06 February 2014 by Jessica Boston
Top 10 Things to do on Holiday in the Dordogne
Take a look at our Top 10 Recommendations for a holiday in Dordogne – there is so much to do in this lovely department in France, no matter what your age or interests!
1. Marvel at prehistoric art in the caves
There are lots of caves to visit in the Dordogne, the most famous being those at Lascaux – the original painted caves are no longer open to the public but an impressive replica site gives an authentic experience for tourists.
There are other underground adventures well worth a visit too. Discover the amazing cave paintings and ancient engravings at the Cave of Font-de-Gaume, only 50 people per day are able to see the caves for conservation reasons, and you can only buy a ticket on the day from the ticket office at the site, so get there early to avoid disappointment! Rouffignac is another gem with guided tours on an electric train that takes you through the caves to view fascinating prehistoric cave paintings.
2. Try the amazing local food…
The Dordogne is bursting with delicious produce from chestnuts, ceps, figs and black truffles to locally made goats cheeses and speciality dishes like cassoulet, confit de canard and foie gras pate.
If you are self-catering you can take advantage of the markets that are held at least once a week in every town and village.
Try a set menu lunch at a Les Routiers restaurant for a real insight into the seasonal cooking of the region – prices are surprisingly reasonable. Or ask for local recommendations from your holiday property owner or the tourist office.
Real foodies will enjoy a visit to Ferme du Brusquand where they farm ducks and geese to create traditional local duck specialities for sale in their farm shop and restaurant – a very ‘French’ experience that’s off the tourist trail.
3. …and of course the wine!
The Dordogne is home to some fantastic vineyards – Bergerac produces some excellent wines to rival its revered neighbour Bordeaux, and the delicious sweet Monbazillac wine produced here is a perfect partner to the local foie gras pate.
There are plenty of local vineyards happy to offer tastings and sell wines direct; look out for the roadside signs and take a chance! If you prefer something more planned you can pre-book a tasting session.
Wine tours of Bergerac are available taking in several vineyards and including ‘behind the scenes’ views of the vines and production techniques as well as tastings and chances to stock up on your favourites.
4. Explore the Chateaux
The Dordogne has a wonderful selection of Chateaux to visit – the most well-known is probably Castelnaud with its impressive weaponry but there are many other gems to discover:
Chateau de Beynac is a beautifully restored castle on a hill overlooking the Dordogne river valley – enjoy wonderful views and browse authentic looking interiors recreating life in the Middle Ages.
Maison Forte de Reignac is a unique chateau hewn into the cliff face in the Vezere valley – it was still inhabited until 200-300 years ago and is a really fascinating place to visit. Be warned, the torture exhibition room at the end of the tour might be a bit gruesome for younger children.
Chateaux des Milandes is another castle that’s full of surprises. It was home to Josephine Baker for over 30 years and the interiors and exhibition here tell her story. Not your typical French Medieval Chateaux!
Chateau de Commarque is a breathtaking castle ruin at Les Eyzies-de-Tayac. The site has a history stretching back fifteen thousand years and the magnificent ruined fort with its Gothic and Roman towers and medieval games room is a great place to take the kids (and a picnic!)
5. See the Gardens of Marqueyssac
The Gardens of Marqueyssac comprise of 22 hectares of overhanging garden that overlook the Dordogne valley making it worth a visit as much for the stunning views over chateaux and the river as for the beautiful garden itself!
The 4km long site at Vezac is a maze of sculpted hedges and bushes, perfect for a game of hide and seek! This is not a place for flowers but the structural green foliage is dramatic against the scenery and offers plenty of photo opportunities. There are tame peacocks, children’s play areas and picnic areas, a superb ice-cream shop and plenty of shade on a sunny day, ideal for a family excursion. There are also special candlelit evening openings on Thursdays throughout July and August – the perfect chance for a romantic stroll in a magical setting.
6. Mess about on the river!
The Dordogne is named after the river that runs through it and getting out on the water in a canoe is a great way to see the beauty of the region.
There are routes suitable for all abilities so you can choose the perfect outing for you and your family. Canoe past medieval towns, lush countryside and chateaux, and maybe stop for a picnic or swim. You can even collect your canoe, meander downstream in the safe, shallow waters and get a return shuttle back by road – a great option for families with younger children so why not give it a try?
Canoes Loisirs, CANOEric and Brantome Canoe are all reputable canoe rental companies on the Dordogne with excellent TripAdvisor reviews, but there are many more to choose from so ask at the Tourist Office for advice.
7. Visit Brantome – ‘Venice’ of the Perigord
This pretty town on the banks of the Dronne River is a lovely place to spend a day. The obvious attraction is the beautiful Benedictine Abbey right on the riverbank. You can go inside and see the famous ‘cave of last judgement’ dating back to troglodyte times – there are even atmospheric evening tours of this section in the summer. The river itself is picture-perfect with waterlilies, weeping willows and ‘Jardins Tranquille’ a riverside botanical garden making this a charming place to walk or picnic. Visit on a Friday to see the weekly market offering extra shopping and photo opportunities.
8. Get lost in Sarlat Market
Sarlat market is one of the biggest in the region and it runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the year.
Unlike many, the Saturday market starts early but continues into the afternoon giving you plenty of time to explore and sample the amazing array of street food including vast steaming pans of paella, delicate macaroons, mouth-watering nougat, pungent cheeses, artisan bread, fresh olives and so much more!
As well as food and edible souvenirs you’ll find plenty of leather goods, clothes, jewellery and flea market curiosities. Treat yourself to a ‘walking picnic’ as you investigate the exciting array of goods on offer.
Sarlat old town is beautiful with charming pedestrianised cobbled streets, pretty historic buildings and a wonderful cathedral. Some people prefer to visit on days when the market is not on for a more relaxed exploration of this lovely medieval town.
9. Have a treetop adventure
France has fully embraced the idea of treetop adventure courses and there are plenty to choose from in the many forests of the Dordogne. L’Appel de la Foret at Thenon has a choice of ten different courses that get progressively more challenging. The graded routes offer something for everyone from children to thrill-seeking adults making it a great day out for all the family.
Safety is excellent with harnesses and helmets provided, but if heights are not your thing you can always guard the picnic and take some photos of your intrepid family from the safety of the forest floor!
10. Golfing paradise!
If you enjoy a round of golf you’ll be spoilt for choice in the Dordogne; with seven highly rated golf courses to choose from you could play a different course every day! Enquire about a Golf Pass to access special low rates of up to 30% off if you play more than once during your stay. Chateau des Vigiers is the most prestigious club with the Chateaux itself offering a stunning backdrop for their 27 holes. Other golf courses you might want to try include Perigueux Golf Club in Marsac on the banks of the Isle river, and the challenging 18 hole course at La Marterie in St Felix de Reilhac.