Nearby, La Maison Forte de Reignac, secret and mysterious, is the only intact ‘chateau-falaise’ remaining in France. Perhaps you are more intrigued by 7th Century Merovingian sarcophagi carved into the cliff opposite, or the site of the discovery of the first Neanderthal skeleton? Or the chance to scramble up Europe's largest cliff-face dwelling, continually inhabited since prehistoric times, a refuge overlooking the Vézère River which witnessed Viking raiding parties and the turbulence of the Middle Ages? All are within walking or cycling distance of the house.
Dordogne-Périgord. So much to see and do, whatever your interests.
This area has a natural rapport with the human spirit. The countryside reveals its marvels in a manner that encourages a feeling of peace. The rolling hills and tranquil rivers, the sky and its clear light, the memory of man’s ancestors - all these things distil in a harmony where time is not fleeing, and where each moment can be enjoyed.
If you seek peace and relaxation, you need look no further. Those who simply wish to amble along ancient streets of warm honey-coloured stone, pausing for an apéritif in the village square or an outdoor meal in a wayside auberge – this is the place for you. Visit medieval Sarlat, our beautiful county town. Forget the schedule. Wander. Take your time.
Follow our ancestors’ footsteps through 40,000 years of human occupation in the Vézère Valley. Its prehistoric sites, rock shelters and painted caves conceal Europe’s finest treasure trove of Paleolithic art.
At the heart of this shrine to prehistory is the famous Lascaux cave near Montignac. Discovered in 1940 by four boys looking for a lost dog, the spellbinding imagery of the cave paintings survived intact for over 15,000 years following a landslide which sealed access to the cave.
The new Lascaux 4 is an absolute must-see on any trip to the region. http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/#/en/00.xml
Périgord is renowned for its gastronomy, including those delights from the forest – walnuts, cèpes, black truffles and local honey, rich and dark.
And of course here, the duck and goose reign supreme - this is the kingdom of foie gras, of duck magret steaks, of confit de canard.
The whole south west region of France is the domain of noble wines and spirits. Look out for local Bergerac wines - Pécharmant, Montravel and the ambrosial Monbazillac. You must also try the excellent local aperitifs of chestnut, peach and especially the walnut wine, Vin de Noix. Quel délice!
UNWIND IN THE HEART OF NATURE
Recharge your batteries and try out a new activity. With canoeing, kayaking and fishing on the doorstep, walking paths and cycling trails interconnecting at the garden gate – the choice is yours.
Amateur golfers will be pleased to find several courses in the Dordogne with varying features and complexity. For the more adventurous, what better treat than surveying the countryside from a hot air balloon?
Our tip? Pack a couple of rugs, gather a picnic from the local market, add a bottle of Bergerac rosé, then canoe from Domme to Beynac on the Dordogne River - unforgettable!
GO OUT AND HAVE FUN
Summer festivals and fairs abound - antique markets, street theatre, jazz or classical music concerts in ancient buildings throughout Périgord Noir - all very popular.
Colourful Sarlat market on Saturday morning is not to be missed – arrive early, it gets busy! Night markets are an enjoyable tradition offering local wine, farmers’ produce and regional specialities to purchase and eat at long communal tables, often with a musical accompaniment.
Enjoy an evening 'Picnic en Blanc' in elegant gardens, followed by music and dancing when the sun goes down - family fun at its best.
From The Telegraph’s travel writers:
“As with so many of France’s most beautiful villages, the best views are from afar – or in the case of La Roque-Gageac, from the other side of the water. Picture a spell-binding huddle of medieval stone, lacing the Dordoge River and lorded over by almighty golden cliffs with a 12th century troglodyte fort. Remarkable!”
“The Dordogne is peppered with drop-dead gorgeous villages built from old gold stone. But medieval Monpazier takes the biscuit with its stunning symmetry – a perfect quadrilateral of ancient streets languishing between sunbaked vines and chestnut forest in Périgord. For romantic old-fashioned flânerie, there’s simply no finer spot on French earth.”
No surprise then, that both places figure on the list of “Plus Beaux Villages de France”. Dordogne boasts 10 villages with this elite listing and all of these are within easy reach, including our beautiful neighbour St Léon-sur-Vézère.
The Hundred Years War between England and France saw the rise of ‘bastides’ - fortress towns built on a grid pattern to withstand attack, protected by thick walls and watchtowers. Some bastides changed hands several times between the English and French. Monpazier, despite the ravages of time and war, remains an extraordinarily well preserved bastide built by King Edward I in 1285, worth a detour.
It is said that Dordogne-Périgord is the land of a thousand and one chateaux. Fortified castles dating from the Middle Ages, to Renaissance and Classical styles built for pleasure, these chateaux have spanned centuries, and history’s upheavals and anecdotes are engraved into their bricks and mortar. Beynac, Castelnau and Montfort tower above the Dordogne River and are not to be missed.