Dordogne visits off the beaten track

VISITORS to the Dordogne have a multitude of discoveries to make, but if you are here in July and August then slow moving lines of traffic and crowds of people in many of the popular stops are things you have to endure.

> check out some of the hotels in Villefranche-du-Périgord

But what if you wanted to go somewhere a little off the beaten? Places that are a little quieter, give you a chance to breath or experience a dash of real French life.

Here is a pick of places to visit in the southern reaches of the Dordogne.

Urval

You will experience a sense of the real Périgord in Urval. With its medieval fortified church, and a 14th century communal bread oven, you will have a sense of having travelled through time.

Above the bread oven you will see the shelving for the loaves, and stretch your neck up high to get a sense of the presence the church must have once enjoyed.

There are a number of sign-posted walks that will take you up the hillsides offering views over this ‘hidden gem’.

Villefranche-du-Périgord

Of course I am biased as this is my local village, but it is a real Dordogne village which is a little rough around the edges, but retains its sense of the countryside.

In Villefranche-du-Périgord there is a tourist office and small museum about the cèpe mushroom and chestnut, noting its importance to the region.

But take a stroll on the south side of the village in the morning and you get a sense of the village’s bastide roots which date back to 1261.

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Loubejac night market

Another local favourite, and whilst some nights you might think half the Dordogne has turned up, again it is another place where you get a sense of French life and not the tourist trappings.

Loubejac night market

Local producers turn up every Thursday evening in July and August to offer duck, breads, soups, salads, wine, fruits of all types and you can sit down with friends to enjoy a leisurely evening under Loubejac’s church tower.

Remember to bring your own knives and forks. And even if you can’t make it head up to Loubejac for a stunning view across the southern tip of the Dordogne.

Road north out of Sarlat

If you can escape the crowds of Sarlat, then a few kilometres out of the town you will be able to enjoy a beautiful view over the woods of the Périgord Noir, find it on the D704 road north out of Sarlat (map).

Across a full 180 degrees look east and take in the Dordogne countryside, and if you keep an eye open you can spot one or two fine examples of a lauze roof, with its distinctive large, flat stones.

Château de Bonaguil

A small step over the border into the Lot-et-Garonne for one of the region’s most striking castles, often bypassed by those heading to the likes of Baynac and Castelnaud on the river Dordogne.

Château de Bonaguil is worth a visit for its dramatic setting and its variety of building techniques and features, with its foundations dating from the 13th century all the way through to its partial destruction during the Revolution.

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Its walls feature medieval graffiti, there are caves, defensive structures designed for sharpshooters and if you get to the top of the keep, shaped like a ship, a view over the surrounding countryside.

And it is worth walking down to the surrounding village for a great photographic view of Bonaguil, as well as a refreshing ice cream.

Zadkine Museum

If I can stay just outside the Dordogne, this time in the Lot, then I have often taken friends to the Zadkine Museum which features the work of sculptor Ossip Zadkine, at Les Arques.

Here you will see a variety of pieces, from small examples of his metalwork to towering wooden sculptures worked from trees dragged from the surrounding woods.

Les Arques is a lovely village to stroll around, it also has a small artists communal centre that features events during the summer.

But the real secret is a couple of kilometres away, pick up the key for the Église St Andre which was brought back to life by Zadkine in the 1950s and features remarkable frescoes from the late 15C – it is a mystical place.

I dropped in on the Zadkine museum, in Les Arques, the Lot and took some photographs of this magical place.

Filature de Belvès

I think a visit to the Filature de Belvès, or woollen mill, is worth your time just for what they are trying to do, and that is tell the story of a once important trade in the Dordogne.

The mill was working until the 1990s, and has a long history, but it is only recently that volunteers have looked to bring the machinery and some of the techniques back to life.

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Animated guides offer up detailed information on how the mill worked, and you can also take a gentle stroll around the surrounding ponds, busy with wildlife.

> check out some of the hotels in Villefranche-du-Périgord

Last Updated on 23 July, 2023.

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Categorised as Tourism

By Craig McGinty

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