The Dordogne comes near providing every little thing that travellers head to France for: lovely chateaux, conventional French gastronomy, a bucolic panorama of vineyards, forests and rivers. Picturesque fortified villages, similar to Beynac, La Roque Gageac and Eymet (website of an surprising pre-Brexit increase for UK settlers), and charming cities similar to Bergerac, Brantôme, Bourdeilles and Ribérac, have lengthy been well-liked with Brits eager to settle in France, and that is one a part of the nation the place they have at all times been warmly welcomed into native communities.
CASTLES AND CAVES FROM SARLAT TO LASCAUX
What to see and do
Sarlat-la-Canéda is the proper base for exploring the grandiose hilltop châteaux that look down on the Dordogne river and the Unesco-listed prehistoric websites alongside the Vézère valley. Its slender streets are lined with lavish sandstone mansions, completely preserved because the center ages and Renaissance. Don’t miss taking a trip up the 14th-century bell tower, the place famend architect and Sarlat native Jean Nouvel has designed a panoramic glass elevate providing 360-degree views.
Each of the Dordogne’s landmark castles has one thing totally different to find. The immense Château de Castelnaud (€10.80) is ideal for teenagers, with its outstanding assortment of medieval armaments, whereas the equally majestic Château de Beynac (€eight), above a stone village that tumbles all the way down to the river, was a location for Luc Besson’s 1999 Joan of Arc film. The ornate, chocolate-box Château des Milandes used to belong to dancer and activist Josephine Baker, and homes an unimaginable museum about her life. In a tranquil valley is the breathtaking Château de Commarque (€eight.50), a towering mass of ruins above historic cave dwellings.
Hang on in … the Jardins Suspendus at Marqueyssac. Photograph: Jean-Paul Azam/Getty Images
Garden-lovers ought to go away time for 2 of France’s most well-known formal gardens. The Jardins Suspendus at Marqueyssac (€9.80) are a magical maze of 150,000 swirling, looping field hedges, whereas these on the Manoir d’Eyrignac (€12.50) are extra English in model, together with an extravagant perfumed rose backyard.
The Dordogne’s unimaginable prehistoric websites are principally alongside the Vézère river. Kick off at Les Eyzies, spectacularly hewn into the cliffside, with a tour of the Prehistoric Museum (€6/€four.50 ). On the opposite facet of the river from Les Eyzies, a rickety staircase disappears into the Grotte du Grand Roc (€eight.20), an unlimited cavern crammed with stalactites and stalagmites, whereas La Roque Saint-Christophe (€eight.75) is a kitsch however fascinating reconstitution of a kilometre-long cave village reduce excessive right into a cliff, inhabited 55,000 years in the past by Neanderthals.
Off the wall … Lascaux’s new customer centre. Photograph: Dan Courtice
Nothing fairly prepares for a go to to Lascaux (€16), particularly because the current opening of a brand new £50m centre full with futuristic multimedia particular results and interactive iPad guides. This is the second recreation of those caves and their 600 prehistoric wall work. The authentic website, found in 1940, closed to the general public in 1963 to guard the delicate Cro Magnon art work often called the “Sistine chapel of prehistory”. The new Lascaux is attracting enormous crowds, with tour teams leaving each six minutes, so take into account visiting the quieter, authentic Lascaux II advanced (€12), which is frankly simply as spectacular a recreation of the unique caves.
Where to eat and drink
Clean breast … Sarlat speciality duck magret. Photograph: Alamy
Sarlat is the undisputed foodie capital of the Dordogne, with tempting, inexpensive eating places serving regional specialities similar to succulent duck magret and confit, and omelettes bursting with girolle mushrooms. It’s tough to beat the sincere home cooking at Le Bistrot, which does a two-course €14 set lunch or €14-€18 primary dishes within the night, when diners sit out reverse buskers, clowns and acrobats performing outdoors the towering gothic cathedral.
Sarlat is surrounded by great-value conventional fermes auberges (farm inns). At La Table du Chaffour, Nicole and Jean-Marie Verlhiac develop greens, elevate geese and geese, and use solely their very own produce for the hearty three-course €15 menu custom or the six-dish €29 menu gastronomique.
In the hills above Château Montfort is the no-frills Pech de Malet resort, whose sunny terrace has awe-inspiring vistas over the Dordogne valley, excellent for a sundown aperitif, with home wine at €6.50 a bottle, accompanied by a €6.80 plate of irresistible pommes sarladaises, thinly sliced potatoes sautéed with garlic, parsley and cep mushrooms.
Les Glycines Hotel Restaurant, Les Eyzies. Photograph: Alamy
Restaurants across the caves of Les Eyzies are usually aimed principally at vacationers, however simply outdoors the village, proficient chef Pascal Lombard has opened the informal Bistrot Les Glycines. Working from an open kitchen, Pascal’s younger staff put together a €17 three-course lunch menu with inventive dishes similar to salmon rillettes topped with edible flowers and root greens, and grilled duck hearts.
A tour of Lascaux takes round half a day, and somewhat than searching for meals within the close by villager of Montigny, guests can select between the brasserie, snacking and cafe choices on the centre’s glorious Cafe Lascaux, with costs starting from a €9 salad to the €15.90 set lunch.
Where to remain
The ornate salon at Château de Monrecour
You can’t get extra central in Sarlat than the primary sq. above the city’s hottest cafe, Le Glacier (€90 B&B). The 4 bedrooms are monumental, with double glazing so you aren’t saved awake by the late-night crowds ingesting beneath. The idyllic landscapes across the castles and caves of the Dordogne and Vézère rivers supply dozens of chambre d’hôtes (B&Bs), catering to all budgets.
To splash out for an evening in a romantic setting, two addresses stand out: the monumental 13th-century Château de Puymartin (doubles from €150 B&B) has two stately rooms with vintage furnishings, whereas the extra ornate Château de Monrecour (doubles from €120 room-only) has not too long ago turn into a 10-room resort, with hot-air balloons taking off from the gardens once in a while.
On the highway to Lascaux are two very totally different B&Bs: the stylish Maison de Marquay (doubles from €90 B&B) in the course of a tiny village, the place proprietor Gérard Lerchundi prepares a gourmand €33 dinner every night time; and the country Pech Mortier (€55 B&B), within the countryside by Marcillac-Saint-Quentin.
A number of miles from Lascaux is Condat-sur-Vézère, the place luxurious 13th-century L’Hostellerie de la Commanderie (doubles €110), is in lovely wooded gardens with swimming pool and a breakfast room embellished with glittering candelabras.
• More B&Bs at sarlat-tourisme.com
BERGERAC, PERIGUEUX AND BRANTÔME
What to see and do
In the loop … Brantôme city and Saint Pierre abbey. Photograph: Francis Leroy/Getty Images
Bergerac involves life on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, when its slender medieval streets are taken over by a market. Stock up for a picnic within the surrounding vineyards with natural tomatoes, saucisson filled with hazelnuts and aromatic strawberries. Bergerac is on the coronary heart of inexpensive and welcoming wine nation. It’s straightforward to observe a Route des Vins across the rolling vine-clad hills, discovering little-known reds similar to Pécharmant and the luscious Monbazillac dessert wine.
Enoy your picnic within the gardens of the Renaissance Château de Monbazillac however skip its touristy tasting periods and head as a substitute to the equally imposing Château de Bélingard to attempt its fruity €5.90 Bergerac Blanc. You could nicely stumble upon the property’s garrulous proprietor, Laurent, Comte de Bosredon, who will inform you how wine has been made right here because the days of the Celts.
Chateau de Belingard … for fruity white wines
Halfway between Bergerac and Périgueux, take a facet journey to Domaine de Neuvic, a fish farm with a distinction because it harvests sturgeon eggs to supply caviar. For €19, guests get a tour of the farm and see some critically monumental sturgeons, plus a spoonful of caviar and a glass of bubbly.
Périgueux is the capital of the Dordogne and is dominated by the swirling domes and turrets of its white Saint Front cathedral. Inspired by St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the current constructing seems much like the Sacre-Coeur in Paris – not shocking as a result of it was restyled within the 19th century by the identical architect.
Sur le pont … the Barris Bridge and Saint Front cathedral, Perigueux. Photograph: Alamy
The identical distinctive white stone is much more conspicuous in one other of the Dordogne’s jewels, medieval Brantôme, virtually completely encircled by a meander of the Dronne river. Brantôme’s huge Benedictine abbey was based in AD769 by the emperor Charlemagne, and behind it are some a lot older troglodyte caves, with haunting spiritual wall carvings.
Hire a kayak (€10) or paddleboard (€12) (brantomecanoe.com) for a few hours to do a lazy tour of town or take the entire day and paddle seven kilometres upriver to Bourdeilles, the place a fortified chateau (€eight.70) homes an unlimited assortment of vintage furnishings and tapestries.
Where to eat and drink
A easy lunch at Bistrot de la Halle in Périgueux
The centre of Bergerac has loads of relaxed wine bars and pubs similar to Au Plus Que Parfait. The finest place for a romantic lunch is below the large airplane tree spreading over Place du Feu, the place Une Cuillère pour Maman serves a collection of gentle, modern €10 plats du jour, which is likely to be sea bream with sun-dried tomatoes or date-encrusted roast lamb, plus vegan and vegetarian choices.
In Monbazillac, the welcoming Maison Vari is owned by an area vigneron (wine maker). Château Vari wines might be tasted without spending a dime on the bar, or there are tables within the backyard of this pleasant cafe-wine bar for indulging in beneficiant €10 plates of charcuterie and native cheeses with a relaxing bottle of natural €12 Bergerac blanc or rosé.
In Périgueux, head straight for the city’s historic lined market on Place du Coderc. It was already a foodie paradise however now it boasts the Bistrot de la Halle, a minuscule diner the place a glass of wine is the proper accompaniment to freshly shucked oysters or a hamburger au foie gras.
Brantôme caters for all budgets, from the Michelin-starred Moulin de l’Abbaye, to the cheap-and-cheerful Co’Thé-Café , the place a home made soup, quiche and salad prices €7.50. Alternatively, sit out on the river financial institution at Comme à la Maison (13 quai Bertin, +33 9 8051 6833, no web site), the place proprietor Sarah Nicolas serves a €16 three-course lunch with seasonal, natural merchandise.
Where to remain
Cabins by the water at Parenthèses Imaginaires
There are quite a few winemaker B&Bs dotted throughout the Bergerac space, with an particularly heat welcome at Domaine du Boyer (doubles from €66 B&B). Yannick Dumonteil and his Vietnamese spouse, Ghislaine, make visitors really feel they’re a part of the household and run cellar excursions with tastings of their wines – and there’s a household swimming pool surrounded by vines.
Rather than searching for a spot to remain in busy Périgueux, keep it up to Brantôme, the place Sandrine Laby has a comfortable four-room B&B, Au Nid des Thés (€90 B&B), proper above her salon de thé, with a sunny roof terrace for breakfast, the place she serves home-baked truffles and a selection of 30 teas.
Breakfast at Au Nid des Thés
Take the stunning 10km drive south-west alongside the Dronne to medieval Bourdeilles, crossing an historic stone bridge to enter the village. Here, the venerable Hostellerie les Griffons (doubles from €95, breakfast €13) sits proper on the river. Old-fashioned however charming, this 16th-century auberge has 10 rustic-beamed rooms, in addition to a small pool.
For a extra outdoorsy expertise, keep it up to the north of the Dordogne, the place Parenthèses Imaginaires (cabins sleeping 2, from €110 an evening, minimal two nights) is a sprawling campsite with a lake and thick forest. Dynamic younger proprietor Francoise has created an eco-glamping resort, with romantic lakeside wood chalets and areas for tents and autos (pitches from €20 for 2 nights).
Ryanair flies to Bergerac from Liverpool, Stansted and East Midlands; Flybe flies from Birmingham, Southampton, Exeter and Edinburgh. Bordeaux is 90 minutes from Bergerac by automobile. Travelling by practice (from London to Bordeaux, altering in Paris) prices from round £170 return on Eurostar. Bergerac is 530 miles from Calais and 360 miles from Caen.
Best occasions to go to
Easter till late autumn is peak season, with many gardens in full bloom. The common excessive temperature in Bergerac ranges from 20C to 28C between May and October, falling to 10C in January.