Holiday cottages with pools in Dordogne

A beautiful wooded pastoral landscape, pretty honey-coloured villages clinging to their hillsides and historic treasures as far back as world famous cave paintings, there’s so much to see and do whilst staying at one of our holiday cottages with pools in Dordogne. Here’s our guide to the Top 10 Things to See and Do in the region.

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1 Take to the waters
The region is dissected by a number of rivers ideal for exploration by canoe or one-man kayak. Drifting gently downstream through a watery landscape while kingfishers skim the waters ahead – what could be more sublime? Canoe and kayak hire is available from riverside centres throughout the area; clients are transported upstream to their chosen starting point and itineraries ranging from a few kilometres in length to a full day out are offered with something to suit everyone, from families and novices to experienced paddlers.

2 View priceless art
The thrill of gazing upon a prehistoric handprint is indescribable; in a split second viewer and creator share a connection spanning thousands of years. The Dordogne’s limestone caverns conceal priceless treasures dating back to a time when woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers roamed this region. Working by torchlight deep below ground, artists painted images of their prey adapting the natural bumps and hollows in the rock to enhance their work. Their handprints were left possibly as signatures, or perhaps symbols of their power over nature. Some of the world’s most significant cave art was discovered, in 1940, at Lascaux in the Vezere Valley. Sadly, the original chambers are now closed to the public in order to preserve the pictures, but a faithful reproduction can be visited nearby. At Peche Merle, near Cabrerets, in the Cele Valley, visits are still possible; advance booking is recommended as a daily limit on numbers is imposed to prevent contamination. At Les Eyzies, near Sarlat, the National Museum of Prehistory contains the largest collection of prehistoric objects in the world. The nearby Grotte de Rouffignac is famous for its woolly mammoths; again, visitor numbers here are carefully controlled.

3 Check out the local castle
The region can boast a wide range of historic chateaux originally built for defensive purposes. With their fairytale towers, many have been put to new use in the modern age; the Chateau de Fenelon has served as a film set and Monbazillac forms the centrepiece of a fine wine estate. Many, like Beynac and Bourdeilles, occupy rocky outcrops above rivers offering fine viewpoints over the surrounding countryside; most contain collections of furniture and art and are open to the public for viewing.

4 Visit the ‘hanging’ gardens
The Dordogne is home to a number of charming gardens open to the public, with the Jardins de Marqueyssac perhaps the most delightful. Here, over the past hundred years, thousands of box bushes have been meticulously pruned into exotic shapes. The overall effect is stunning at any time of day, but especially so on Thursday evenings during July and August when the cliff-top site overlooking the Dordogne valley is illuminated by candles.

5 Go shopping
Sarlat’s famous market has been renowned for its food since Medieval times. Any holiday in the region would be incomplete without a trip to the outdoor market which takes over the town centre on Saturdays (a smaller market is held on Wednesdays and there is a daily covered market also.) Local produce is the main attraction here, although non-food items are also on sale. Look out for walnuts, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, mushrooms of every kind, and all kinds of cooked and preserved foods from local producers. The aromas are wonderful.

6 Follow in pilgrims’ footsteps
Perched high on its cliff-top above the Alzou gorge Rocamadour is a breathtaking sight at any time of day, but especially so when lit by the morning sun. Entry is gained through one of two fortified gateways into the village; the main street lined with buildings of Medieval origin wends its way up to a collection of chapels and the basilica of St-Sauveur crowning the summit – well worth the climb for the views and to marvel at the skills of those who built it into the rock.

7 Stroke the goats
Everything you ever wanted to know about goats is explained on a (free) visit to La Borie d’Imbert farm which produces small, round ‘cabecous’ cheeses bearing the prized Rocamadour appellation. There’s an opportunity to get up close to these friendly animals; springtime visitors may be lucky enough to see newly-born kids. The region is renowned for its produce and is home to many artisan goat’s cheese producers like La Borie who sell their wares at local markets; many offer visits – look out for signs along the road or ask at the Tourist Information office.

8 Monkey around
The Foret des Singes, near Rocamadour, offers fun for all the family as visitors are free to wander through the grounds among the monkeys, feeding them by hand. The attraction is home to more than 100 Barbary Apes; freedom to roam allows them to express natural behaviours which guides are on hand to explain.

9 Sniff around Sorges
This pretty village claims to be the truffle capital of Perigord and has its own museum dedicated to the pursuit of this exclusive mushroom. Discover how dogs are trained to sniff out the delicacy in the local woods and test your own sense of smell – then savour the potato-shaped fungus in a local eaterie.

10 Spot the crop
This controversial crop has long been grown in the area, contributing to its rural economy. Though French tobacco is no longer used in cigarettes destined for the European market the plants, with their broad, green leaves can still be spotted in the fields. With its wide range of artefacts, the Museum of Tobacco in Bergerac explores the social history of tobacco and is open from April to the end of September.