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France - Butterflies of La Brenne

Tour Code: FRA06

A 6-day holiday, travelling to and from Poitiers by train, to enjoy the exceptionally rich wildlife of La Brenne, focusing in particular on its remarkable variety of butterflies.

6 days from £1195(flights not included) Land Only Price: £1095 SRS: £130

Known locally as ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes’, La Brenne harbours a rich tapestry of habitats including marshes, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland. Our local guide, Tony Williams, has been Warden of La Brenne since 1982 and has been guiding natural history tours in the area since 1984. Tony’s knowledge of La Brenne is unsurpassed, and this, together with the access he has to private estates, makes our tour very special. The area we visit has nearly twice the number of butterflies compared with Britain and, as La Brenne is not an extensive area, most of the habitats we visit are within a short drive of our comfortable hotel at Mézières.

  • Travel by train on a flight-free holiday!
  • 97 butterfly species recorded, including many not found in the UK
  • A wealth of blues, coppers, fritillaries & much more
  • Rarities such as Lulworth Skipper & Berger’s Clouded Yellow
  • Great Peacock, nonpareils & wetland species in evening moth-trapping sessions
  • Based in a quiet, picturesque corner of France
  • Led by Naturetrek’s own resident expert, Tony Williams


All included in the price, except for meals taken in transit.


A comfortable hotel with en suite rooms.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Andy Swash)

Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Andy Swash)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Eurostar train from London St. Pancras to Poitiers; transfer Mézières-en-Brenne

Day 2/5 Butterfly and wildlife excursions throughout La Brenne

Day 6 Transfer Poitiers; Eurostar train from Poitiers to London St. Pancras

Located in central France, La Brenne is a vast, yet intimate, low-lying landscape of fish ponds, marshes, flowery meadows, slow-flowing streams, small arable fields, rambling hedgerows, heaths, scrubland and deciduous forests. Indeed, it offers a medieval landscape that remains remarkably intact — still predominantly used to this day by fish farmers and smallholders who have favoured traditional rather than modern methods on account of the region’s boggy terrain, poor soils and complex pattern of land ownership. As such, it remains a haven for wildlife and a wonderful place in which visiting naturalists may enjoy a wealth of natural history amongst tranquil surroundings.

With over 2,000 lakes, the 160,000-hectare Regional Nature Park of La Brenne is both internationally important and famed for its wetland birds. What is less well known is that it is also a magnificent place for butterflies due to its rich tapestry of habitats and the continued employment of traditional farming and forestry practices. To date, 97 butterfly species have been recorded in La Brenne (nearly twice the number occurring in the whole of Britain!), including a number of special species which are rare or rapidly declining in other parts of Europe.

Our aim on this tour will be to fully explore the butterfly fauna of La Brenne through visits to some exceptional meadow and forest habitats that have rarely, if ever, been visited by Britsh entomologists before. Amongst the species we will hope to encounter are a number of rare or threatened European species, including Camberwell Beauty, Large Copper and Large Blue, whilst amongst the common species found in La Brenne at this time of year, yet absent from the British Isles, are Large Chequered Skipper, Lesser Purple Emperor, Large Tortoiseshell, Southern White Admiral, Map, Pearly Heath, Sooty Copper, Alcon Blue, Provencal Short-tailed Blue, Great Banded Grayling, Ilex Hairstreak, Scarce Swallowtail and many species of fritillary, amongst them Spotted, Knapweed, Marbled and Lesser Marbled. We will also hope to see a number of butterflies that are rare in England but common in La Brenne, including Lulworth Skipper, Berger’s Clouded Yellow, Shorttailed Blue, Heath Fritillary, Glanville Fritillary, Swallowtail, Wood White and Black Hairstreak. Weather permitting, we hope to see up to 50 species during the holiday, a variety which you would be hard pressed to see during an entire year of extensive travelling within the UK! In addition, we expect to encounter a wealth of other wildlife, in particular birds, dragonflies and orchids.

To find these species we will be in the highly capable hands of renowned local naturalist Tony Williams, who has worked in nature conservation in La Brenne for over 25 years. Needless to say, Tony’s knowledge of this area and its many bird, plant and insect species is unsurpassed, and this, together with the access he has to private estates, makes our tour to the region very special. Our base will be a small and traditional hotel in Mezieres-en- Brenne, which has an excellent reputation locally for fine cuisine. Mezieres-en-Brenne is a charming small country town located in the north of la Brenne and at the heart of the butterfly action. All of our excursions are within a short drive of here, enabling us to maximise time spent watching butterflies in the field. The pace will be gentle, to allow time for photography and to marvel at the fabulous diversity of butterflies present. Each day we will focus on a different habitat type, to ensure that we are able to enjoy a varied range of butterfly species and experiences over the course of the holiday. As time and conditions allow, we will also run a moth-trapping session or two in the evening. This should attract a wealth of wetland species such as Gold Spot, Reed Dagger, Water Ermine, Reed Leopard, Pinion-streaked Snout, Reed Tussock, Brown-veined Wainscot, Blair’s Wainscot, Bulrush Wainscot, Fisher’s Estuarine Moth and Flame Wainscot, and some spectacular species such as Willowherb Hawk-moth, Clifden and other nonpareils, as well as the Great Peacock, Europe’s largest moth. This will be a pioneering investigation, as very little is known about the moths of La Brenne!

To reach La Brenne in as environmentally sound a manner as possible we will travel by train from London to Poitiers, then take an hour-long minibus ride to our hotel. We will return home at the end of our holiday in the same manner, concluding a remarkably varied six days in a corner of France famed for its birdlife, but equally important for butterflies which, in a small way, this tour and its participants will help to promote.

Searching for butterflies (Tom McJannet)Whiskered Terns perched (Tom McJannet)Whiskered Terns and Pochard (Tom McJannet)Black-necked Grebes (Tom McJannet)Woodland brown female (Tony Williams)Whiskered Tern (Tom McJannet)Naturetrek group taking a break (Tom McJannet)Black-veined White (Tom McJannet)Large Copper female (Tom McJannet)Elephant Hawkmoth (Tom McJannet)Lizard Orchid (Tom McJannet)European Pond Terrapin (Tom McJannet)Pochard (Tom McJannet)A very tame Green Lizard! (Tom McJannet)Green Lizard (Tom McJannet)Naturetrek picnic (Tom McJannet)Spotted Orchid and Tounge Orchid (Tom McJannet)Greater Butterfly Orchid (Tom McJannet)Loose-flowered Orchid (Tom McJannet)Adionis Blue (David Morris)Black-veined White (David Morris)Emperor Moth caterpillar (Tom McJannet)Giant Peacock Moth (David Morris)Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Tony Williams)Ilex HairstreakLarge Chequered SkipperLarge Blue (Tony Williams)Marbled Fritillary (Martin Johnson)Marsh Gentian with Alcon Blue eggs & caterpillarNight Heron (David Morris)La Brenne wetlandsSunset over La BrenneScarce Swallowtail (Ken Button)Southern White Admiral (David Morris)Weaver's Fritillary (Martin Johnson)Woodland BrownOur hotel in La BrenneOur hotel in La Brenne
Mr & Mrs H.
Jason led the party with good knowledge, good humour and greatly helped us enjoy our new found interest in butterflies/dragonflies.
Mr & Mrs M.
Tony Williams proved to be an excellent leader, determined for us to see as many species of butterfly as possible (including the elusive Woodland Brown!). The highlight of the trip was our visit to the private estate with its amazing wild flower meadows, but all the days were good. The lunches were excellent - lots of choice and variety, with all tastes catered for. We could not fault the organisation.
The trip was a delightful experience - the people were great and very interesting. Tony Williams really was outstanding - so knowledgeable! He was always cheerful and made it all great fun with much humour. A good family hotel which made us very welcome. A resounding success!
A very enjoyable break in a lovely part of France with a very good, knowledgeable leader. I felt that in 4 days we covered the different habitats of La Brenne and saw many excellent species of butterfly. Also birds and dragonflies!
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Thu 27th June 2019 - Tue 2nd July 2019



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Flights: Flights are not included with this tourMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1095 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Jason led the party with good knowledge, good humour and greatly helped us enjoy our new found interest in butterflies/dragonflies.
Mr & Mrs H., Kent