Running stream in the Dordogne Valley - @ S. Beaufreton
From a 30m beast and a trilogy of chutes to a cascade full of legends and a waterfall-turned-water park...Here are some spectacular aquatic wonders !
There's no doubt it can sometimes get pretty warm in the South-West and most vacationers (especially the peak seasoners) happily welcome the idea of a quick cool down somewhere nice. But wouldn't it be satisfying if that cool down came in the form of a spectacular waterfall?
Whether you have to hike to see it or simply pull off on the side of the road, the region's waterfalls are another example of the amazing natural heritage of the Dordogne Valley.
The following selection of watery show-stoppers includes some of the best-known stars as well as the less acclaimed marvels that are just as equally worth the detour.
La Cascade d'Autoire
A trip to the village of Autoire would not be complete without a visit to the waterfall just 2 miles down the road. Tucked away at the head of the u-shaped valley, the 30 meter high cascade makes great picnic/paddling/photo material and offers a refreshing break from the midday heat.
There are two ways to access the site. The first is via a walking trail from the village. From the southern car park, take the road past the castle, through the woods and along the stream until you reach the waterfall. The last part is a bit of a scramble so it's not suitable for people with walking difficulties. Remember to bring some decent walking shoes and a towel in case you get splashed!
The second is from a lookout point at the top of the cirque in the hamlet of Siran. To get there, drive out of the village towards the south. After several kilometres, you'll see a signpost on the right, indicating Siran. If you follow Siran, you will find a car park situated about 500m from the gorgeous panoramic views over the village and the waterfall. It's best to see Autoire from Siran after wet weather when visitors can marvel at the hefty waterfall crashing to the valley floor.
Les Cascades de Gimel
Gimel-Les-Cascades is both the name of the beautiful waterfalls and the charming town that sits above them. These waterfalls consist of three successive cascades falling at a total height of 143 metres: Le Grand Saut (or the Big Leap which plunges 45m over three successive steps), La Redoule (which twists and drops 38m above the footbridge) and La Queue de Cheval (or Horse's Tail, the tallest of the 3-part set which plummets 60m in one stint).
Marked paths allow visitors to explore the waterfalls situated in the park. The site can be accessed by various routes. One of the relatively sportier trails will lead you along the river Mondane and down towards the entrance. The visit can be extended by following the trail upstream which will lead you back up to the village and the ruins of the old church.
Les Cascades de Lamativie
Buried in the gorges of the Cère, the Cascades de Lamativie offer a 7 km long hiking trail along a gorgeous fern-ridden stream. Picnic beside the waterfalls before diving into the crystal clear pools and shooting down the natural slides.
Companies offer canyoning trips to adventure seekers wishing to discover more of the gorge's hidden treasures and aquatic mayhem. The trail lasts around 4 hours and isn't available to under 10s. A minibus will take trekkers to the starting point and back to base after. Helmets and life jackets are provided.
Remember to bring correct foot wear (you'll be getting your feet wet) as well as a change of clothes and a drink.
Les Cascades de Murel
Listed a Natural Zone of Ecological Interest for its wealth of fauna and flora, the Cascades de Murel run through the steep, wooded gorges of Franche-Valeine where the water surges through a maze of rocks before flowing calmly into the Dordogne river.
Situated just 15 km north-west of Argentat, the site is made up of 3 successive waterfalls: Cascade de la Prade, La Grande Cascade and Les Petites Cascades. To explore these marvels, walkers can set off from Albussac or Forgès. The itinerary starting from Forgès should be more appealing to less sportier souls as well as families with young children. 5 kilometres long, the marked trail will take walkers through the stunning, unspoiled countryside up to the last waterfall.
Information on all the hiking trails available can be found at the Tourist Office in Argentat.
Les Cascades du Gouffre des Cloches
Nestled in a 700 m long canyon in Sabadel-Latronquière (halway between Saint-Céré and Figeac), this gorgeous trilogy of waterfalls is trimmed with a hiking trail that allows walkers to admire the Bervezou river and the wonderful chain of cascades surrounded by lush greenery. It's a relatively short path but demands a bit of effort to climb.
For info: The Cascades du Gouffre des Cloches (or the Cave of Bells) lends its name to the legend that the village's church bells were once thrown into one of the caves to avoid invaders from pillaging locals. So if you find them, let us know!
La Cascade de Saut Sali
In the heart of a stunning nature reserve, the 30-metre high Cascade de Saut Sali sits mastering its lush green valley. The waterfall is accessible via a marked trail that starts at a small car park just above Le Breuil (between Soursac and Mauriac on the D16) and which then runs along the Pont-Aubert river. The walk takes roughly 90 minutes there and back and is suitable for all levels.