After spending two weeks on a summer road trip exploring Brittany and then further south to the Dordogne, I’m well and truly smitten. There aren’t many destinations I long to return to, but France is certainly one of the exceptions. Even though the Dordogne has been a popular destination for tourists, it has still retained its quintessentially ‘French’ qualities from the beautiful scenery and the chateaux-dotted countryside, with fortresses and Bastides – fortified towns built in medieval Aquitaine, as well as pretty villages and their cobbled streets, which we spent hours getting lost in. And yes, some areas can be busy, but if you’re prepared to explore the Dordogne, there are still many places off-the-beaten-track. Which is essentially why holidays in the Dordogne continue to appeal. And as we discovered, there are many things to do in the Dordogne with kids, too.
And then, of course, there is the Dordogne River – snaking 310 miles across the region, and glistening regally through the river banks, under quaint bridges and flowing below striking castles and properties hewn into the valleys above it. It is the driving force of the region, and one our Dordogne holiday centred around. The Dordogne is not only rich in culinary heritage but is rich in history. 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. Here are some top things to do in the Dordogne with kids…
Amazing Things To Do in The Dordogne With Kids
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.
Take to the treetops
There are several adventure treetop 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.
Check out prehistoric cave art
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. Be sure to book in the summer months though as it can get busy.
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 – although the minimum age is around four, Peanut was too young. Ask the tourist office for recommended canoe rental companies if you’re not sure but – we used Canoe Vacances who were brilliant.
Marvel at the views at the Gardens of Marqueyssac
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. We absolutely loved it here – and we even sat down to cake and tea overlooking the valley and enjoying the stunning gardens.
Explore Chateau de Commarque
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.
Wander The Gardens of Eyrignac Manor
The MTM family have a penchant for gardens and Eyrignac Manor has a great combination of little nooks and crannies to discover, as well as enough open space for kids to run free. They particularly enjoyed finding all the different sculptures dotted around the pristine landscaped gardens, and we loved discovering how the topiary plants are so perfectly manicured – such fantastical shapes can be seen. Meanwhile, there are fountains, and even a Japanese inspired garden to discover, as well as a great restaurant with homegrown produce.
Spend a day at the beach beside the Dordogne river
Having asked our hosts at our gite in the Dordogne where to go (we stayed close to Domme in a beautiful property), they directed us to a small, rather unknown section of the river which has a sandy beach. So for us, it felt very much like we were on our own private stretch. The water in the Dordogne River is so clean and so shallow, the children adored splashing about, watching the canoes pass us, and finding fish and frogs. Unfortunately, it is such a local hangout that I can’t tell you the name! (if you need directions do message me and I will try to give you directions). There are many other ‘beaches’ along the Dordogne River including Plage de Caudon in Vitrac, Creysse and The Plage du Pont de Vicq.