This beautiful, unspoilt area is filled with forests, lakes, rivers and attractive towns. Steeped in history, it’s home to some of Europe’s most imposing chateaux, museums and Romanesque churches.
In the heart of the Gâtine countryside lies the little town of Parthenay. Take a relaxed stroll around the St Jacques medieval quarter, among timber-framed houses, a 13th century chateau, granite fortifications and Romanesque churches. Read our in-depth guide to Parthenay by clicking here.
Further afield are the tiny medieval towns of Airvault and Saint-Loup-Lamairé and character villages like Gourgé and Saint Généroux, plus Pougne-Hérisson’s curious storytelling gardens, ‘Le Nombril du Monde’.
To the north, Bressuire’s summer Highland Games take place in the château grounds.This hilltop town is gateway to the Bocage, an area of great beauty with small fields, hedgerows, rivers, gentle hills and woodland. Quiet lanes lead to watermills, windmills, wayside chapels, shrines and Romanesque churches along one of the routes to Compostela. View the frescoes at St Clémentin’s beautiful 13th century Chapelle des Rosiers - the church’s metal steeple is one of only three in France.
Follow the river Thouet to historic Thouars which hosts art exhibitions and the largest market in the Deux-Sèvres (on Friday mornings). Celebrated for its floral displays, this ‘Ville d’Art & d’Histoire’ has the most listed buildings per inhabitant in the region. You will also see the Poitou-Charentes’ largest collection of wartime exhibits in the ‘Centre Régional Résistance et Liberté’, and a remarkable water turbine mill dating from 1875. Read our in-depth guide to Thouars here.
Thouars is also familiar to botanists because of the biodiversity of the Pressoir valley, home of the rare Radnor Lily. Nearby, the Oriental Garden at Maulévrier is delightful, while the magnificently restored Château Oiron rivals those of the Loire Valley and houses a contemporary art collection unique in France.
Bressuire: 6 Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
+33 (0)5 49 65 10 27; www.tourisme-bocage.com
Parthenay: 8 rue de la Vau St Jacques
+33 (0)5 49 64 24 24; http://web.cc-parthenay.fr
Thouars: 32 place Saint Médard
+33 (0)5 49 66 17 65; www.tourisme-pays-thouarsais.fr