Discover the Dordogne Valley – history, mystery, romance and beauty.
As soon as you arrive in the Dordogne Valley you can see why its 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. It’s the smaller pieces of the jigsaw that add up to make the area so very special.
Take to the Caves
Padirac, Proumeyssac, Cougnac, Lacave… Discover some of the Dordogne Valley’s many buried treasures. 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! You can find more information here.
Feed your inner gourmet
Discover how the area earned its reputation for producing some of the world’s finest food ingredients. For centuries, this area has been known for delicacies like truffles, foie gras and confits. Food here is not simply a necessity, it’s a pleasure to be savoured.
There are several fine dining experiences; and for an “occasion” it’s well-worth pushing the boat out However, it’s the smaller, often family-run, restaurants that give the most authentic experience. The local meals feature traditional dishes often based on duck or goose – confit de canard is always a favourite.
Discover how the area earned its reputation for producing some of the world’s finest ingredients. For centuries, this area has been known for delicacies like truffles, foie gras and confits. Food here is not simply a necessity, it’s a pleasure to be savoured.
The quality of the food relies on the quality of the ingredients and this area is world famous for theirs. Truffles are a local treasure – 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. The small cheese 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. Enjoy a visit with the goats at nearby Ferme Borie d’Imbert.
Saffron is more expensive than caviar, and has grown in this area since the returning crusaders bought it back 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, 250 hectares of mainly cabernet franc grape, produces lovely red and rosé wines. The better known rich, dark Cahors wines, are grown over 3,500 hectares. These wines trace 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!
You can find a list of local vineyards which offer tours here.
Discover the quirky & unusual
Discover the unusual and charming small museums – we have got plenty of kitsch and quirky. Spend a couple of hours at the Musee de l’Automate in Souillac and enjoy Europe’s largest collection of 19th and 20th century automated toys. Articulated teddies, acrobatic clowns, porcelain dolls and modern robots move in synchronisation with sound and lighting effects. They create an atmosphere which delights children of all ages.
Pop down to the Distillerie Louis Roque in Souillac; their base for over 100 years. This working distillery 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 you can watch the staff fill, cork, wax and manually label bottles in the traditional way. The famous “Vieille Prune” is a plum brandy that packs quite a punch and the Ratafia is delicious. Their onsite shop has some lovely products to remind you of your holiday. Not that you ever need a reason to buy liquor chocolates. The museum is open every week day, closed the weekends, and entry is free.
Take 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. Much is made of how Francois Champollion, Figeac’s most famous son, deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and interpreted the Rosetta Stone – the work for which he became famous. Follow the small alley to the left of the Museum of Ecriture to reach the Place des Ecritures. A large copy of the rosetta stone forms the floor of the pretty courtyard.
Discover the Art and Crafts of the Dordogne Valley
The politician and art connoisseur Georges Pompidou used to holiday 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 bringing 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 visit.
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, and 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.