As wonderful as the town of Sarlat is, it is the wealth of attractions in the surrounding area which make it the perfect base to explore the Dordogne. There is so much to see and do here that the majority of our guests wish they could stay much longer. It would be impossible to list everything that attracts thousands of visitors to the region, but here is a personal selection of some of our favorites.
Many of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages in France) are in the area including La Roque Gageac which is reputedly the most beautiful of all. This almost unbelievably picturesque collection of yellow-stone buildings squeezed between the river and a limestone cliff very much reminds us of the Cotswolds in England. Domme is a historic Bastide town with great views across the valley and some good restaurants and bars. Beynac with its narrow winding streets and ancient quay was the setting for the film Chocolat. Its imposing château towers above the river facing its counterpart at Castlenaud. This is the museum of medieval warfare and provides a fascinating insight into the life and times of our ancestors. The Dordogne and Vezere rivers meet at Limeuil. There are beautiful abbeys at St Amand de Coly and Cadouin.
There are numerous prehistoric sites close to Sarlat. As well as the National Museum of Prehistory at Les Eyzies there are the famous cave paintings at Font de Gaume and Lascaux 2. Although the Lascaux paintings are reproductions many of our guests find them easier to understand and appreciate than the originals. The enormous settlement built into the cliff at La Roque St Christophe is particularly fascinating.
Some lovely gardens can be found within a very short drive of town. A personal favourite is Le Jardin d’Eau (water garden) at Carsac. With water-lillies reminiscent of Monet’s garden, a great collection of Lotus flowers, nice views over the river and many species of frogs, it is especially colourful in spring and early summer. The gardens at Château Marqueyssac are more of an arboretum or country walk than a flower garden. However if you are here in July or August don’t miss the remarkable Thursday evenings when the whole garden is illuminated by thousands of candles. Le Manoir d’Erignac has a lovely formal garden and is situated in truly beautiful countryside.
Perhaps the best way of all to see the area is from the river itself. Replicas of the old boats which used to carry cargo on the Dordogne, the Gabarres, now do pleasant 45 minute cruises offering spectacular views of the chateaux. Our favourite day out on the river on a warm sunny day is by canoe. The river does all the work as you lazily meander down stream, stop for a tapas lunch and glass of wine before completing the trip. The canoe company then take you back to the departure point by bus to collect the car. Paradise!