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“Vineyards as far as the eye can see”… That phrase really sums up the first impression of Canal Lirou, the administrative name given to a group of communes situated somewhere between Carcassonne, Montpellier and Narbonne.

The French use the term commune frequently, as there are over 30,000 of them here! It identifies which administration center, or town hall mairie, is responsible for that geographically defined area – whether it’s a city borough or a hamlet.

Where is Canal Lirou?

Bordering the very south west corner of the Hérault département, a collection of 17 small towns and villages are unified under the Canal Lirou umbrella. You are unlikely to have heard of most of them, to be honest.

Well off of the typical tourist trails, life in these locations is quintessentially ‘rural France’ – and a far cry from the faster pace of life you’ll find in bigger towns a few kilometers away.

What does Canal Lirou offer?

If you love the idea of traditional rural life in France, with a Mediterranaen feel, you will be spoilt for choice! Nestled between the Canal du Midi and the banks of the River Orb, these 17 villages bestow upon you the Saint-Chinian, Minervois and Languedoc appellation vineyards. The prized domains are close to sandy Mediterranean beaches, Spain, and numerous international airports (Montpellier, Carcassonne, Toulouse, and more).

The area’s rich history dates back to dinosaurs and covers Neolithic and Cathar eras, Roman art to Gothic art, and the Via Domitia to the Way of St James. These villages are a treasure trove of culture just waiting to be discovered.

The wine festival in Saint Chinian is traditionally celebrated the 3rd Sunday in July

Which are the 17 Villages?

The 17 villages are locally considered to be either Côté Canal (Canal side) or Côté Vignoble (Wine side).

Côté canal


Côté vignoble


What’s not to like?

Choosing between what you like and what you need is not always easy! You may have a few surprises when looking for a location in France that meets your requirements.

A rural commune infrastructure can mean limited shops and services close to hand. To find a larger English speaking network, colleges, hospitals and transport links, you will need a car or bus service to get to a larger town or city. 

With under 1000 habitants, life in some more rural locations can also be quite isolating – particularly if you struggle to speak French and feel reluctant to try. 

On the other hand, if you are willing to test out your language skills and integrate, a smaller commune can offer a wonderful sense of community and support, and your new neighbors will make you feel extremely welcome. To many English-speakers and most of our clients, this last point is the pièce de resistance in living a new life in France. The dream is to be immersed and enjoy an authentic French lifestyle, amongst the vineyards at last!

Renesting in vineyard country  

If you would like to know more about Canal Lirou or similar rural areas of Occitanie, you can find out more from other English speakers in THINK South of France. Our team lives in this region of France too, so carrying out a property search or giving you a virtual tour is also possible if you’re thinking about putting down roots of your own. Please contact us if you would like more information.

Celebrating summer evenings with food and music at the local winery

Dennelle Taylor Nizoux

Dennelle is the President of Renestance and a bilingual American who’s lived in France since 2000. She loves so many things about France, its language, culture, geography, quality of life... that she started a business to help others realize their dreams of living in this incredible place.

All articles by: Dennelle Taylor Nizoux

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