Even though I’ve been around the world and ventured far and wide, there is one country I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t explored, and even worse, it’s only across the channel…
I’ve only ever been to France the once – to Reims but that was a whistle-stop tour, and I barely saw much of anything except inside several champagne houses and their cellars. I didn’t even get to wander Paris properly while we were waiting for our connecting train, seeing only the immediate area outside the Gare du Nord and a coffee shop.
There is one region that I keep coming back to time and time again and that’s the Dordogne, so quintessentially ‘France’. From the beautiful scenery and the chateaux-dotted countryside, with fortresses and bastides – fortified towns built in medieval Aquitaine, and picturesque villages and their cobbled streets. Which is why we’ve been considering holidaying in the area for a long while now.
The Dordogne is not only rich in culinary heritage but is rich in history – and offers visitors a plethora of delights. There’s the wine-growing regions around Bergerac; the limestone hills around the capital Périgueux; and the dark oak forests around the Vézère Valley. And what’s more there are plenty of activities to keep all members of the family happy. My Travel Monkey has chosen a small snapshot of what’s on offer throughout the area but don’t forget to spare time for some cheese eating and wine drinking…
Go back in time at the Chateau de Bridoire
The stunning Chateau de Bridoire is the perfect place for children, bringing the past alive with medieval fairground games, giving them the chance to dress up and write with quill pens, fire crossbows and watch jousting displays. Don’t miss the dungeons and the resident skeleton.
There are several adventure tree top courses across the region and L’Appel de la Foret at Thenon has a choice of 10 different courses that get progressively more challenging. The graded routes offer something for everyone from children to thrill-seeking adults making it a great day out for all the family.
There are lots of caves to visit in the Dordogne, the most famous being those at Lascaux – the originally painted caves are no longer open to the public but an impressive replica site gives an authentic experience for tourists. There are other underground adventures well worth a visit too. Discover the amazing cave paintings and ancient engravings at the Cave of Font-de-Gaume, while Rouffignac is another gem with guided tours on an electric train that takes you through the caves.
Canoe down the river
The Dordogne is named after the river that runs through it and getting out onto the water in a canoe is a great way to see the beauty of the region. There are routes suitable for all abilities so you can choose the perfect outing for you and your family. Canoe past medieval towns, lush countryside and chateaux, and stop for a picnic or swim. Collect your canoe, meander downstream in the safe, shallow waters and get a return shuttle back by road – it’s even suitable for young children. Ask the tourist office for recommended canoe rental companies.
The Gardens of Marqueyssac comprises an overhanging garden that overlooks the Dordogne valley, making it worth a visit as much for the stunning views over chateaux and the river, as for the beautiful garden itself. The 4km long site at Vezac is a maze of sculpted hedges and bushes, perfect for a game of hide and seek! There are tame peacocks, children’s play areas and picnic areas, a superb ice-cream shop and plenty of shade on a sunny day, ideal for a family excursion.
Chateau de Commarque is a breathtaking castle ruin at Les Eyzies-de-Tayac. The site has a history stretching back fifteen thousand years – start with prehistoric caves before exploring the remains of a chapel, houses and bakery from the Middle Ages and the magnificent ruined fort with its Gothic and Roman towers. It’s a bit off the beaten track reached by tiny roads and situated in a valley surrounded by forests. A true hidden gem but be sure to take a picnic if you want to make a day of it as facilities here are limited.
Finding an ideal base in which to explore all of the above in the Dordogne couldn’t be simpler now, too. French Loaf offers boutique family holidays in the region, while each of their properties are individual in style and size, offering child-friendly facilities and an excellent holiday home for families to enjoy all that this special region has to offer. All of French Loaf’s properties are rustic and charming but the best thing of all? They come equipped with everything from a bed guard, baby monitor and sterilizer, right through to bouncing chairs, training potties, toys and books. The outside spaces are all child-proof too, so parents can rest easy that their children can play and explore safely.
And with an ever-growing portfolio of properties on offer, I for one, am finding it a little difficult to decide which one I would like to stay in. I think we can safely say, that I am no longer going to be a stranger to French shores as it’s now top of the list of my travel adventures next year.
If you would like more information on what to do in the Dordogne there are some great articles out there, including this Dordogne Travel Guide.
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