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Great Escapes for Discerning Drivers

Dordogne

3 May 2019 - 13 May 2019

Enjoy a wonderful tour to France, to the beautiful Dordogne region, exploring the fabulous gorges and valleys that make this area such a favourite. Indulge in rich food, an even richer history, whilst enjoying the chateau-studded countryside and pretty villages. Drive down to the Dordogne via Cognac and visit the famous Courvoisier cognac house. This tour will take you to the very best of the Dordogne region, staying at three wonderful hotels. Explore the beautiful town of Sarlat and its popular market. Visit some of the most beautiful villages of the region, including Beynac, Domme & Rocamadour. Learn history with a visit of the National Prehistory Museum and the Lascaux IV cave – for France’s finest prehistoric cave art, although there are plenty of examples in the caverns and rock shelters of the Vézère Valley. The return journey will include an overnight stop in the Loire Valley, renowned for its fairytale châteaux.

Part of the historic area that was called Aquitaine, its strategic importance through the ages is illustrated by the many bastides (fortified towns) and fortresses throughout. Today it’s known to the French as the Périgord, and is divided into four colour-coded areas: Périgord Pourpre (purple) for the winegrowing regions around Bergerac; Périgord Noir (black) for the dark oak forests around the Vézère Valley and Sarlat-la-Canéda; Périgord Blanc (white) after the limestone hills around the capital, Périgueux; and Périgord Vert (green) for the forested regions of the north.

Highlights

  • Visit the Courvoisier cognac house
  • See the incredible Lascaux cave paintings
  • Potter around pretty towns & villages including Sarlat, Rocamadour, Domme, Beynac and Brantome
  • Discover the four Perigord regions
  • Wander around the beautiful, manicured gardens of Marqueyssac and Eyrignac Manor
  • Experience the gourmet extravaganza of Sarlat’s market, with truffles, foie gras, walnuts and wines
  • See the troglodyte dwellings
  • Explore the Chateaux of Castelnaud & Beynac among others
  • See the incredible Lascaux Caves II
Route map
Price: €3,150 euros per person, sharing
Starts: 3 May 2019
Duration: 10 nights
Mileage: 1,300 miles

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What's Included?

  • Superb luxury hotel accommodation for 9 nights (4&5 star hotels)
  • Outbound overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo with Club or Commodore cabins
  • Return evening ferry from Caen to Portsmouth, with reserved seating
  • Fabulous breakfast each morning
  • Three-course dinner on eight evenings, with wine (half bottle per person)
  • Tour Book – includes a brief history of the region, route maps and comprehensive directions, and a detailed account of everything there is to do, see and visit each day.
  • Road atlas, rally plate, luggage tag, pen/highlighter, windscreen sticker
  • Accompanied by experienced & friendly tour director, Sarah Dowding & assistant
  • Services of our tour mechanic, Joe Coleman of Oldtimer Services, to keep you on the road

Itinerary

May be subject to change.

Day 1: 3 May 2019

For those leaving from the UK, depart from Portsmouth on the overnight sailing to St Malo, with Brittany Ferries. Commodore and club cabins with sea view are booked for your comfort. There will be a welcome dinner on board.

Day 2: 4 May 2019 210 miles

Arrive in St Malo at 08.15 in the morning 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 on the Atlantic coast at Les Sables d’Olonne at a fabulous spa hotel. Dinner is included.

Day 3: 5 May 2019 202 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.

Stay for the next two nights in a most beautiful 16th-century chateau near Bergerac. Dinner is included on both evenings, at the Michelin-starred restaurant and at the brasserie.

Day 4: 6 May 2019 75 miles

Enjoy a circular tour on some great driving on lovely, quiet roads, through some really pretty scenery. Visit the gorgeous and famous wine village of St Emilion, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a really pretty little town and a warren of steep, 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!

Return to the chateau for dinner in the Michelin-starred restaurant

Day 5: 7 May 2019 76 miles

Drive east, along the Dordogne River to Sarlat-la-Caneda. Visit the Château of Monbazillac and enjoy more wonderful driving. 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 three nights in a gorgeous hotel to the south of Sarlat. Dinner is included this evening.

Day 6: 8 May 2019 101 miles

Yet another glorious day of driving. Start with a visit to Sarlat as it’s market day and the market here is synonymous with all things gourmet: foie gras, confit du canard, truffles, walnuts, and other divine local delicacies.

Then enjoy a route taking you through some exquisitely pretty villages and beautiful countryside, with visits to the Chateau de Puymartin and the Cabanes de Breuil, single storey stone bories. Discover the prehistoric caves at Abri du Cap-Blanc, with its superb Paleolithic frieze sculpture. There are also some other excellent caves to visit before returning to the hotel. Dinner is at leisure.

Day 7: 9 May 2019 116 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 underground 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 8: 10 May 2019 94 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 9: 11 May 2019 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 10: 12 May 2019 202 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 and a final farewell dinner is included.

Day 11: 13 May 2019 154 miles

Head to Caen for the return ferry to the UK. The ferry departs at 16.30 and arrives in Portsmouth at 21.30.

Accommodation

We have carefully selected and hand-picked a variety of stunning hotels for your utmost comfort and enjoyment. Each hotel we are staying in is brimming with character. Start with a superb spa hotel on France’s Atlantic coast, before spending two nights at a gorgeous chateau near Bergerac. Stay for three nights a beautiful hotel of the edge of the Dordogne river, just south of Sarlat, and then another two nights in a stylish, former mill, with a riverside setting, in Brantôme. The return journey north will be at a beautiful chateau in the Loire Valley.

As with all our tours, all the hotels have suitable parking for your car.

What’s Excluded

  • Two evening meals – suggestions will be made for places to eat
  • All lunches, snacks and drinks (other than stated)
  • Fuel and associated vehicle costs
  • Entry into attractions or activities (other than stated)

Requirements

  • 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 international insurance cover.
  • 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.
  • Each person must have a passport (and any necessary visas for non-EU passport holders) valid for France.

Pricing

Price is per person, based on two people sharing a twin or double room, ferry cabin and car. Please enquire about single occupancy.
€3,150 euros per person
Upgrade to Commodore Cabin on outbound sailing: extra £55 per person

Price without the ferry is €2,990 per person

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