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The Dordogne Valley is peppered with drop-dead gorgeous villages but Autoire takes the biscuit with its beautiful location and provincial atmosphere. For romantic, old-fashioned flânerie, there's simply no other place like it...
With a population of just 350, the village of Autoire is another happy member of the 'Most beautiful Villages in France'. Nestled in the hollow of an arid cirque between Figeac and Gramat, Autoire enjoys a stunning location with majestic landscapes that border the Causses du Quercy Regional Nature Park.
The residence of local nobility
For years, the village's honey coloured stone and brown tiled roofs have harmoniously blended in with the backdrop of dramatic cliffs whilst the Romanesque Church, half-timbered houses and square pigeon-towers continue to preserve their age-old charm.
Developed in the Renaissance period, Autoire owes its nickname 'Petit Versailles' to the numerous noblemen who took up residence in tower-flanked manors like Château de Laroque-Delprat or Limargue.
Meander through the narrow lanes before heading along to the flower-decked fountain on the village square for a bite of lunch or an ice-cream.
The biggest waterfall in the Dordogne Valley
A visit to Autoire would not be complete without taking a trip to the neighbouring waterfalls. The walk up stream is suitable for most but can be rather rocky at times (so don't forget your trainers). With its shady forest and the promise of a paddle at the bottom of the 30-metre high beast, a visit to the waterfalls on a sweltering summer's day in the Dordogne is a good alternative to a lazy afternoon at the beach or by the pool.
Château des Anglais
Other walks through the cirque's rugged landscape will take you up steep slopes and past small caves or cliff-side ruins like the Château des Anglais. Built by the English in the Hundred Years' War, this extraordinary site sits perched on a cliff overlooking the valley and is in surprisingly good nick despite only the main body and one turret remaining.
If you wish to attempt the steep climb, make an early start to avoid the midday heat. If you don't, you can admire the light bounce off the golden ruined fort from below.
You can also access the castle and the top of the waterfall by parking your car in the dedicated car park at the hamlet of Siran. From there an easy path will lead you to the viewpoint and the castle. Keep a close eye on children as the track is very close a the cliff.
Fireworks in July
Every last weekend in July, visitors come from near and far to watch an amazing firework display light up Autoire's limestone cliffs at the 'Embrasement des Falaises'. This Saturday night event includes a themed cocktail and ball and tickets will set you back a couple of euros but it'll definitely be worth it (trust us on this one!).