The plateau de Millevaches is a granite upland on the western edge of the Massif Central, one hour east of Limoges. A wild, depopulated area of moors, forests, rivers and lakes, it is increasingly becoming repopulated by “green” tourists looking for destinations off the beaten track.

Visitors may not encounter a thousand cows on the plateau de Millevaches – the ancient name is actually thought to mean a thousand springs, which could be why it is so green. But they might be surprised by what they do discover among these woods and hills, which is that the area has become a destination for lovers of modern art. In the middle of the plateau is the Lac de Vassivière, a 1,000-hectare lake with five beaches and three mini ports. On an island linked by a causeway to the mainland, is the Centre International d’Art et du Paysage. It’s a modern complex of hi-tech exhibition spaces, a symbolic lighthouse, artists’ residences and a remarkably well-stocked art bookshop. It’s made even more special by the fact that the rest of the island is a renowned sculpture park, with a trademark Andy Goldsworthy stone wall unfurling out of the woods and sliding into the lake itself. There are now more than 60 individual works on the island and the centre provides a free map so that you can hunt them down.

A startling recent acquisition from Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev is a decommissioned, redecorated Russian submarine anchored off the shore. Ponomarev is a former nautical engineer, and the sub in its transformed role certainly breaks the conversational ice. Combining art and utility is a new work by Paris based Korean artist Koo Jeong-A called Otro, a sunken complex of bowls, cradles and tunnels that doubles as a skate park. The centre’s director, Marianne Lanavère, arrived last year bringing fresh energy and imagination to the site. Her bold programme of conferences, concerts and partnerships is attracting new visitors from all over France and beyond. It has just opened its own art lending library, or artothèque, where local residents can borrow graphic art from the collection to display in their homes.

A short drive away in the ancient town of Eymoutiers is another centre of excellence. Espace Paul Rebeyrolle pays homage to an enfant du pays, who could be called the French Francis Bacon. His large-scale canvases set out dark, violent, distorted figurative narratives that explore themes of hostile nature and political oppression. In addition to the permanent collection of paintings, monumental sculptures, drawings and prints, there is a temporary exhibition every summer by a modern master. In the past these have included Miró, Chagall and Picasso. Further south, 30km away through beautiful oak and pine forests, is the pretty slate and granite town of Treignac. Here a young couple from London, Sam Basu and Liz Murray, have taken an audacious gamble. They are gradually restoring an old mill and factory complex in an idyllic setting in the centre of town by an old stone bridge.

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PNR Millevaches en Limousin
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