Showcasing France at its most idyllic, the Dordogne spreads across the south-west of the country in spectacular fashion. This holiday hideaway is studded with châteaux, farmhouses and fortified towns that are frozen in time and enveloped by evocative landscapes. The rolling green meadows, serene rivers and lush vineyards here provide the sensational cuisine that stems from the Dordogne – truffles and wine for starters.
This pocket of the country is carved into four sections, each flaunting a distinct set of attractions. Let us walk you through their best bits and inspire a trip to this beautiful part of France.
Named after the limestone hills surrounding the Dordogne’s capital, Périgord Blanc is quite simply enchanting and dreamy Périgueux is the perfect place to base yourself during a trip here.
Head for the historic quarter in its centre to discover a masterclass in medieval architecture. The most renowned landmark has to be Cathédrale St-Front, which pierces Périgueux’s skyline with its quintet of Byzantine domes. There’s also a handful of Roman relics dotted throughout the town, demonstrating Périgueux’s long, rich lineage. Make a beeline for Jardin des Arènes to see the remains of a centuries-old amphitheatre.
If you’ve worked up an appetite with all that exploring, you’re in for a treat here. Bistros, brasseries and delis offer the full works – Le Café de la Place is a good place to start.
The dark oak forests blanketing the Vézère Valley have given this part of the Dordogne its moniker, but there’s more to Périgord Noir than just its breathtaking natural features.
Sarlat-la-Canéda is a pretty place to begin, a quintessential market town formed by a maze of cobbled streets. Tuck into black truffle-laced dishes, a delicacy of the area – Michelin-starred Le Grand Bleu is the ultimate fine-dining spot if you want to treat yourself.
However, Château de Castelnaud is the headline act – cast your gaze on this medieval fortress and you’ll soon see why. Thick defensive walls, honey-tinged ramparts and elegant towers give it a fairytale air. Climb up to the upper terrace and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views across the Dordogne Valley. If you’ve got time, it’s also worth ticking off Grotte de Lascaux. This famous site is home to prehistoric cave paintings that were only found in 1940.
The vineyards peppered around Bergerac lent inspiration for Périgord Pourpre’s name. Motor along its rural winding roads and you’ll spot plump grapes dangling from row upon row of vines. While sweet white wines from Monbazillac are its most famous export, you’ll also find delicious reds from Pécharmant. A tipple tasting is a must here, so embark on a wine tour and sample bottles from various vineyards of the area.
In Bergerac itself, the riverfront old town still steals your heart. Think leafy squares, half-timbered houses and cobbled passageways. There’s a lovely farmer’s market twice a week if you want to stock up on fresh local fare, otherwise, there are plenty of restaurants to get your fill. Try Villa Laetitia for traditional-style duck and tarte tatin.
Welcome to the ultra-green part of the Dordogne – verdant hillsides unfold in every direction you travel in. The prized place to stay here is Brantôme. Wrapped around the River Dronne and connected by five medieval bridges, this beautiful little town is the region’s answer to Venice.
Pitch up with a serious appetite as the food in Brantôme is nothing short of amazing. Wander down narrow streets, lined with creamy-coloured buildings that are brightened by shutters in every colour of the rainbow. Among them, you’ll find dinky bistros serving classic local dishes, along with a range of shops and boulangeries. As this is the perfect place for a picnic by the river, pop in and buy fresh baguettes, pâté and cheese – bon appétit! The more adventurous can go kayaking down the river and drink in the quaint scenery along the banks.
Posted: 1st May 2019.