Saturday, August 15, 2015

Salers: Land of the red cows

Salers, France

Perched at the western edge of the Cantal department in the Auvergne region, le plus beau village of Salers offers a time-travel excursion from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Its well-preserved architecture reflects styles from the 14th through 18th centuries with plenty of turrets, belfries and ramparts to admire.

Many of the buildings in Salers are constructed of dark
gray volcanic stone.

Turrets and belfries abound in Salers, France.

Architectural detail in Salers, France

As any French cheese aficionado knows, Salers is renowned for its cheese. The semi-hard cheese is a unpasteurised farmhouse fromage. The handy website provides this description:

“It has a cylinder shape with hard, brown, natural rind that becomes rough and crusty with age. The aroma is very meaty, and the rich yellow interior is redolent of wild flowers, including dandelions, and fresh green grass. There is an overlying nutty taste and a strong, savory, raw-onion bite. Salers must be made only from the milk of cows that graze on mountain pastures in the summer.

“In the Salers region mountains are covered with snow half the year which gives the summer grasses a special richness. Gentian and blueberry grow here. The cheese’s crust is thick and has a gray colour. Its pâté is firm yellow and relatively hard. It is a strong cheese and can be matured up to 18 months.”

Salers cows, of which, unfortunately, I didn’t get any good photos on our recent trip, are magnificent. With their red-brown coats and bells clanging around their necks as they graze on hillsides, they are a sight to see.

Back in the village, a statue of Tyssandier d’Escous stands in the main square. D’Escous is credited with the preservation of the Salers cow pedigree.

A statue of Tyssandier d’Escous, the person responsible for the
preservation of the Salers cow pedigree, stands in the main
square of Salers, France.

A street in Salers, France

Although we don’t have a lot of time to linger in Salers, we take a stroll along the Barrouze esplanade and enjoy amazing views of the Maronne and Aspre valleys. 

View from Salers, France

From the high vantage point of the village, we can see the little town of Fontanges, which we passed through on our way to Salers. An unusual site in Fontanges is the late-19th-century monolithic Saint Michel’s chapel, carved deep in a rock. A 15th century gothic church also is located here.

The village of Fontanges, as seen from Salers, is worth a short stop for its
monolithic chapel, carved deep in a rock.

If you go

Less than 200 km from Perigueux, le Pays de Salers is a wonderful destination for a mini-vacation. Our short visit allows only a small taste of the beauty and culture of the area. Hiking, canoeing, museums and more cheese will be on our agenda next time.

The tourist office in Salers offers guided visits of the village every day at 3 p.m. through September, but an appointment is recommended. Call or email

Salers, France

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