Property Trends in the Lozere department, Languedoc Roussillon
The fact that the northern Languedoc-Roussillon department of Lozere has largely been ignored by typical non-French property buyers is now becoming one of its most charming assets. This is the part of the region where you can truly get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life! Indeed the Lozere is the least populated department in continental France and thus benefits from seemingly endless hectares of peace and quiet dotted with sleepy rural towns, villages and hamlets. The biggest draw of all has got to be the unlimited opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors all year round: come here for some of the best trout fishing in France, enjoy extreme sports such as kayaking, mountain biking and mountain climbing (the department has over 950 climbing routes), take it easier with rambles and hikes by foot on or horseback along the many marked routes, go swimming or learn how to sail or windsurf on peaceful lakes, take in a round or two of golf and, in the winter, practise your alpine and cross-country skiing skills! And with flora and fauna in abundance this is also a nature lovers paradise!
Covering an area of about 5167 km2 (a little smaller than the English county of Norfolk), politically the Lozere is part of the Languedoc-Roussillon but geographically it shares more in common with the surrounding mountainous areas which make up the lower half of the Massif Central where it is situated. Indeed as you travel north from Montpellier in the predominantly Mediterranean department of the Herault and through the striking landscape of the Grand Causses you’d be forgiven for thinking you had moved out of the Languedoc-Roussillon all together. The Lozere has been conveniently divided into four geographical areas by the department’s tourist board reflecting the geologically influenced nature of this department which is very much at the crossroads of the Languedoc-Roussillon, the Midi-Pyrenees, the Auvergne and the Rhone-Alps regions of France.
Thus the south-west quarter of the Lozere is the land of carved limestone where the Sauveterre and Mejean Grand Causses meet the valley of the Lot River and the impressive river gorges of the Tarn and the Jonte – the land here is both fertile and formidable, and home to beautiful stone built villages. The south-east quarter is dominated by the wild and serene granite and shale landscape of Mont Lozere and the Cevennes; steeped in history, this is the former stronghold of the Huguenots and the area Robert Louis Stevenson famously explored by donkey. To the north-east you will find the rural plateaux, hills and forests of the Margeride with astonishing eroded granite rocks liberally scattered around the land like a massive natural sculpture garden! The north-west corner of the Lozere is the basalt plains of the Aubrac plateau, home to almost two thousand plants species.
The department is centred around the capital city of Mende – a large market town situated along the banks of the Lot River, dominated by its cathedral within the old city which is circled by tree-lined boulevards. Easily explored by foot, Mende blends rustic charm with contemporary amenities: there are a number of upmarket clothing boutiques and home decor stores, a regular farmers market, artisan stores specialising in local produce and several good quality restaurants and bars (including a rather incongruous Irish pub in the centre!). Despite being one of the region’s smaller cities, Mende also has a thriving arts and culture scene: the local cinema shows international films, sometimes even in their original language with French subtitles, and the Municipal Theatre is host to regular touring shows throughout the year ranging from children’s puppet theatre to internationally acclaimed dance groups.
Needless to say, because of its rural nature property prices in the Lozere are considerably cheaper than in other departments of the Languedoc-Roussillon. The character of the property here is different too thanks to the local geology; you can expect to see very picturesque stone built properties with dark slate roof tiles which are more reminiscent, say, of parts of Wales than the Mediterranean terracotta roofed villas of the lower Languedoc-Roussillon. And as much of the region is given over to cattle and sheep farming, you can expect to find property with land at very affordable prices. Prices tend to be steeper nearer the capital Mende, and the larger towns such as Florac, Langogne, Aumont-Aubrac and Meyrueis, as well of the more sought after villages such as Sainte-Enimie, Saint-Chely-du-Tarn and La Garde Guerin. Nevertheless you are still getting more for your money here than in other areas of the Languedoc-Roussillon.
Whilst the Lozere no longer has its own airport, road links are very good to other local airports: Rodez can be reached within 90 minutes drive from Mende and is served by Ryanair to the UK and Ireland; Montpellier and Beziers-Cap d’Agde are a little over 2 hours away by car from Mende, the former is served by several airlines to the UK and other international destinations, the later is served by Ryanair; and Nimes airport, also served by Ryanair, is a two and a half hour drive from Mende through some spectacular scenery!
The Lozere certainly has its very own character and unique selling points: specifically for those who want to get away from mass marketed tourism and get back to basics. With this in mind, if you are looking to get an income from your property through holiday rentals it is worth researching the local tourist industry in full – go speak to the local tourist board for advice on how and where to market the property (the Lozere is not that well known to English tourists, but very popular with French, German and Scandinavian visitors), and how to reach the kinds of people who are likely to enjoy this location. For those who simply want a retreat from which to indulge in the great outdoors, this is the ideal location!
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