Le Charolais-Brionnais

Photo by Roman Bruehwiler.

Le Charolais-Brionnais, paysage culturel de l'élevage bovin is part of the Tentative list of France in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Charolais-Brionnais is a region in southern Burgundy known for cattle farming, specifically the breeding of the local Charolais cattle. The proposed property is the core of this region and includes areas of the Arconce valley and the Brionnais plateau. In the 17th century, farmland began to be converted into pasture, a process that ended in the second half of the 20th century. The resulting cultural landscape, the so-called bocage, is characterised by small fields surrounded by hedges and drystone walls.

Map of Le Charolais-Brionnais

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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France - 18-May-24 -

Le Charolais-Brionnais (T) by Argo

We explored the Charolais-Brionnais area (a “pays”, in French) during a sunny week-end in May 2024. Charolaises cows (together with Bazadaises, from the South-West of France) are very well known in France for being the paramount of beef meat. What makes the proposed area for WHS special is that is it totally dedicated to the breeding of these cows, and the landscape was completely transformed and adapted to that activity some 250 years ago : fields were replaced by meadows, bordered by hedges or lines of trees. The result is a green, hilly “bocage” landscape, dotted with white cows here and there.

Although other areas (such as Normandy) show similar features, Charolais-Brionnais area stands for its authenticity and great unity – no modern buildings in the small villages, no highways. No real highlights either : the best thing to do is just to stroll (actually, drive) through the area and enjoy the landscape – we went from Paray-le-Monial to Semur-en-Brionnais (two strong candidates for the yet-to-come “Cluny sites” TWHS !) then to Charolles, making different stops on the way to visit old churches (many of them in that area!) or picture cows – which turned out to be a not-so-easy task : having the animals close enough, a good light, a nice back-ground is a difficult combination to achieve.

We stayed for two nights in a farm. The guests rooms were located in the oldest, historical building : a typical one that farmers of the area built when the breeding business developed and generated a new and greater source of income. The best point though was the extensive tour that the farmer gave us, showing the different buildings, approaching the cows in the meadow at the back of the farm, explaining the different steps of his activities along the year. Cows are continuously out in the fields from beginning of April till the very end of November – so make sure to visit the area at that time otherwise you would see an “empty” landscape. I noted as well the many rules farmers have to follow (including the maintenance of the hedges, a time and money consuming task) and the passion and care our host showed to his animals. I think that was a great added value to our overall experience and would strongly recommend such a visit – several farms offer rooms and visits. There is also a weekly cattle market that may be worth attending – in Saint Christophe-en-Brionnais, on Wednesdays (please double check at the time of your visit).

Finally, the experience would have not been complete without a nice diner with an “entrecôte” , that we had in one of the few restaurants in Charolles. It is important to note that this area is just a bit “off” the beaten tracks (visitors in that part of France usually focus on Lyon, or Burgundy wines area, or even Cluny which was very crowded), so please do book in advance your rooms and tables (on our first evening, we had to do with pizzas – good ones, but not what we were looking for!).

I am not completely sure that this area is worth becoming a WHS, but would not be surprised either if it would make it one day. You would then have to pay a visit to this rural corner of France, a quiet, well kept area, with nice people, food and wine. For sure there have been much worse inscribed sites over the latest years.

Jakob Frenzel

Germany - 28-Nov-22 -

Le Charolais-Brionnais (T) by Jakob Frenzel

February 2022 - on our campertrip from south France back to Berlin we chose the road with the most WHS on the way. Between Vichy and the Bourgogne we picked a road through the agricultural area of Charolais brionnaise which reminded us a lot of the English landscapes in Cornwall.

Many stone walls behind which we could spot the characteristic white cows. Unfortunately we could not find any remarkable spot to have a break, maybe late lunch and get an impression of the rural life out here. In late February the only thing we could see along the roadside were kebabs and pizza. A pitty for such a nice landscape, and regarding the french cuisine. Hence we ended up in Charolle quite fast, where at least a few bakeries were still open and we had something similar to dinner

Our short glimpse at the landscape was anyway positive. With a more tourist infrastructure it might be worse returning here again and stay the night on a farm.




Full Name
Le Charolais-Brionnais, paysage culturel de l'élevage bovin
Nominated for
Cultural Landscape - Continuing
2018 Added to Tentative List

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Le Charolais-Brionnais (T)
WHS 1997-2024