33 (0)5 16 75 90 84).
From Neolithic times daily life in and around Jarnac has centred upon the Charente river. For centuries the quayside received gabarres carrying salt and later, cognac. The old towpaths and merchants’ warehouses survive, and Courvoisier, Hine and Louis Royer cognac houses are still based here.
At nearby Saint Simon – the ‘village gabarrier’ – visit the Maison des Gabarriers to discover the history of the boats and the people who worked them, then head out on the river yourself, on a replica gabarre.
South of the river, Segonzac lies in the heart of the Grande Champagne area and is home to several smaller cognac and pineau houses, as well as the ‘Université des Eaux-de-Vie et boissons spiritueuses’ , a centre of excellence for spirits and wine.
Between Angoulême and Cognac lies Rouillac, which for over 200 years has hosted one of the France’s largest markets on the 27th of each month. Aigre has a long tradition of cognac trading while at nearby Ligné, 70 engraved tombstones remain from the Templar knights.
At Les Bouchauds, the Gallo-Roman theatre, with four temples and vast amphitheatre, will delight history lovers, as will the early 11th century Abbaye de Châtres at Saint-Brice (a few kilometres east of Cognac), not to mention the serenely beautiful Romanesque churches found in hamlets and towns throughout Cognac Country.
16 rue du XIV Juillet; +33 (0)5 45 82 10 71
Châteauneuf sur Charente
2 Rue du Général Leclerc; +33 (0)5 45 97 13 32
Place du Château; +33 (0)5 45 81 09 30
Place Gambetta; +33 (0)5 45 21 80 05
1 rue Pierre Viala; +33 (0)5 45 83 37 77