Located on the southern tip of South Burgundy and bordering the Monts du Beaujolais is one of Burgundy’s least known regions – The Brionnais. That’s a shame as this region in France has much to offer visitors. A region of soft green hills dotted with farms, churches and villages.
A good place to start exploring the Brionnais is by driving along the Circuit des Eglises Romanes du Brionnais, a well marked tourist road that lets you visit 13 of the region’s Romanesque churches. Highlights include the Basilica of Paray-le-Monial, the village church of Anzy-le-Duc with its octagonal bell tower and the church in Bois-Sainte-Marie with its carved capitals. Many of the churches along this route are part of the Festival Musique en Brionnais, a yearly chamber music festival in late July or early August.
Most of the villages along the Circuit des Eglises Romanes du Brionnais have hiking trails so you can get out and stretch your legs between driving.
The Brionnais is also home to three Châteaux – Château de Drée, Château de la Clayette and Château Saint-Hugues. Construction of Château de Drée started in 1620 and the Château is best known for its gardens. Well proportioned in the French style with fountains and shrubs in pleasurable shapes. The Château de la Clayette is a private residence but the outside can be visited on May 1, Mondays in July and August and during European Heritage Days. The Château Saint-Hugues in Semur-en-Brionnais is the oldest Château in Burgundy, construction started in the 10th century.
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The region is also home to good food, but here’s a surprise, it doesn’t include wine. What it does include is Charollais Cattle. A white breed of cattle that is named after the nearby town of Charolles. When driving in the area you’ll often see Charollais Cattle grazing in the fields.
Semur-en-Brionnais is in the heart of the Brionnais and is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Saint-Christophe-en-Brionnais is close by and its Wednesday cattle market, first held in the 14th century.
The region is best accessed by car off the N79 national road between Mâcon and Charolles/Paray-le-Monial. The N79 has a junction with the A6 Autoroute that runs between Paris and Lyon.
You can also take the TGV from Paris to Le Creusot or Mâcon. Then rent a car if you like. If you are the sporting type, cycle the Voie Verte – bike only path from Le Creusot to Paray-le-Monial. The Brionnais is an hour and a half north of Lyon by car.
The Brionnais is in the far south of Southern Burgundy. The limits are in the north the N79 road, west and south the Loire and Sornin rivers and the Beaujolais hills to the east.
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