La Gruyère region
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The lake of La Gruyère, in the superb pre-Alpine natural setting. (©_Switzerland Tourism)

The walls and turrets of Gruyères’s fairytale castle, 50km northeast of Lausanne, bristle atop a single crag rising above the gorgeous rolling lowlands of Canton Fribourg. The whole region – of which Gruyères village is the best-known attraction – is known as LA GRUYÈRE, taking in the long Lac de la Gruyère and the Sarine valley south of Fribourg, the market town and regional transport hub of Bulle, and a handful of resorts clinging to the slopes of the Prealpine peaks which prelude the Pays d’Enhaut further south. Dominating the landscape is the great towering wedge of the Moléson, a jutting chunk of mountain rising to 2000m with plenty of hiking possibilities and some gentle skiing in winter. This is dairy country, the most famous product by far being Gruyère cheese, run a close second by the local butterfat-rich double cream, served with forest fruits in Gruyères’s heavenly, artery-clogging version of afternoon tea.

Some 30km northeast of Lausanne, BULLE isn’t lacking in charm, but there’s little reason to visit other than to switch transport. Its medieval town centre features a solid castle, housing the Musée Gruérien (Tues–Sat 10am–noon & 2–5pm, Sun 2–5pm; Fr.4; SMP; www.bulle.ch/culture/musee.htm) with a collection devoted to traditional costumes and farm implements. On the road to Gruyères, you’ll pass through LA-TOUR-DE-TRÊME, its eponymous thirteenth-century tower plum in the middle of the village, but you might easily find yourself diverted by the luscious scent emanating from the Nestléchocolate factory at BROC, 4km east of La Trême (May–Oct Mon–Fri 9–11am & 1.30–4pm; free; reservations essential on 026/921 51 51), which offers free samples if you can sit through the rather technical video screened beforehand. East of Broc, the road passes through the tiny resort of Charmey on its way to the Jaunpass into Canton Bern.

At the foot of Gruyères village in the adjacent village of Pringy (the actual location of Gruyères train station), you’ll find a working dairy (daily 8am–7pm; free) where you can watch the cheesemaking process close up, helped by an informative slide-show in English. The best times to visit are during production hours (9–11.30am & 1–3.30pm).

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