Departmental capital: Guéret
Main cities/towns: La Souterraine, Aubusson
Creuse is intensely rural, with a green and wooded landscape watered by many rivers and streams, and a climate split into four distinct seasons, influenced by the relatively high altitude of the Massif Central.
The A20 autoroute, the main Paris-Toulouse road, skirts the department to the west, but apart from that there are no major transport routes going through it, leaving drivers free to enjoy the well-maintained, usually two-lane, roads, with only the occasional lorry, often loaded with logs, to hold things up.
There is an international airport at Limoges (in neighbouring Haute-Vienne department) served by Ryanair, which flies to both Manchester and London Stansted.
In the 1990s, the excellent BBC language training course A Vous La France featured Aubusson, in Creuse, as being close to the geographic centre of France – with samples of sulky teenagers complaining that it was too quiet. The town is, in fact, very pretty, with the Creuse river flowing through it and a reputation for good fly fishing.
So if space, views, and peace and quiet are what you are after, it is an ideal place to look for a house. The downside is that it also features in maps showing poor mobile and internet coverage. Promises that the whole department will be covered by fibre optic cable by 2024 seem optimistic.
Creuse is one of the few departments in France where the population (117,500) is still falling, so newcomers are generally welcomed.
Property prices are low compared to many other regions. Typical, for example, is a three-bed village stone house with 937m² of garden plus a small orchard for €110,000. Large, fully renovated houses are in the €200,000 to €300,000 range.