Dordogne

 

Even though the Dordogne, sometimes called 'Dordogneshire', is certainly one of the French regions the British best know, we can’t resist the pleasure of giving our own praise!


The Dordogne is also called “Périgord” as when it was a Province in the pre-revolutionary France. Périgord is divided into 4 areas, each named after its main geographical or cultural features. Up North the Périgord Vert, around the town of Nontron, owes its name to its profuse vegetation, lush meadows, wooded hills, cultivated fields and numerous rivers.

Périgord Blanc is the centre of the “département”, around the town of Périgueux and is named after the creamy colour of its limestone.

Périgord Noir surrounds the town of Sarlat and is called so because of the famous black truffles.

Périgord Pourpre is around the city of Bergerac and named so after the purple colour of its vineyard.


Further to these 4 colours Périgord (and the Dordogne) could be described after three other main characteristics that are a rich culture and history, a wonderful nature and peaceful landscapes and of course a renowned gastronomy.

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A rich culture and history

The Dordogne has been appealing to mankind since Prehistory and thus shelters many prehistoric sites. The Vezère Valley is one of France UNESCO World Heritage site thanks in particular to the Lascaux cave in Montignac where the first forms of prehistoric art were developed from Cro Magnon to Magdalenian man.
Much later, men turned to more comfortable dwellings than caves since more than 1,000 castles are located in Dordogne. Many are opened to the public which guarantees weeks of visits if one wants to see them all. History is even palpable through their architecture. As a mater of fact, the Dordogne river marked the frontier between the English Kingdom and the French Kingdom during the Hundred Years’ War and many castles such as Castelnaud or Beynac-et-Cazenac were built on strategic settlements overlooking the river in order to keep an eye on the enemy. Some other castles offer a more gentle architecture and purpose than the formidable fortresses of Castelnaud and Beynac, such as the Castle of Jumilhac and its Sleeping Beauty charms, the Castle of Puyguilhem and its Loire-Valley style, the Castle of Hautefort and its noble looks and Marqueysac with its wonderful overhanging landscape gardens to name but a very few. To the visit of castles one could add the visit of numerous abbeys and churches.
Dordogne is praised for its many lovely and quaint villages, unspoilt mediaeval towns, picturesque bastides, many of them classified among the most beautiful villages of France. We can here list only a few: the tiny villages of Montferrand du Périgord, Saint Léon sur Vezère, Saint Amand de Coly, Saint Jean de Côle and its dolls house charm, La Roque Gageac and its impressive location, and the bastides town of Eymet, Beaumont de Périgord and the beautiful Monpazier (built by the English!). As for the main towns of Sarlat and Périgueux they are classified among the ‘Towns of Art and History’ with Périgueux counting no less than 39 Historic Monuments and offering one of the largest conservation area in France, while perfectly preserved Sarlat boasts tiny streets of golden stone, timbered houses, mediaeval mansions, lauze stone roofs in a carfree yet bustling with life centre.
 

A wonderful nature and peaceful landscapes

In reference to its prehistoric past the Dordogne is called the “mankind land”, which is doubly justified by the fact that it offers a gentle climate, a soft landscape, plenty of natural resources such as rivers and forest, a rich soil for agriculture, therefore an ideal location for men to settle.

Rivers (Dordogne, Vézère, Isle, Dronne, Auvézère…) are an important part of the heritage because they have played a major role in the transport of goods and in the production of energy in the past. Now they are popular for leisure activities which are one of the first sources of income of the area.

The Natural Regional Park of Périgord-Limousin is spread over 1,800 km2 and is perfect for hiking and observing a rare flora and fauna. Other natural wonders, guided by the hand of man this time, are to be found in the 33 parks and gardens, 14 of which have been awarded the “jardin remarquable” label. These gardens are very different in tone and atmosphere, ranging from the Classical-style gardens of the Manoir d’Eyrignac, listed as a Historical Monument, to the formal gardens at the Château d’Hautefort, the romantic hanging gardens at Marqueyssac, or more contemporary gardens such as the Jardins de l’Imaginaire in Terrasson.