Road trip through the Dordogne Valley and Haut Quercy

Photo by Paul Shawcross

See Moorland, a cave, a pilgrimage site and a glimpse of Piaf in Haut Quercy

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The Haut Quercy is a fascinating and a ‘must-see’ French region especially when based in the neighbouring (but quite different) Dordogne.

One of the main attractions is Rocamadour. As you climb the steps to the Abbey church, it is easy to imagine medieval pilgrims like Eleanor of Aquitaine doing the same.

After the bustle of Rocamadour, the itinerary takes you on to peaceful riverside villages and offers the possibility of a steam train ride. You will pass nearby where the Gauls fought Julius Caesar before you pitch up at an amazing cavern.

The itinerary also takes you over the arid but beautiful Causse de Gramat, down into the Dordogne valley and back up on the Causse once more. Expect it to be very busy (and hot) during July and August, especially around Rocamadour, which is why you need to get here early.

It can be done in a day but I recommend at least two days — especially to spend more time at Rocamadour and visit the Gouffre de Padirac.

The Haut Quercy Itinerary

Start at Rocamadour. This amazing, world renowned pilgrimage site is well signposted and can be reached via the D973 from either direction.

Rocamadour is best viewed and visited as early as you possible in the morning. Stop at L’Hospitalitet and from the belvedere you will get a stunning view of the village and ecclesiastical buildings. You can easily spend the morning here. Children will love the nearby Forét des Singes and the Rocher des Aigles.

Piaf was here

Then head east on the D673 for 4km and turn left on the D840 for 11km, crossing the Dordogne, until you see a sign for Gluges and Creysse. Turn left, park and walk into Gluges a pretty hamlet associated with the legendary Edith Piaf.

Drive further along the D43 and the D23 for 4.5km following the signs for Creysse. Enjoy a quiet stroll around this haven and admire its double-apsed church. Return along the D23 for 7 km following the signs for Martel (and ignoring Gluges).

===> Explore more local itineraries via the RELATED links below.

Martel and the Truffadou

Martel is known as the town of seven towers. Many believe it was named after Charles Martel the so-called ‘hammer’ of the Moors. A ride on the local tourist railway, ‘Le Truffadou’, is a great experience.

You’ll find several hotels at Martel or nearby in the Haut-Quercy. Or stay further into the itinerary near Bretenoux and St Céré.

Continue eastwards along the D803 in the direction of Vayrac for 10.5km. As you are nearing Vayrac, you will pass the rocky outcrop of Puy d’Issolud or Uxellodunum. This is where the last stand of the Gauls took place against the might of Julius Caesar. Nothing can be seen today, so it isn’t worth climbing the hill, but there is an excellent museum in Vayrac.

Continue on the D803 for a further 12.5km and you reach the interesting little bastide of Bretenoux. Nearby, don’t miss the splendid red sandstone Château Castelnau-Bretenoux. Return to the D803 and follow the signs for St-Céré where you can stroll round the interesting historical centre. Note the Towers of St Laurence’s castle above the town.

Plus beaux villages and an underground lake

The final leg of this itinerary involves passing along the Bavé valley and back up onto the Causse de Gramat. As you leave St-Céré you will pass Chateau de Montal. Check out the sad story. From St-Jean-Lespinasse follow the D38 to the plus beau village of Autoire. Then head for its sister Plus Beau Village of Loubressac high up on the Causse.

For a spectacular end, take the D118 out of Loubressac to the D14 to the D90 to Matthieu and the Gouffre de Padirac, where you can experience the most amazing chasm and underground river, along which you can travel by boat.

More about Dordogne!

Check out my Dordogne’s Best app and explore more of this region of meandering rivers, medieval fortresses, beautiful old villages & markets to die for!

Booking Accommodation

To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in Rocamadour or the Dordogne Valley itself,  you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments. . If you wish to book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you have somewhere particular in mind, enter your preferred town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.


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