Dordogne Activities and Things To Do On Holiday

Replica of Lascaux Caves, Montignac, Dordogne, Aquitaine, France

Chateau de Hautefort

One of the most prestigious chateaux in Southwest France, this massive historical monument high above the village was once owned by troubadour Bertrand de Born.

Acquired by the Hautefort family in the 17th century the Chateau was remodelled for Louis XIII’s secret lover Marie de Hautefort. More stylish than most stone fortresses in the Dordogne, with elegant Renaissance courtyard and formal terraced gardens offering wonderful views of the surrounding countryside; the Chateau is open daily Apr-Sept and afternoons Mar, Oct and beginning Nov. See the website for other times. There is also a dolls house museum in the village.

Pre-historic Sites

Caves in the huge limestone cliffs of the Vezere Valley between Les Eyzies and Montignac-sur-Vezere hold so many fantastic pre-historic remains the Valley has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With enough to keep even the most ardent pre-historians happy for days, visitors would do best to select just a few special sites to enjoy.  Les Eyzies provides a great base for visits and the tourist office should have details of site  opening times. Start with The Musee National de la Prehistoire in Les Eyzies, built into the cliff face which details the palaeolithic era showing the first traces of primitive man between 2 and 3 million years ago.

Lascaux II near Montignac housing faithful replicas of the world famous Lascaux caves is a definite must for any itinerary. The story goes that in 1940 four boys looking for their dog fell into the cavern which became world famous as a gallery of unmatched pre-historic animal paintings going back 17,000 years. Known as the pre-historic ‘Sistine Chapel’, Lascaux is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But the 150 fantastic black, red and ochre paintings can no longer be visited, to protect them. Today faithful replicas, along with 1,500 reproduction engravings, made with identical tools and pigments, are displayed in magical Lascaux II just 2km south of Montignac.

Grotte de Font-de-Gaume discovered in 1901 is a tunnel-like cave first used by Stone Age man in the last Ice Age. See colourful pictures of bison along with primitive artist’s materials but do book well in advance in high season as only 180 people per day are allowed in the cave. Abri du Cap Blanc is a rock shelter containing a rare pre-historic sculpted frieze of horses and bison dating from around 14,000 year ago and Grotte du Grand Roc, an underground wonderland of stunning rock formations, has its entrance  high up in the limestone cliffs.

Gouffre de Padirac

The great natural wonder of this giant limestone crater, 20km east of Rocamadour with its stalactites, waterfalls and underground lakes is deservedly a popular tourist attraction. 100m wide and 246m deep its caverns reach 15km underground. Tours are partly on foot with flat bottomed boats ferrying you down an underground river to illuminated caves including the Salle du Grande Dome - one of the highest in the world at 90m.

Les Jardins d’Eyrignac

Now designated a national monument, these gardens of the Manoir of Eyrignac form living green sculptures in box, cypress, hornbeam and yew. The formal alleys and parterres are clipped in a combination of French and Italian styles making a botantical delight yet with hardly a flower in sight. Guided tours daily throughout the year.

Bergerac Wine-Tasting

The full-bodied reds, the finest being Pecharmant, and mellow white wines from vineyards around Bergerac have been shipped from Bordeaux via Bergerac since the Middle Ages. Maison des Vins on Quai Salvette sells local wine, offers free tastings and has information on nearby vineyards. Open daily May to September, other months Tuesday to Saturday and the first Sunday, closed January. Follow the Route du Vin around Bergerac which takes in 13 appellations and over 100 growers who offer tastings.The finest sweet white wines come from around Monbazillace. The Chateau of Monbazillac has stunning views, offers free tasting with a tour of the Chateau and there is also a restaurant. Open every day (except Mon Nov-March) and closed mid Jan to mid Feb.

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