Discover the history, mystery, romance and beauty of the remarkable Dordogne Valley.
As soon as you arrive in the Dordogne Valley you can see why it is one of the world’s most popular holiday choices. The sweeping landscapes and rivers, proud castles and honey-coloured villages grab your attention but there is so much more to discover here – the smaller pieces of the jigsaw that add up to make the area so very special. Try this video to give you a taste of what the area has to offer you for your holiday –
Padirac, Proumeyssac, Cougnac, Lacave… Discover some of the Dordogne Valley’s most valuable buried treasures because it really is as beautiful below ground as it is above. Famous for their prehistoric cave art or their stunning rock formations, the caves are a delight. A great choice for a day out when the weather is too hot or rainy!
Feed your inner gourmet
Discover the area’s long-standing reputation for producing some of the world’s finest food ingredients. For centuries, the region has been synonymous with such delicacies as truffles, foie gras and confits. Food here is not simply a necessity, it’s a pleasure to be savoured and appreciated. There are several fine dining experiences; and for an “occasion” it’s well-worth pushing the boat out and enjoying the ambiance and food prepared with such style. However, it’s the smaller, often family-run, restaurants that give the most authentic experience. The local meals or “menu du terroir” will feature traditional dishes based on duck or goose – confit de canard is always a favourite.
The quality of the local food relies on the quality of the ingredients and this area is world famous for theirs. Truffles are a local treasure – amazing that such a small, and frankly ugly, thing can be so highly prized but they are. Find out more by visiting one of the local farms and joining in the “hunt”. Asparagus, walnuts, cherries, strawberries, figs, and wild mushrooms or cepes all feature when in season. The local cabécou cheese – now called simply Rocamadour has been around since the 15th century when the small discs were used to pay feudal dues. Made with goat’s milk you can buy them straight from the farm and see the production process.
Saffron is more expensive than caviar, and grown in this area since it was brought back by the returning crusaders in the 11th century.You can visit the farms, watch the process or enjoy the Saffron festival – with lots of tasting to be done.
Discover the local wines – there are two wine producing areas of Protected Designation of Origin or AOC in the Lot. Coteaux du Quercy, grown over an area of 250 hectares of mainly the cabernet franc grape and produces lovely red and rosé wines. More famously the rich, dark Cahors wines, grown over 3,500 hectares traces their history back to vineyards planted by the Romans in around 50 BC. The grapes are mainly malbec with the complementary varieties merlot and tannat and produce a strong, very dark red with a high concentration of polyphenols. The polyphenols are proven to be good for you -take a vineyard tasting tour and claim it as medicinal – we won’t tell!
Discover the quirky & unusual
Discover the unusual and charming small museums – this area is full of the quirky and imaginative. Pass an afternoon at the Musee de l’Automate in Souillac and enjoy the largest collection of 19th and 20th century automated toys in Europe. Articulated teddies, acrobatic clowns, porcelain dolls and modern robots move in synchronisation with sound and lighting effects, creating an atmosphere which delights children of all ages.
Pop down to the Distillerie Louis Roque in Souillac where the company has been based for over 100 years. A working distillery, Louis Roque has an interesting small museum where you can see the stills, presses, filters and pots. Among the chais where the brandies are refined and matured slowly in old, oak barrels you can watch the staff fill, cork, wax and manually label bottles in the traditional way. The famous “Vieille Prune” – a plum brandy packs quite a punch and the Ratafia is delicious. Their onsite shop has some lovely products to remind you of your holiday – not that I ever need a reason to buy liquor chocolates. The museum is open every week day, closed the weekends, and entry is free.
Enjoy the scenic drive to the lovely town of Figeac, which looks like the setting for a Middle Ages meets the Renaissance film. Visit the ‘Museum of Ecriture’ which celebrates writing and language across the centuries, including an explanation of how Francois Champollion, Figeac’s most famous son, deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and interpreted the Rosetta Stone – the work for which Francois became famous. Follow the small alley to the left of the Museum of Ecriture to reach a square – Place des Ecritures, where a large copy of the rosetta stone occupies much of the floor area in a pretty courtyard.
If you prefer something a little more energetic try the open-air museum of rural life at Cuzals. Set over 50 hectares the museum is like a living encyclopedia of the life and countryside of the 19th century. An itinerary takes you around the site with about twenty stops to see how the blacksmith, the baker, the clog-maker etc.would have operated. Children love it.
Discover the Art and Crafts of the Dordogne Valley
The politician and art connoisseur Georges Pompidou used to spend his holidays in Cajarc and The Centre for Contemporary Art was opened in his memory. The Centre holds temporary exhibitions and an annual summer event: the ‘Parcours d’Art Contemporain en Vallée du Lot’. The Parcours consists of a trail of art works leading from the art centre to the Maison Daura artists’ residences via various villages.
Jean Lurçat, the noted french artist, fell in love with Tours Saint Laurent in St Cere in 1945 and lived there until his death in 1966. The 19th century chateau with two medieval towers is where Lurçat dedicated himself to reviving the art of tapestry making and worked to bring it into the mainstream of contemporary art. The Atelier-Musée Lurçat is home to an extremely fine collection of works including tapestries, cartoons, paintings, gouaches, ceramics, fabrics and items of furniture. St Cere itself is a lovely town and well worth a trip.
Born in Russia in 1890, Ossip Zadkine, a very influential figure in 20th century sculpture, loved his home in the Lot where he produced many of his major works. The Atelier-Musée Zadkine in the village of Les Arques, is home to some of his most prestigious works. Displayed in his house-museum, the local church, but dotted around the village – you can enjoy a lovely walk while discovering them.
If you enjoy your art in a more natural setting then try the village of Latouille-Lentillac. About 30 original art works lie along Art-Nature a 4 km art-trail. An easy walk where the art sits comfortably with the surroundings and popular with children as they discover the faces in the trees, giant bat hanging from a tree, and enigmatic totem-pole.
Whatever your tastes – there’s something for everyone!
Looking for some inspiration? Read our Top 10 List for suggestions of what to see and do while enjoying your holiday in the Dordogne Valley.
Find out all about our holiday cottage in the Dordogne – the perfect base for your trip to this beautiful area.