Day 1 Saturday - Arriving
in the Dordogne
Transfer from Angouleme Rail
Station to Les Eyzies. We stay at Le Moulin de la Beune, one of
the highlights of our entire tour. This delightful hotel sits on
the banks of the river Beune just upstream from where the Beune
joins the Vézère.
Les Eyzies is a small village of
900 people but it styles itself the Capital of Prehistory - and
with some justification. As
well as the National Museum of Prehistory, Les
Eyzies boasts the settlement of Cro
Magnon, where the first example of homo sapiens, or thinking
man, was discovered. Nearby is the oldest sculpture in the
world, a 20,000 year-old fish at the Abri de Poisson, and the
Font de Gaume, site of some of the most important cave-paintings
in the world. The paintings
of Bison and Deer at Font de Gaume are the only polychromatic
paintings still open to the public anywhere in the world, and
visits are strictly limited.
Day 2 - Sunday
Today we follow the Vézère to
Limeuil where it meets the Dordogne. Limeuil is a beautiful
bastide town, and where the rivers meet is a great place for a
swim. This morning we can
visit the Goufrre de Proumeyssac. This cave was uninhabited, and
lies up a pretty impressive hill.
In the afternoon we follow the
Dordogne along quiet roads and pass the Châteaux of Beynac and
Castelnaud facing each other across the Dordogne. Fans of Josephine
Baker can visit her old home at the Château des Milandes.
We finish the day at Beynac, a
picturesque village beside the Dordogne dominated by its castle
set on a cliff 500 feet above. The castle was once the seat
The Lionheart and is well worth a look.
At the Hostellerie Maleville you
meet the Maleville family. The food here is very traditional - a
superb introduction. 35
miles / 56 Km
Day 3 - Monday - Our
First Big Climb
Today we pass La
Roque Gageac, an amazing town built into the side of a cliff
beside the Dordogne, rated as the third site in France and
originally built as a prehistoric fort. WE then head uphill to
Domme sits 450 feet above the
Dordogne and has famous panoramic views of the river. Known as
the 'Acropolis of the Périgord', Domme was a key battleground
in both The
Hundred Years War and The wars of Religion.
It is still surrounded by a
medieval wall, and is one of the best preserved of all the
Bastide towns. It was used to imprison the Knights
Templar in the 14th century and on top of all this is the
site of some interesting limestone caves.
From Domme to Payrac we go
cross-country on tiny roads. We
pass an ostrich and emu farm that sells foie
gras - and several million tobacco plants. Today is a short
day - 25 miles - but the hardest day of the week. The swimming
pool and sauna at Payrac are welcome and well-deserved.
miles / 48 Km
Day 4 - Tuesday - Rocamadour
and the Gouffre de Padirac
Today we leave behind the lush
valleys and climb onto the limestone causses on the way to Rocamadour.
The terrain is a real contrast of arid volcanic plateau, and
Rocamadour is one of the most spectacular towns in France,
clinging to the side of a cliff hundreds of feet above the Alzou
Gorge. The town developed around the site of a 13th century
hermitage, and is now ranked as the second site in France.
The afternoon is easier than this
morning's climb, and we have the chance to visit the Gouffre
de Padirac, a massive cavern leading to an underground river
and spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations..
By now it is usually early
evening, and a 5-mile cycle ride brings us to the Hotel Lou
Cantou in Loubressac. Loubressac
sits on the edge of the Causses, and we get beautiful views
across both the Dordogne and Bavé valleys. 26
miles / 42 Km
Day 5 - Wednesday - Spectacular
Downhill, and a Wonderful Picnic
There is an excellent downhill
cycle ride into the small town of St Céré, and two Wednesdays
each month there is a great food market here - great for picnic
fare. Out of St Céré we pass the huge and ruined castle at
Castelnau and arrive back at the Dordogne. We follow the
Dordogne downstream to Carrenac, rated by some as the most
beautiful village on the Dordogne, and a great place for a
After Carrenac the road twists
and turns as it follows the Dordogne, we cross the river a
couple of times and pass the spot where the underground river
from the Gouffre de Padirac enters the Dordogne. We pass several
minor châteaux on our way to Gluges, where the pool catches the
late afternoon sun and offers a perfect end to the day. 27
miles / 44 Km
Day 6 - Thursday
This stretch of the Dordogne cuts
right through the limestone causses offering spectacular gorges
and cliffs. Our route criss-crosses the river using back-roads
to avoid some hills, but nearly everybody misses the first
stretch altogether, opting to canoe downstream to Pinsac. This
stretch of the river is home to kingfishers and herons.
After lunch we follow tiny
backroads from Souillac to Sarlat-la-Caneda,
entering the town on a cycle path built on a disused railway.
Our hotel is the Renoir, close to
the heart of 'Vieux Sarlat'. Sarlat is so well preserved that it
rates 3*** from Michelin.
Tonight we enjoy probably the finest gourmet food of the week -
and certainly the finest desserts - at Les Quatres Saison.
miles / 61 Km
Day 7 - Friday
This is the last day of our
cycling holiday, so we've put in a couple of hills - including
the hardest of the week. Once we leave Sarlat we turn onto tiny
country roads that lead to the hilltop town of Marquay and
beautiful views across the Vézère and Beune valleys.
Descending to the Vézère we've
arrived back in prehistory territory. We pass the Abri
de Cap Blanc with it's sculptures on the way to the amazing
prehistoric fort at La
Roque St Christophe. This village was carved out of
overhanging galleries in a 900 metre limestone cliff. It was
continuously inhabited from 50,000 BC until the 16th century.
There are records of the
settlement in Roman accounts - although they never managed to
capture it - and also in 16th century government record in Paris
where details of the fireplaces were kept to levy 'hearth
taxes'. You can identify the church, rings cut in the roofs to
hang food, and even safes and water stores.
Les Eyzies is another 5 miles,
and we may have the chance to visit le Font
de Gaume to round off a real prehistory day. Sadly, this is
the end of our cycling holiday in the Dordogne, and we have
definitely earned a beer or several sat at Le
Moulin de la Beune on the banks of the Beune33
miles / 53 Km
Day 8 - Saturday
Transfer to Angouleme Rail Station.