This Dordogne itinerary consists of a scenic drive through the beautiful south west of the area, France’s so-called black Périgord or Périgord Noir, complete with castles, gardens and bastides. History buffs will want to see the stomping grounds of Richard the Lionheart who spent so much time here.
Assuming you start from Sarlat or nearby, this route goes through a beautiful part of the Périgord Noir and can be done in a day, although I recommend at least two days. Expect it to be very busy during July and August, especially around Domme and Beynac.
Take a trip by gabarre on the meandering Dordogne, explore the wonderful gardens at Marquessac, visit stunning châteaux guarding the river and finish with a visit to Château des Milandes.
Much of this trip is near Sarlat, an ideal overnight stop.
Head South West from Sarlat on the D704, direction Gourdon, and turn right onto the D703 at Carsac-Aillac in about 3km. Follow the road for 1km and on the right there is a viewpoint overlooking the Cingle (Meander) de Montfort and the Château de Montfort clinging to the promontory of the Tursac peninsula. Move on towards Domme by following the D703 for about 7km and turning left into the D46.
Cross the bridge and turn left up the hill to this famous Bastide constructed during the Hundred Years’ War. From the Bélvèdere de la Barre just below the Market Hall in Domme there is a wonderful view of the Dordogne River from Montfort in the east to Beynac in the west. Domme is a good place for lunch or picnic in the Jardin Public du Jubilé overlooking the valley.
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Head back down the hill and re-cross the bridge back to the D703 and turn left. After about 3 km you will arrive at the Plus Beau Village of La Roque Gageac. Most of the village is under a massive cliff with troglodyte dwellings.
About 2km further along the D703 you will find the very unusual hanging gardens of Marquessac. Set on a spur above the river, the gardens offer a unique experience and killer views.
From Marquessac you can see the amazing Château de Beynac-Cazenac. It’s impressive as you approach from the east. Climb up through the Plus Beau Village to the imposing medieval Château of Beynac, occupied for a while by the redoubtable Richard the Lionheart although it was normally in French hands.
Enjoy a trip on a Gabarre, a traditional boat used to transport goods on the river before roads were constructed. The captain takes visitors upriver where to admire magnificent Périgordian scenery and eventually see the imposing Château de Castelnaud occupied by the English during the Hundred Years’ War. It’s just as impressive to the modern day visitor as it must have been to medieval soldiers being shipped here to attack it.
After the boat trip visit Castelnaud or leave it till later. If the latter, head along the D703 for 18km before turning left on the D710 for 6km to yet another plus beau village, Belvès, standing proudly on a limestone bluff. The best view of the village is during the late afternoon from the south west.
Retrace your route along the D710 and turn right on the D703 for 23km. Pass Beynac on your left and go under the railway bridge just before turning down to Château de Castelnaud at Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. Young children will be fascinated by the Museum of Medieval Warfare, with some frightening life size reproductions of siege catapults.
Several restaurants are nearby but I suggest an idyllic picnic spot next to the river.
Finish off your tour with an uplifting story. Turn left out of Castlenaud ignoring the bridge you came across and follow the D53 for about 5km. Pass though La Treille to arrive at the Château Les Milandes. Milandes belonged to the American entertainer Josephine Baker who was one of the few civilians awarded the Croix de Guerre.
To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in the Dordogne, in or near Sarlat, 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.