Plateau de Millevaches

Plateau de Millevaches

The Plateau de Millevaches (in Occitan Replanat de Miuvachas) is an upland area in the Limousin région of France. It covers approximately 3,500 km² and crosses the boundaries of three French départements: the Corrèze, the Creuse and the Haute-Vienne.

The majority of the area is at an altitude of between 600m and 1000m.


Millevacas (12th century); Mille vacce (14th century, Latinized Form).

The Plateau de Millevaches or Millevaches Massif reportedly means "thousand cows" according to the ancient mentions. In the original North Occitan language, it sounds miuvachas (mila being occitan for "one thousand" and vacas "cows"). Brown Limousin cattle are, in fact, ubiquitous on all but the highest parts of the massif. However, the place-name is more a comparison between the landscape and the cows, because the granite stones staying stuck to another resemble cows.[1]

Another serious explanation[2] says Celtic melo "haught" and Latin vacua "empty".

Structure and geology

Although commonly referred to as a plateau, the Millevaches Massif is actually more like a shallow dome, deeply dissected by streams and rivers, and slightly tilted, with the south-eastern edge elevated and more exposed. This is the visible remnant of a laccolith, a large lens-shaped mass of granite, believed to be the result of an intrusion of igneous material in the late Hercynian or Variscan orogeny.[3] As the surrounding, softer material has weathered away, the laccolith has become increasingly exposed.

Although not strictly a plateau, depending upon which direction one approaches the area from, the Plateau de Millevaches forms an important kind of step up (or a step down) in the Massif Central. There are a number of definite peaks, the highest being Mont Bessou (976m.), at the southern edge of the massif, near Meymac.

Character and features

The massif is generally densely wooded, with large areas of both coniferous forest and mixed woodland. Among the broadleaf trees, birch and beech predominate, and many roads are lined with beeches. The highest part of the massif, bounded roughly by the villages of Rempnat, Peyrelevade, Millevaches and Saint-Merd-les-Oussines, is the most densely wooded, with little agriculture or even stock-rearing intruding among the forests. Elsewhere, there is a patchwork of woods and meadows, with herds of Limousin cattle dotting the landscape, and a few fields of maize or rye.

There is a distinctive type of bog or marsh (tourbières in French) which gives rise to numerous rivers such as the Vienne. Many of these rivers are often filled with wild brown trout. The area around the village of Millevaches and the Signale d'Audouze (an outstanding peak) is part of an important watershed. The Vienne, which has its sources here, flows mainly northward, across central France, to feed the Loire. The Vézère, which arises next to it, drains south into the Dordogne River, sending its water to the Atlantic via the Gironde estuary.

Many of the rivers have been dammed to create large lakes. The largest of all is the Lac de Vassivière, the result of damming the Maulde River. The nearby Lac de la Vaud-Gelade is fed by the Taurion River. The Vézère feeds two large lakes at Viam and Treignac. All of these provide both drinking water and hydroelectricity. They are also home to major leisure attractions, being lined with beaches, sailing schools, marinas, camp sites and picnic areas.

There are very few towns or villages of any size on the Plateau de Millevaches, but the towns of Meymac, Felletin, Ussel and Eymoutiers are situated at the edges of the Plateau.


  1. fr:Ernest Nègre
  2. fr:Albert Dauzat
  3. Bulletin de la Societe Geologique de France; May 2004; v. 175; no. 3; p. 239-248; doi:10.2113/175.3.239

Coordinates: 45°40′N 01°55′E / 45.667°N 1.917°E / 45.667; 1.917

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