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Unmissable driving routes in the Dordogne Valley
Each road trip offers a route through the diverse landscapes of the Valley and the simply stunning villages that lie near the Dordogne river that meanders through it. The routes also highlight some of the most famous sites in the Dordogne Valley including Rocamadour, Padirac and some of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France” including Carennac, Loubressac, Autoire and Collonges-la-Rouge.
ROUTE ONE: WATER AND STONE
83 km, round trip circuit, half day, full day with visits
Explore these small roads that run along the Dordogne river, punctuated by steep limestone cliffs and charming villages, with castles perched overlooking them.Do not miss the fairytale-like medieval village of Martel, the basilica of the Sainte-Marie Abbey in Souillac-sur-Dordogne, the ancient cloisters of Carennac, or the UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage site of Rocamadour. Visit the famous caves of Padirac and take an underground boat trip - Unreal!
Leave from Rocamadour - UNESCO World Heritage site
- Alvignac : An ancient thermal spa town, with a Casino (remember this if you want to come back for a flutter another evening!)
- Miers : Source of natural spring waters with medicinal qualities
- Le Gouffre de Padirac : Open since 1899 and one of the largest chasms in Europe, descend into the earth to take an extraordinary boat trip on a subterranean river, 103 metres underground.
- Carennac : One of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’. 11th century abbey with cloister and the Romanesque church of Saint Pierre set in the most stunning of villages.
- Floirac : A tiny Dordogne village, stop off for a bite to eat and a Belgian beer here.
- Gluges : Nestled below magnificent limestone cliffs, a great place to stop beside the river with a pretty beach.
- Martel : Known as the village of Seven Towers, this medieval charmer is like something out of a fairytale book. Fantastic restaurants too.
- Souillac-sur-Dordogne : Visit the renowned Abbey church of Sainte-Marie, check out the unusual museum of automata (Musée des Automates) or indulge in some tasting at the plum brandy distillery (Musée de la Vieille Prune).
- Pinsac : A pretty village by the river
- Meyraguet : Pay a visit to the Romanesque church there, part of the Historic Monuments
- The Grottes de Lacave : Descend into the magnificent caves of Lacave in an electric train. An impressive cave system with beautiful rock pools and limestone formations.
Return to Rocamadour
ROUTE TWO : HISTORIC AND SCENIC OUTLOOKS
50 km, round trip circuit, half day, full day with visits
Leave from Bretenoux
Begin at the charming 13th century Bastide town of Bretenoux, on the banks of the Cère and Dordogne rivers
- Prudhomat : The fortified 14th medieval Château de Castelnau. Restored by the famous French Opera Tenor- Jean Mouliérat – in the early 20th century. Spectacular views over the valley from its hilltop position
- Gintrac : Village dominated by the ruins of the Taillefer castle. Simply stunning views of the valley with lovely walks.
- Carennac : Along with 21 of the Dordogne Valley's other villages, Carennac is classified as one of the 'Most Beautiful Villages of France' with and Abbey offering a slice of medieval history.
- Loubressac : Just up the road another one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’. Fantastic panoramic views over the valley from the scenic lookouts of this hilltop village.
- Autoire : Three in a row! This village is also classed in the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’ category. Gorgeous town and a great place to stop for lunch. A lovely walk to the 30 metre high waterfall. Follow the D673; at the crossroads turn left twice towards St Céré (D807). Also walking trails along the rock clifftops such as the cirque d’Autoire.
- Presque : Grottes de Presque - A lovely cave with stalagmites 8-10 metres high.
- Saint Jean-Lespinasse : The Château of Montal, a must-see Renaissance castle. Borders a 9 hole golf course. Also nearby the château, a Michelin starred restaurant Les 3 Soleils.
- Saint-Céré : Saint-Laurent-les-Tours. The towers of the Saint-Laurent-les-Tours castle loom above Saint-Céré. Magnificent views from here and a fascinating museum on the life of Jean Lurçat, a tapestry artist and former French Resistance fighter in the Second World War.
ROUTE THREE : THE CAUSSE PLATEAU
52 km, round trip circuit, half day, full day with visits
The Causse area in the Dordogne Valley is a distinctive landscape made up of limestone plateaus. It’s quite arid with rocky ground full of sparse vegetation and short grass. In many places you will see the famous Quercy sheep grazing next to low dry stone walls and rocky canyons.
The Natural Regional Park Causses du Quercy, bordering Padirac, Rocamadour and Gramat is the heart of the startling Causse landscape. It is completely different from the rolling hills and valleys in other parts of the Dordogne Valley but equally beautiful in its minimalist and austere nature.
On this road trip you will discover the UNESCO World Heritage site of Rocamadour, explore a fortified mill at Cougnaguet and visit numerous beautiful villages.
- Rocamadour : The drive begins from the ancient pilgrimage site of Rocamadour, clinging to a cliff. A must see on your trip to the Dordogne Valley.
- Moulin du Saut : From the valley, take the direction of Couzou /Cahors (D 32). From the plateau, take the first road on the left: Dolmen de Mages, Pannonie castle, towards Gramat where you join the D39. After the hamlet of Les Aspes, on the left you can go for countryside walks at the ruins of an old Mill - Moulin du Saut.
- Gramat : At the heart of the Causse region, Gramat is a pretty town with a waterpark nearby (Les Cascades du Causse). There is also an extensive animal park with 1000 European wild & domestic animals, including bears, deers and wolves : Le Parc Animalier de Gramat.
- Thégra : Stop off at the cute village of Thégra and visit the Roman church.
- Loubressac : One of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’ . The panoramic views over the Dordogne Valley from here are something else.
- Padirac : The famous Gouffre de Padirac caves are a must see on your visit to the Dordogne Valley. One of the largest chasms in Europe you can take an underground boat ride through the cave. Nearby and boarding the national regional park of the Causses du Quercy, the village of Padirac is also a starting point for some lovely walks.
- Miers : From deep underground the waters here (Source Salmière) are known for their medicinal qualities and have made this town a little bit famous as a result.
- Alvignac : A town with a casino.
- Rignac : Pretty village with typical Quercy architecture and a Romanesque church.
- Return to Rocamadour
ROUTE FOUR : THE SEGALA
67 km, round trip circuit, half day, full day with visits
On this road trip you will journey close to the foothills of the Massif Central, past wild streams and deep forests. Be sure to visit the smallest winery in the Dordogne Valley and in France - Coteaux de Glanes. Don’t let its size fool you though - they produce excellent wine here and their small batches across the range of red, rosé and white have seen their principle wines garner multiple awards over the years. You can buy direct from the vineyard and taste their range. Be sure to stock up before hitting the road again!
- Saint-Céré : The journey begins at Saint-Céré, a charming medieval town with excellent shops, restaurants, bars, cafés and a canal running through it. Visit the museum of Jean Lurçat at the Saint-Laurent-les-Tours castle and discover the fascination history of this artist and former French Resistance fighter in the Second World War.
- Frayssinhes : A tiny village in an idyllic rural setting.
- Sousceyrac : Near Lake du Tolerme, the heart of the village has some beautiful 15th and 16th century houses.
- Calviac : A charming village, nearby another - Lamativie, notable for impressive slate stone roofs.
- Teyssieu : Notable for the 13th century tower and gorgeous stone roofed houses.
- Estal : 19th century church and bell tower. Nearby, the Pech de Clédy viewpoint offers great panoramic views over the Bave Valley.
- Glanes and Coteaux de Glanes – a fantastic boutique winery (one of the smallest in France) producing quality wines way beyond its station. Wine tasting can be tried on site at the winery- Coteaux de Glanes (Coopérative des vignerons du Haut Quercy).
- Cornac : A beautiful village with an impressive 13th century church and trompe-l'oeil painting throughout.
- Saint-Michel-Loubéjou : A pretty village with many original pigeonniers (dovecotes).
Return to Saint-Céré