When you think about holidays in France, Dordogne is probably not the first region you think about but it offers a wealth of panoramas, activities and historic culture and is nestled next to arguably the best wine region in the world.
Situated in the south-west region, east of Bordeaux, the Dordogne is famed for its river, hence a host of water activities occur year-round; the most popular being canoeing. There are many organisations offering lessons and excursions, so check with the Federation Francaise de Canoe-Kayak for information on the best spots nearest you.
Another popular holiday activity is go-karting. Lubserac boasts a professional circuit of almost 1000 metres and bikes or cars for everyone aged over five years. In Javerlac there are two tracks – one for adults, the other for children.
If you are an animal lover, you could try horse riding, with 8,500 kilometres of winding countryside track, going through small villages and beaches. You could visit the Aquarium du Périgord Noir, in Le Buge, to view a wide variety of fish and reptiles.
You can also see lions, tigers and, rhinos, giraffe, camels, monkeys and birds at Le Parc du Reynou, near Limoges.
Matt Hopkins loves to holiday in Dordogne so much, he now owns a self catering holiday villa there. He says, “The Dordogne is a great region of France – it has just about everything you would expect from France – beautiful countryside, vineyards, cafe culture, amazing history.
“I like that it is far enough for great weather, but not too far – so you can drive to the area within half a day. This is the primary reason we chose this area – accessible, yet far enough to escape the north European weather.”
You can fly to the Dordogne via Bergerac airport – with Toulouse and Bordeaux also viable. In Bergerac you can also hire a car from just over £26 a day, which is advisable because France is a very big place. Or you can pick up a car in the UK and cross the channel to northern France and then drive down.
Matt adds, “When we take our holidays there, we pretty much just relax – soak up the sun, read books, enjoy the wine and such. But if you want to be more adventurous, there’s plenty to do to keep you going – canoeing down the Dordogne river, horse riding, cycling, some fantastic walks too.”
OTHER TOP DORDOGNE ATTRACTIONS
Château de Castelnaud
A 12th century castle in Nontron which dominates the skyline. After three restoration projects, the château is now open to the public and home to an impressive, popular museum of medieval warfare.
A hugely popular village which draws tourists wanting to see the black Madonna – the shrine of the Virgin Mary.
Les Jardins de Marqueyssac
Wonderfully manicured gardens overlooking the Dordogne river where each hedge has been carefully snipped into whorls and bubbles, producing a stunning effect – all done by hand. Stay until dark to view the fairy lights.
Not far to the north of Sarlat, the Lascaux caves are known around the world and have been given UNESCO World Heritage status.
You will find markets all over the region in towns and villages. Well worth a visit.
By Steve Masters