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Dordogne Castles & Caves

The Dordogne is a region immersed in the past. The caves of Lascaux are home to some of the finest examples of pre-historic art and the area is dotted with Cro-magnon caves and settlements. The area, known to the French as the Périgord, changed hands between England and France several times during the hundred years war resulting in the building of many bastides or fortified villages. The village of Rocamadour was an important waypoint for pilgrims making the long journey to Santiago de Compostella and there are many fine medieval churches along the route of our tour.

In addition to this wealth of history the area is blessed by its stunning landscapes of rivers and cliffs, hills and fields of sunflowers and tobacco. The medieval villages are built from golden limestone with the steeply pitched roofs typical of the region. The rich countryside is reflected in the cuisine of the region, famous for its duck and goose dishes, including the celebrated fois gras, its truffles and its cheeses. The area also has its own wine appellations, from the light and fruity Bergerac and Pecharmont in the north to the dark and powerful Cahors in the south.

Our itinerary has been created to show off the best of this varied and fascinating region. The rugged countryside is reflected in the itinerary , but the route has been designed to ensure that each day’s riding will be manageable (and rewarding!) for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.

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Tour highlights

  • Prehistoric art at Lascaux and Les Eyzies
  • Medieval châteaux perched above the river
  • The pilgrimage site of Rocamadour
  • Canoeing on the Dordogne
  • Superb Périgordian cuisine

Transfers

  • Pickups are from Souillac
  • Return to Brive-la-Gaillarde

Fitness levels

Moderate

Moderate

Day 1

Transfers are from Souillac. Our hotel in Meyronne overlooks the River Dordogne and here we make sure everybody is fitted with their bikes; a limbering up ride will take us to the village of Martel, with buildings dating from the thirteenth century, and seven towers giving the medieval village a distinctive skyline. Afterwards we head back downhill to the hotel where a quick swim in the pool before dinner might be enticing. Dinner is at the hotel where we will look forward to the week ahead.

Day 2

Rocamadour

Evening in Rocamadour

After following the river to the fabulous village of Carrenac, a UNESCO listed site, we leave the valley of the Dordogne and turn East onto the uplands of the Causse de Gramat, a sparsely populated limestone plateau where the only sounds are the chirruping of the cicadas and the ringing of sheep bells - the landscape a sharp contrast to the lush greens of the river valleys. Our first stop is Autoire, another contender for the 'most beautiful villages of France' award. This perfect lunch spot also benefits from a spectacular 100ft waterfall. Continuing, we reach the Gouffre de Padirac, a 75m chasm leading to a river flowing 103m underground. The underground journey is taken by boat and on foot.

After filling our waterbottles, the last leg of today's ride brings us to Rocamadour. This spectacular village on the River Alzou has been a place of pilgrimage since the 10th Century, and above the town in the hillside is the Cité Réligeuse, where there are seven chapels.

Total distance: 54km

Day 3

Heading downhill back to the Dordogne, we reach it at the Souillac, where we can visit the Romanesque Abbey-Church. The remarkable carvings on the tympanum of the ruined church are well worth a closer look.

Canoe

Canoe excursion

A few kilometres after Souillac we reach Montfort where a tight loop or cingle in the river creates a stunning vista, with the Chateau de Montfort resplendent above the river. A couple of kilometers brings us to Vitrac, where we can swap pedals for paddles to drift past châteaux on an optional canoe excursion. We’ll transfer the bikes and you will be collected downstream and transferred to our hotel in Sarlat-le-Canéda. One of the best-preserved medieval centres in France, the golden limestone used for the buildings gives the town a wonderfully warm atmosphere.

Total distance: 52km

Day 4

Chateau de Beynac

Chateau de Beynac

We stay in Sarlat tonight; this gives us plenty of time to visit the splendid weekly market in the morning, with an astounding selection of local produce, beautifully presented, and then to head off for sightseeing. Our route takes us to Medieval fortress at Beynac and then the stunning topiary of the Gardens of Marqueyssac, rounding the day off by passing along the north bank of the Dordogne through stunning riverside village of Roque Gageac on the way back to Sarlat. Tonight we dine in the heart of the medieval town.

Total distance: 42km

Day 5

Castellnaud

Castellnaud-la-Chapelle

Today is a busy day! Crossing the Dordogne, we stay on the south side of the river, climbing to visit the bastide town of Domme. The hill-top bastides were built during the 100 Years War as fortified strongholds, built in a grid pattern around a central square. Many of them changed hands several times from English to French control and back again. Rewarded by a superb descent, then following tiny roads with a panorama at every turn we come to Castelnaud-la-Chapelle with its 12th century castle, held by the English in the Hundred years war. From its battlements you can gaze across the river to the Chateau de Beynac, its French-held counterpart., standing on a cliff overlooking the village — the castle is protected by the 150 metre sheer drop to the river below.

In the afternoon we cross back to the north, following the river banks to the pretty village of Saint-Cyprien, then making our way to our hotel, a stunning converted farmstead with beautiful grounds and stupendous views; take a stroll in the countryside discovering walnut and fig trees, or just relax by the pool with a cold beer! Dinner is a home-cooked treat – really something special!

Total distance: 48km

Day 6

Lascaux

Lascaux II

Our final day in the saddle takes into the heart of prehistoric Perigord. The road leads downhill to the village of les Eyzies, where there is a wealth of prehistoric attractions includes the national Prehistory museums. The next stop on our journey is the Roque St-Christophe, a fascinating site of dwellings carved from the cliff face dating back to Roman times and beyond. After lunch we follow the River Vézère as it meanders upstream from its confluence with the Dordogne passing the beautiful Chateau de Losse, to arrive at one of the highlights of the trip, the celebrated caves of Lascaux II, where cave art representing the prehistoric civilisation of 15,000–20,000 years ago is hauntingly displayed. Afterwards we head back downhill to the village of Montignac for a coffee stop, before the last leg of our journey to the beautiful hotel in the hamlet of Coly.

Total distance: 47km

Day 7

Breakfast at the hotel is a hearty affair, and there is a chance to swap e-mail contacts before we make our way home. Returns are to Brive-la-Gaillarde.

2017 Dates & Prices

Start DatePrice†
28 May£1953
16 July£1953
20 August£1953
24 September£1953

*Prices are per person based on 2 sharing. Single room supplement £425.

†A 5% discount will apply to all bookings of 6 persons or more.

Currency

All bookings are made in GBP.

More information

“We had a great time. The food was exceptional; the guides were the best, they catered to our every need. A superb holiday.”

Carolyn Montgomery, Maine, USA.

“The Dordogne tour is a complete delight – Alan couldn’t have been a better guide.”

Margaret Miller, Victoria, Australia.

“Excellent value, great cycling routes. Can’t wait to do the next one!”

Carole Engelder, Texas, USA.

“Alan was outstanding in sorting out vegetarian meals, and for his wonderful picnics. An excellent tour, enjoyable in every aspect.”

Lea Stogdale, Manitoba, Canada.

“Dear Ruth,

“Carole and I recently returned from our Dordogne Tour and wanted to let you know that we very much enjoyed the trip – even better than lasts year's tour in Provence, though it too was heavenly. The Dordogne tour was in all respects a PERFECT holiday! Much kudos due to Alan and Chris for their attention to every detail.”

“Looking forward to more cycling holidays with FCH!

Eva Moldovanyi, Texas, USA.

La Terrasse, Meyronne

La Terrasse, Meyronne

A former Chateau, once the summer residence of the Bishops of Tulle, La Terrasse is now a comfortable 3* hotel overlooking the valley of the Dordogne, with a tempting swimming pool and a highly regarded restaurant.

Hotel Beau Site, Rocamadour

Hotel Beau Site, Rocamadour

The Beau Site was formerly the Capitanerie of the Knights of Malta in the later middle ages. Now it is a charming 3 star hotel, retaining all the history of its ancient walls. In the heart of Rocamadour, the hotel’s stunningly situated restaurant overlooks the Alzou gorge where the local specialities of Quercy lamb and Rocamadour goats cheese feature highly on the menu.

La Moussidière, Sarlat

La Moussidière, Sarlat

A typical perigourdine chartreuse (manor house) has been transformed into a beautiful hotel, set in extensive wooded grounds, minutes away from the hustle and bustle of medieval Sarlat. The 3* Moussidière has all modern amenities like wi-fi and air conditioning whilst keeping the charm of its old stonework. A swimming pool is a pleasant bonus in the heat of the summer.

La Ferme Lamy, Meyrals (St-Cyprien)

La Ferme Lamy, Meyrals (St-Cyprien)

An ancient farm complex has been painstakingly restored to provide an oasis of calm in the rolling hills of the Dordogne. A very different kind of hotel experience, after a dip in the infinity pool you will be welcomed by Michel and Christine for a home cooked dinner made with regional specialities.

Le Manoir d’Hautegente, Coly (Montignac)

Le Manoir d’Hautegente, Coly (Montignac)

A simply stunning hotel set in grounds with streams and watermills, parts of the Manoir date from the 13th Century. A gourmet restaurant complements this 4-star gem, a perfect setting to round off the tour.

It is sometimes necessary to change accommodation for reasons of room availability, minor adjustments to the route or upgrading the hotels. We will always endeavour to use hotels of an equal or higher level of comfort/facilities to those shown – please contact us to check for the most up-to-date information regarding your particular tour.