francais - gites de charmeGites de Charme -version francaisThe Dordogne Region on France

The Dordogne is one of the most beautiful regions of France and offers something for everyone.

Meyrals in the Perigord Noir - DordogneThese ancient lands were home to some of Europe's earliest settlers and the region is dotted with the traces of their pre-historic lives here. In the middle ages came the great chateaux and castles and the Perigord has more officially recognised "Plus-Beaux village de France" than any other region of the country. Add to this the wine and food that the region is famed for and the host of sporting activities available and we think you've found the perfect holiday destination.

The Heart of the Perigord

Our holiday gites are ideally situated in a valley between the Dordogne and Vezere rivers and only a short walk (less than 400 metres) from the centre of the  pretty, medieval village of Meyrals. In the village you'll find a boulangerie, bucherie, post office, restaurants/bars, a brocante, several galleries/ateliers and a small weekly, summer market.  We are 8.5 miles from Sarlat (see below) and only 3 miles from the small town of St. Cyprien which has a fantastic Sunday morning market.

Sports and Activities

Activity Holidays in the DordogneDordogne & Vezere: we are only 4 miles from these two beautiful rivers where there are plenty of opportunities for canoeing or for the less energetic, take a trip on a traditional Gabare (flat- bottomed boat).  There is also the chance of fishing either in the rivers or in local lakes.

If you prefer walking there are numerous paths and trails marked. Rambling or hiking is a popular pursuit in the area and  we can loan maps and recommend routes. The old routes to Santiago (St Jacques de Compostela) also pass through the region. This is a popular area for cycling and mountain biking. Many of the routes are also suitable for horse-riding and there are several opportunities for this too.

The region has several airparcs for young & 'young at heart', tennis, football and rugby, truffle hunting, rock climbing, cave exploration, leisure flights (micro-light and balloons) and much more.

The region also boasts several excellent golf clubs; there is even an excellent municipal Golf course in Perigueux.

Sarlat-La-Canéda

Historic Sarlat - Dordogne SW FranceWorld-famous Sarlat-La-Canéda, 15k (9 miles) from us, is the capital of the Périgord Noir and the town boasts the highest density of listed buildings in Europe. Because modern history has largely passed it by, Sarlat remained preserved and is one of the towns that most represents 14th century France. Sarlat is on France's Tentative List for future nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The centre of the old town consists of impeccably restored stone buildings and is largely car-free.

Sarlat teems with life on Saturday mornings when one of the biggest markets in the region is held. Visit on a balmy summer evening and you will be entertained by street musicians as you dine at pavement cafes.

Historical sites on the Dordogne

The many castles and bastides in the area are reminders of France's medieval history. Beynac Castle is one such sight not to be missed! You can hire a canoe or take a trip along the river in a Gabare (the traditional flat-bottomed boat) to wonder at the building feats of our ancestors. Wander the steep and narrow streets with their golden stone buildings; visit the atmospheric castle with it's stunning views and steep drops that was once taken and held by Richard the Lionheart for a decade.

From Beynac (above, right) you can look across the river to the rival fortress of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and the pretty cliff-top bastide town of Domme.   

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

Domme - Bastide Town in the Dordogne, SW FranceThis area has more beautiful villages than any other region in France, the following are all just a short distance from Le Jardin des Amis:

Belves is a medieval bastide town with a preserved 15th century covered market hall. It also has troglodyte dwellings that date from the 13th century.

Beynac, on the northern bank of the river Dordogne, is an ancient village of yellow stone buildings and narrow lanes that meander up to a wonderfully preserved château.

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle is a picturesque medieval village that sits on a rocky promontory where the  Dordogne and Cerou rivers meet. It is dominated by Château Castelnaud which was conquered by Simon de Montfort in 1214 during the crusade.

Domme is a bastide town offering stunning views across the Dordogne valley. In 1307, the Knight Templars were imprisoned here during the trial against them, and their Templar graffiti can still be seen on some walls.

La Roque-Gageac is a breathtakingly beautiful village built into the cliffs along the banks of the Dordogne river. In the 19th century, the famous gabarres (flat-bottomed boats) would pass by laden with goods. Today, visitors can embark on a leisurely gabarre river trip from here.

Limeuil, where the rivers Dordogne and Vézère meet, offers canoeing, a river beach and a pretty little village and gardens that are well worth exploring. The village is still partly surrounded by its original fortified walls.

St Léon-sur-Vézèreis on the site of an ancient Gallo-Roman villa and you can see traces of this on the side of the church. It is on the pilgrim route that led from the Abbey of Vezelay in Burgundy to the abbeys at Cadouin and Saint Avit Senieur.

The Vezere Valley and Pre-History

Pre-Historic Dordogne - Les EyziesThe Vezere valley is home to the greatest concentration of prehistoric sites in Europe. There are traces of mankind dating back 400,000 years.

Today this region is famous throughout the world and referred to as 'the cradle of mankind'. The valley contains 147 prehistoric sites and 25 decorated caves, some of which can still be visited. Fifteen of these sites are so important they have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites; including the famous Lascaux cave at Montignac.

Less than 10 minutes drive from 'Le Jardin des Amis ' is the village of Les Eyzie-de-Tayac, positioned between the Vezere river and dramatic overhanging cliffs. Here you will find, amongst others the famous Font-de-Gaume cave, the National Museum of Prehistory and the abri where Cro-Magnon man was discovered.

Caves

The caves in the area can be roughly be divided into 3 categories

    *prehistory containing cave paintings or sculpture e.g Grotte de Font de Gaume, Abri Cap Blanc

    * troglodytic e.g Roque St. Christophe, Roc de Cazelle, some were inhabited until the 20th C      

    *geological, including the Grand Roc at Les Eyzies and at Le Bugue, Gouffre de Proumeyssac

The density and variety of the crystallisations which decorate the walls of these caverns are spectacular.

Lascaux

Lascaux Prehistoric Caves - Dordogne, SW FranceThe caves of Lascaux  near Montignac (30k) are among the most famous pre-historic sites of early man. The cro-magnon people lived and hunted here, as long as thirty thousand years ago.

Although the original cave paintings are protected from the harmful effects of changes in the temperature and humidity, a centimetre perfect duplicate of the caves has been created for people to visit and marvel at.

Rocamadour

Rocamadour is one of the most visited sites in France and has been an important centre for Christianity ever since the Middle Ages. It can be very busy in summer but makes an interesting day out.

Rocamadour - One of the Most visited sites in FranceThe holy city clings to the steep rocky cliffs, displaying layer upon layer of houses and chapels. Down from the castle which crowns this construction, there is a sheer drop of some 150 metres. The basilica of Saint-Sauveur and the crypt of Saint-Amadour, both featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The jewel of the sanctuary is kept in the Chapel of Miracles, one of eight chapels built against the rocks. It is the Black Madonna, which has been worshipped here for over a thousand years.


Wine and Vineyards

Monbazillac, Bergerac, Dordogne - Vineyards in SW FranceWhilst maybe not as famous as our near neighbour in Bordeaux, the Dordogne nonetheless has a number of world class wines and a visit to a local vineyard, including tour & tasting, can be arranged if wished.

Built in the middle of the XVIth century on top of the hill overlooking the pleasant valley of Bergerac, Château de Monbazillac harmoniously combines feudal military architecture and the elegant early Renaissance style.

For wine buffs the vineyards of Saint-Émilion's are an easy day trip away. Saint-Émilion's history goes back to prehistoric times and is also a World Heritage site, with fascinating Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets. The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. The town was named after the monk Émilion and it was the monks who followed him that started up the commercial wine production in the area.

Gastronomy

Regional Produce on the Perigord, SW FranceTruffles are the ‘black gold’ of the Périgord and foie gras is also a regional speciality. Duck (magret or confit de canard) and goose are the traditional staples of most restaurants and oil pressed from locally grown walnuts is the basis of many local salads.

For keen shoppers it is possible to visit at least one different village market everyday of the week and discover and sample regional produce. You can also visit the walnut oil mill, the foie gras farms or even go on a truffle hunt in a neighbouring village.

Gardens

Chateau de Marqueyssac - Dordogne, SW FranceVisit the gardens at the Chateau de Marqueyssac for wonderful views over the Dordogne valley. All paths through the gardens lead to the 130m high Belvedere which allows a unique view of Roque-Gageac with it's huge overhanging cliff. The adventurous can try the 'via ferrata' rock traverse - free entry with your garden ticket!

An evening visit can be made in high season when the gardens are illuminated and live music adds to the festive feel.

The French-style gardens of the Manoir d'Eyrignac are considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in France. They were created in the 18th century, and were turned into an English-style garden in the 19th century.

Art                                         

Pascal Magis Gallery - Meyrals Dordogne FranceMeyrals has more than its fair share of excellent artists and sculptors drawn here by the relaxing beauty and underlying energy in the area. It is always possible to browse around their ateliers: many have prints for sale as well as original pieces.

Meyrals was also home to internationally renowned artist Pascal Magis who died in 2011. His atelier is now changed into a gallery displaying the work of varied artists as well as his own.

Festivals and Events

If you're looking for art, drama, theatre or music the Dordogne doesn't disappoint. In the summer, many towns and villages host night markets with live music and interesting food stalls. Art and craft exhibitions continue into the autumn months, while the Christmas markets enable artisans to display their works.

There are major events such as the Souillac Jazz Festival, Sarlat has a summer theatre festival with open air productions in the centre of town. Perigueux has it's Festival of Mime and Sarlat also hosts a major film festival in November.

Bsatille Day - Perigueux, Dordogne, FranceIn spring and autumn there are hundreds of plant and flower festivals; in summer, some châteaux host medieval games and re-enact famous battles from their history.

At Château des Milandes, birds of prey are often on display in high summer.