The Dordogne and the Lot are home to a treasure-trove of delights - velvet-green valleys and forests, dramatic cliffs and caves, a landscape carved out by winding rivers of exceptional beauty, medieval towns and villages steeped in history, local cuisine based on duck, goats cheese, truffles, walnuts and wine - and much, much more. There’s a warmth in the air, in the welcome and in the honey-colour of the architecture that never fails to enthral. In short, this is a very special part of France, offering a simpler, rural world of beauty and pleasure.
With such an abundance of fascinating places to visit, the following is just a sample of things to see and do in the local area.
Follow the meandering Dordogne river and climb up through the village of Beynac to Beynac Castle, which dominates the great river and valley below. A few minutes away, discover the village of La Roque-Gageac. With its ochre-coloured houses sheltering under dramatically overhanging cliffs, it’s no surprise that this is a regular winner of France’s prettiest village contest. Head for the beautiful bastide town of Domme, perched on top of a rocky outcrop and offering spectacular, panoramic views of the river and beyond. Sit and enjoy a drink as you watch the sun go down.
Beautifully restored Sarlat is the most famous town in the Dordogne - and one of the most visited in France. Stroll along its cobbled lanes which open into delightful little squares, nestling within the mellow, sandstone buildings. It’s especially pretty either early morning or late in the day when the sunlight turns the stone to gold.
Capital of the Lot, Cahors is a medieval city of surprising subtlety and charm. Built on the banks of the Lot river, its star attraction is the famous Pont Valentré bridge. In the old city centre there is a market held twice a week, bustling happily in the shade of the old cathedral. With its friendly, cosmopolitan atmosphere, Cahors is the perfect place to while away the time at one of the many lively bars and restaurants.
Resplendent in its exquisite natural setting, Rocamadour proudly bills itself as ‘The Second Most-Visited Site in France’ (after Mont St Michel). As well as its historical religious roots, its impressive rock formations and prehistoric paintings (Grotte des Merveilles), it is also renowned for its superb cheese-making.
Take a mysterious boat trip 103 meters underground on the subterranean river at Gouffre de Padirac.
Marvel at the cave paintings at Lascaux, which are amongst the most ancient in Europe and have been designated a Unesco World Heritage site.
Visit the famous caves at Les Eyzies, often referred to as the capital of the prehistoric world.
Stroll through one of the many beautiful local gardens open to the public. Firm favourites are Les Jardins de Marqueyssac , which has spectacular candlit evenings throughout the summer, and the stunning topiary gardens at Manoir d’Eyrignac .
Magical chateaux, with their romantic turrets and towers, are dotted throughout the countryside. They include:
- Chateau les Milandes - hear the intriguing story of its most famous owner, the Folies Bergère star Josephine Baker, and her “Rainbow Tribe”.
- Chateau de Castelnaud - with its museum dedicated to the art of war in the Middle Ages.
- Chateau de Fénelon - with beautiful furniture and objets d’art dating back to the 15th Century.
Follow the wine trail in the Lot valley. Producing one of the oldest wines in France, the Cahors vineyards have been famous for their robust reds since the 13th Century. Today, passionate vineyard owners are happy to welcome visitors for tastings and to share their extensive knowledge.
Throughout the year there are many and varied musical and cultural events taking place, as well as countless colourful markets, fairs and brocantes to explore.