A name that the French department shares with its wild river
The Allier is a land of rivers, modest mountains and above all a unique countryside, a sculpted patchwork which conserves the memory of a distant past in its wild hedgerows and countless exceptional sites of interest. In this former Duchy of Bourbonnais, the Bourbon dynasty left its mark on French politics and on the area by having numerous castles, churches and manor houses built there.
In the north of the Auvergne region, less than three hours from Paris, the Allier begins at the foothills of the Massif Central and is a land irrigated by the waters of the river of the same name, wild in winter, idle in summer, and source of this rich natural heritage.
The territory is also fissured by the gorges of the Sioule River and crossed by the Cher and Loire rivers, and offers a mosaic of contrasted and captivating landscapes such as the ancient trees in the superb Tronçais oak forest, the 'Montagne bourbonnaise', the 'Bocage bourbonnais' and the Combraille, all of which are preserved sites of natural beauty.
As well as this natural wealth there is a considerable historic heritage left by the Dukes of Bourbon. Over 500 castles including that of the famous 'Monsieur de La Palice', to admire, visit and even stay in ('chambres d'hôtes'), Romanesque edifices and elegant spa towns (Vichy, Néris-les-Bains, Bourbon-l'Archambault) abound in this former Duchy of the Bourbon dynasty, guardians of the safety of the French kingdom for five centuries.
A huge network of footpaths and trails for cyclists and horse riders allow visitors to explore this territory and discover its subtle charm. And youngsters too are spoilt for choice: instructive and fun amusement and animal parks such as PAL, Rhinopolis, Wolframines, Préhistorama and a wide range of other leisure activities await them.
And the fun doesn't stop when the sun goes down! The World Cultures Festival in Gannat, the Jean Carmet Film Festival in Moulins or the Festival of the Dukes of Bourbon in Montluçon, 'Jazz dans le bocage', 'Rock Préserv'à Broût-Vernet' or the Musical Days of Autumn in Souvigny are all great opportunities to celebrate, learn, and discover our heritage and sense of exchange, the value of people, openness, and music.
The best way to really get the measure of the Allier is by meeting our local tradesfolk, wine producers and farmers, making new friends, and sampling and savouring their products. The AOC wines of Saint-Pourçain, Charolais beef and Bourbonnais chicken, the famous potato pie and Charroux mustard are just some of the 'ambassador' products to try in the many great restaurants in the Allier.