Enjoy a wonderful tour to France, to the wine-producing areas of Bordeaux, including Médoc and St Emilion, and then spend time in the beautiful Dordogne region, exploring the fabulous gorges and valleys that make this area such a favourite. Drive down to Bordeaux via Cognac and visit the famous Courvoisier cognac house. The return journey will include an overnight stop in the Loire Valley, renowned for its fairytale châteaux.
Duration: 11 nights / 12 days
Mileage: 1,270 miles
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For those leaving from the UK, depart from Portsmouth at 20.30 on the overnight sailing to St Malo, with Brittany Ferries. An en-suite cabin with sea view will be booked for your comfort.
Day 2: 210 miles
Arrive in St Malo at 08.15 and take the coast road to a lovely little coffee/breakfast stop in a small secluded bay near Cancale, before continuing along the coastal road overlooking the Mont St Michel bay.The route then heads south, cross-country, on quiet ‘back-roads’ to the delightful medieval town of Vitre. Continue south to stay overnight in a lovely chateau hotel, furnished in contemporary style.
Day 3: 191 miles
Head south, past La Rochelle and into the Cognac region. The journey down to the Bordeaux region is through some of the loveliest countryside in France, sticking to little-known D-roads with precious little traffic. There will be a visit to Courvoisier, one of the most famous cognac producers, and a chance to spend some time pottering around the pretty town of Jarnac. Cross the Gironde estuary and stay at lovely hotel for two nights just on the edge of the village of Margaux in the Médoc region, to the northwest of Bordeaux. The hotel has a spa and a golf course.
Day 4: 35 miles
Enjoy a circular tour, along the routes des châteaux, past many of the famous names in Bordeaux wines. In the Médoc visit Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Leoville-Barton and Chateau Prieure-Lichine. Drive past and see Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafitte, Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Chateau Palmer and see the tour of Chateau Latour, although these establishments are not open. One optional additional stop can be arranged where you can visit and taste the wines at Chateau Lynch-Bages or at La Winery, a very new and modern wine store.
Day 5: 41 miles
Drive to St Emilion and visit the Figeac estate which lies between St Emilion and Pomerol. Then, after a bite to eat in St Emilion, either walk or drive to Chateau Beausejour-Becot for another tour and tasting. The afternoon is at leisure, but a short circular drive of the surrounding area and vineyards is recommended. Stay for the next two nights in a wonderful hotel in the centre of the pretty village of St Emilion.
Day 6: 21 miles
Explore St Emilion, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a really pretty little town and a warren to steep and narrow alleyways and appealing vistas, punctuated with charming architecture. Enjoy an al fresco lunch in the town square, washed down with a glass or two of the local wine. A visit to the cellars under the fabulous monolithic church is a must! Alternatively there is a circular driving tour to Sauternes, famed for its sweet wines.
Day 7: 103 miles
Drive east, along the Dordogne River to Sarlat-la-Caneda. Visit the Château of Monbazillac and enjoy some great driving on lovely, quiet roads, through some really pretty scenery. Sarlat’s well-preserved medieval architecture of beautiful 15th & 16th century houses in a mellow, honey-coloured stone makes this a really delightful town. Stay for two nights in a charming hotel just on the outskirts of town, in its own secluded little valley.
Day 8: 134 miles
Discover some of France’s most beautiful villages, valleys and gorges today as the route goes from Dordogne into the Lot region. Passing through Souillac and Nespouls, visit the cliff-side village of Turenne. The village is largely unchanged over the centuries with mellow stone houses and a tower at the top of the bluff. There are wonderful, panoramic views across the valley to the Cantal mountains. Next stop is Collonges-la-Rouge, the epitome of rustic charm with red sandstone houses and almost fairytale architecture. Continue on to Carrenac and Loubressac to Padirac. Visit the Gouffres de Padirac, an undergound cavern and river system that can be explored by boat. Then continue to the truly stunning and amazing village of Rocamadour, built precipitously on a cliff. The entire drive is through a very scenic region with the surrounding fields filled with bustling geese being fattened for foie gras.
Day 9: 102 miles
Leave Sarlat and drive along the Vezere valley to St Leon sur Vezere, another beau village, and ideal coffee stop. Just further along the valley, near Montignac, are the world-famous cave paintings of Lascaux, dubbed the ‘Sistine Chapel of prehistoric times’. The paintings cover the walls and roof of the cave and skilfully depict a variety of animals.
Then head north to Hautefort and visit its amazing chateau, Continue to St Jean de Cole, yet another plus beau village. Stay for two nights in the charming town of Brantôme, described as ‘the Venice of the Perigord’ as the River Dronne completely encircles the town, effectively making Brantôme an island. Brantôme also boasts the oldest bell tower in France, attached to the ancient abbey.
Stay at a wonderful former mill with its lovely riverside setting. The rooms are beautifully decorated and the food is just exquisite.
Day 10: 69 miles
Head into the neighbouring Charente region, along the banks of the Dronne River to Lisle, and then climb up to Montagrier with its lovely views. Continue on to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, which hangs on a steep hillside above the river. Visit the incredible Église Monolithe, a 12th century church carved out of the soft rock of the cliff face, and rock-hewn tombs dating back to the 6th century. Driving on some more of the Dordogne’s scenic country lanes return to your hotel.
Day 11: 211 miles
Leave Brantôme and head north for Chabanais. Just to the south are the Chassenon Roman baths, which are among the best-preserved buildings of their type in the territory that was once ancient Gaul, and possibly the entire Roman Empire. There is also a theatre, aqueduct and three temples, all once part of the Roman city of Cassinomagus.
Continue on through the Charente, along the Vienne valley, to Confolens and then Chauvigny, a lovely medieval town. The drive will then take you through some of France prettiest villages to Angles sur l’Anglin, which is a perfect place to stop for lunch and another beau village. Continue on to the Loire and visit the châteaux at Chinon and Azay-le-Rideau. The last night of the tour will be spent at a wonderful château hotel.
Day 12: 151 miles
Head to Caen for the return ferry to the UK. The ferry departs at 16.30 and arrives in Portsmouth at 21.30.
Stay in a variety of lovely hotels, ranging from delightful village inns to stunning châteaux. Each hotel we are staying in is brimming with character. There are two wonderful châteaux hotels for the journey to and from the south of France, a fabulous spa and golf hotel in the Médoc, a charming old hotel in the centre of St Emilion, a beautiful collection of period stone buildings near Sarlat, and a stylish, former mill, with a riverside setting, in Brantôme.
- All passports must be valid for six months after the end of the tour. You will also need your vehicle registration documents, driving licence (a photo-card licence or international permit is best), and an international accident statement.
- Please check with your travel and motor insurers that you are covered for travel in the required countries.
- You are also required to carry a warning triangle, first-aid kit, two fluorescent jackets, set of replacement bulbs and a national identification sticker.
- Dinner on most evenings will be a smart-casual affair, and a jacket and tie is usually expected for men.
- However, the most important requirement is that you take pleasure in motoring through fabulous scenery, and relish individual, character hotels.
Each person must have a passport (and any necessary visas for non-EU passport holders) valid for France.
Tour Book (inc UK P&P): £245