The Massif Central has an explosive history – being made up of formerly volcanic mountains. One distinguished example of this volcanic geography is the Chaîne des Puys – a chain of dormant volcanoes which have recently been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The Massif is a thickly forested, exceptionally rural and sparsely populated area. It is also one of the lower mountain ranges in France with the highest mountain in the area, Puy de Sancy, peaking at 1,885m.
The medieval town of Murat sits in the heart of the Massif Central. The three hills that surround Murat are formed of volcanic rock. Bonnevie within the north west of the medieval town is easily identifiable from a wander through the town by the 8m high statue of Virgin Mary – Notre Dame de Haute Auvergne that stands on top. This and the other two hills – Bredon and Chastel – offer fantastic views of the Monts du Cantal. The town, despite its rural location has all the conveniences you could need – several restaurants and hotels, a supermarket, a train station, a cinema and a swimming pool.
In the Middle Ages, Murat was a fortified town and a trade hub that held many fairs and markets. Today, Murat has a mill that exports premium flour around the world and is used in some Michelin star establishments in France. Many of the buildings in the town are made from stone from the town’s own quarry. The town also retains an historic look with some 15th and 16th-century buildings classified as historic monuments. The House of Fauna museum is set up in a 16thcentury mansion house, which contains collections of both local and exotic fauna and has 8,000 species on show over three floors. The town’s proximity to wide open spaces and the Monts du Cantal, as well as the opportunities it offers for people to learn about volcanism and local fauna and flora, and the large number of producers and artisans in the town who open their doors to the public, has earned the town the label of a ‘ station verte’.
A view from Puy Mary, west of Murat in Massif Central
The slopes of Arêches-Beaufort
Sunset on the Monts du Cantal