The department of the Cher is one of the largest in France. It lies at the true heart of the country, an appropriate location for a region which combines the best of France, history and architecture, natural beauty and fine food and wine. (Several villages compete for the title of exact centre of France…) This is the ancient territory of Berry, now split between the Cher and Indre departments. It encompasses the marshy forests of the Sologne, the Champagne Berrichonne, a prosperous agricultural region, the valley of Germigny to the south with its pasture land for well fed cattle, and the river valleys of the Loire and the Cher. Not to mention the prestigious vineyards of Sancerre, where it is said the excellent sauvignon “always delights the palate of an honest man.”
Towns in the Cher
At the centre of the Cher is its capital, Bourges, dominated by the imposing silhouette of the cathedral of St Etienne, the widest Gothic cathedral in France with carved doorways and 13th century stained glass windows. Climb up the north tower for terrific views over the restored medieval quarter with its half timbered houses and the vestiges of the original Gallo-Roman site of the town. Beyond are the marshy gardens where vegetables are grown and transported in flat bottomed boats. The Palais Jacques Coeur is one of Bourges most famous buildings, a Gothic mansion built in 1453 by the famous merchant and foreign minister to Charles VII. However, a gentle stroll around this dignified town will supply all the history you need.
The Jacques Coeur route through the department is the best way to take in its many chateaux and museums and religious buildings, among them the superb Cistercian Abbaye de Noirlac, the chateau of Argent-sur-Sauldre and Menetou-Salon, a sumptuous residence which was the former estate of Jacques Coeur. At Culan there is a perfectly preserved private fortress, built between 13th and 15th centuries, with recreated medieval gardens, open to the public and at Blancafort another 15th century brick chateau with wonderful furnishings.
A suprising feature of the department is its Scottish connection at Aubigny-sur-Nère, a small town of medieval houses with a Renaissance chateau which was given to Jean Stuart, captain of the Scottish guard of Charles VII in 1423. It remained a Stuart city and celebrates the connection with an annual Fetes Franco-Ecossaises, and a Musée d’Auld Alliance in the chateau.