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Great Escapes for Discerning Drivers

Dordogne

Independent Tour

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 Hennessy 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 Caves – 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 Hennessy in Cognac
  • 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
Route map
Price: Tour Book Price: £195 incl UK P&P
Duration: 10 nights
Mileage: 1,300 miles

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Itinerary

May be subject to change.

Day 1:

For those leaving from the UK, depart from Portsmouth on the overnight sailing to St Malo, with Brittany Ferries.

Day 2: 207 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 at 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. Enjoy dinner in the restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 3: 191 miles

Head south, past La Rochelle and into the Cognac region. The journey south is through some of the loveliest countryside in France, sticking to little-known D-roads with precious little traffic. Stop in Cognac to visit Hennessy or another cognac house, one of the most famous cognac producers, and a chance to spend some time pottering around the pretty town.

Stay for the next two nights in a most beautiful 16th-century chateau near Bergerac, with a Michelin-starred restaurant and a brasserie.

Day 4: 72 miles

Enjoy a circular tour on quiet roads, through some pretty scenery. Visit the gorgeous and famous wine village of St Emilion, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a lovely little town with 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: 80 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.

Day 6: 79 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. Sarlat’s well-preserved medieval architecture of beautiful 15th & 16th-century houses in a mellow, honey-coloured stone makes this a really delightful town.

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.

Day 7: 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 the town of Souillac, 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 wonderful villages of Carrenac and Loubressac to Padirac. Visit the Gouffres de Padirac, an underground cavern and river system that can be explored by boat. Then drive 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 a bucolic idyll filled walnut trees, orchards and geese.

Day 8: 94 miles

Leave Carsac and drive to Montignac to see 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 a beautiful hotel near 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 and Michelin-star restaurant. The rooms are beautifully decorated and the food is just exquisite.

Day 9: 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 the hotel.

Day 10: 200 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 overlooking the Loire River.

Day 11: 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.

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.

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Tour Price

Tour Book is £195 for a printed, wire-bound copy incl UK P&P