Exploring the cultural heritage of the DORDOGNE
Starting point: Brantôme in Périgord**, *nicknamed the ‘Green Venice of the Périgord’ in The Green Périgord***
Head towards Villars to visit the Chateau of Puyguilhem, which is comparable to the châteaux of the Loire valley in its Renaissance style, although Villars has the added attraction of stalactite and stalagmite-filled caves. You could continue towards the village of St Jean de Cole, a village with both medieval and Renaissance architecture. Classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, don’t miss the church of St Jean Baptiste and the château of La Marthonie.
Tourist trail in the Dronne Valley
From Brantome, head in the direction of Bourdeilles: visit the village’s imposing its feudal fortress. This area is great for discovering the watermills which were built to provide hydraulic energy for grinding grains, pressing oil and making paper pulp. These mills include the seventeenth-century Maison de la Dronne, Montagrier, the Moulin de la Pauze, Saint Méard de Dronne and the Moulin de Rochereuil, Grand Brassac.
The domed churches of Ribéracois
Starting from Ribérac, this route is ideal for anyone interested in Roman art (such as Grand-Brassac, Faye, and Saint-Privat-des-Prés). A distance of 200 kilometres is linked by thirty churches, their domes and defence mechanisms adding to their appearance of sombre, reassuring grandeur. Illuminated by lights, bells ringing, these churches harmonise perfectly with the Dordogne’s landscape and dotted villages.
Starting point: Périgueux, the capital of the Dordogne, Périgord blanc and Périgord central
Off the beaten track, following the river Isle
Head downstream and the valley is scattered with traditional villages. St Astier is famous for its roman church, the Montpon Menestérol area boasts an unrivalled heritage of fine church organs, and Grignols is home to an imposing eighteenth-century fortress. In Neuvic sur l’Isle, pay a visit to the castle and its botanic gardens; and the Chateau de Montréal in Isaac is another gem waiting to be discovered.
Just for fun: hop aboard a tour boat and follow the path of the Moulin du Duellas’s boatmen in St Martial d’Artenset.
The home of the Périgord Black Truffle
Loop around to discover the seventeenth-century abbey of Chancelade, an architectural ensemble resembling a mansion more than a monastery. Carry on towards Sorges, the capital of Périgord’s famous black truffles. In the centre of the village, the truffle museum lets you in on the secrets of this underground mushroom. The visit concludes with a wander down the truffle trail with the possibility of continuing towards Cubjac and Hautefort, two charming villages in the Vézère Valley.
Starting point: Bergerac, Discover Cyrano country, vineyards and country houses
Discover the ‘Country Houses Circuit’
After visiting the historic monument of the Chateau de Monbazillac, the route loops round to the medieval village of Issigeac, leading you to Monpazier, south-west France’s ‘model’ country house. Once you reach Biron, visit the Chateau de Biron – also classed as a historic monument – and on the last leg of the tour, the English country house of Beaumont du Périgord. Finish with a stopover in the picturesque village of Couze,to visit the paper mills of Rouzique or Larroque.
Itineraries in the vineyard of Bergerac
Follow the Bergerac wine route to discover Bergerac’s cultural and natural winemaking heritage. You’ll have the opportunity to meet winemakers, taste their best vintages and buy wine directly from their estates.
93 Bergerac wines have signed a quality convention and revealed the secrets to their wines. The vineyard is also the home of 13 AOC products (a label awarded to local products of government-approved quality).
Starting point: Sarlat, Etienne de le Boétie country (philosopher and friend of Michel de Montaigne)
Remarkable heritage: roundtrip
Head towards Montignac to visit the must-see Lascaux II, a replica of the original Lascaux caves (famous for their prehistoric cave paintings). A complementary visit to the museum of Thot à Thonac will enrich your knowledge of prehistoric art and the animals that lived during the time of the Cro-magnon man – the first early modern human.
Next, discover the Renaissance Chateau de Losse and its remarkable gardens on the edge of Vézère. Don’t miss the stopover in the villages of St Amand de Coly, classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, and St Geniès, unless you’d prefer to spend the afternoon in the beautiful gardens of Manoir d’Eyrignac in Salignac.
The Prehistoric Vézère Valley
Along a 20 kilometre stretch of river, you’ll find the Eyzies de Tayac at Montignac, consisting of a large number of major archaeological and prehistoric sites each more impressive than the last. The National Museum of Prehistory and the International Prehistory Welcome Centre will also help you to better understand this period of Palaeolithic history. In Tursac, the birthplace of man, some places to make a beeline for are the troglodytic villages of Roque St Christophe, La Madeleine and the Maison forte de Reignac. The village of St Léon sur Vézère, classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, is unmissable.
Dordogne Valley: the valley of châteaux
As if taken straight from a postcard, discover here the medieval châteaux of Beynac, which dominates a 70 metre high precipice – or, facing it, the château of Castelnaud and its adjoining museum of medieval warfare. Nearby is the château of Milandes, which retraces the life of 1920s dancer Joséphine Baker; or a bit further up the river, the furnished château of Fénelon – one of the rare buildings to have preserved its impressive slate roof and defence system. There are 1001 of these châteaux – all you have to do is choose which one you’d like to visit!