South of Normandy is the department of the Orne, with its well kept rural landscape of forests and meadows (one in five of the population of Normandy is involved in farming). Famous for its studs, especially the national stud, Haras du Pin near Argentan, referred to as the ‘Versailles of the horse world’ by the author, La Varende and visited by Queen Elizabeth, a keen horsewoman, some years ago, the department offers a wealth of activities for horse enthusiasts. Argentan has two 15th Century churches, an ancient Castle and Keep and a 14th century Chapel. An exhibition of Argentan lace can be seen at the Benedictine Abbey whilst Château d’O, is set in the midst of a pond in a forest nearby and Château Sassy has an impressive French garden (near Saint-Christophe Le Jajolet).
Hotels in Orne
Towns in the Orne
In the heart of the pretty Pays d’Auge is Vimoutiers where an Easter Fair and Apple Fair are held every year. 5 kms away is Camembert, the village where Marie Harel created the cheese for which, together with calvados, the area is famous. Flers is the gateway to the attractive countryside of the Suisse Normande and boasts a 16/17th century Castle with an exhibition of 19th century paintings and sculptures, a Museum with local cuisine and another featuring furniture and ‘objets d’art’. There is an attractive park, lake and a golf course.
Domfront, birthplace of Eleanor of Aquitaine, with its cobbled streets and half-timbered houses has a 11th century watchtower and 11/12th century church, both with superb views of the surrounding countryside. Some of the original ramparts, towers and moats have survived. The 19th century thermal resort of Bagnoles de l’Orne retains all the authenticity of the Belle Epoque with its lake, Casino and Grand Hotel. The festival theme is ‘the Land of Lancelot of the Lake’ and the town is surrounded by a vast 7000 hectare forest.
The pretty fortified town of Bellème set high up in the forest and beautiful countryside of the ‘Perche’, has narrow streets of 17th and 18th century houses and a 15th Century Porch whilst the larger charming country town of Montagne au Perche, once the capital of the area, has a 16th Century hospital cloister, houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and a covered marketplace known for its ‘boudin’ or ‘sausage’ fair. At the 13th Century Cathedral at Sées, Son et Lumière and music festivals are held and its spire is a landmark for miles around. To the south the main town of the department, Alençon, on the River Sarthe, was once the lace capital of Europe and still has a lace school. Historic buildings include the gothic churches of Notre-Dame and Saint Léonard and many antiquated houses.