Where To Stay & What To Do In The Dordogne | sheerluxe.com

Where To Stay & What To Do In The Dordogne

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With its rich food, château-studded countryside, breathtaking valleys and fairytale castles, few places capture the allure of France better than the Dordogne. Known as the Périgord by the French, this enclave is home to world-class vineyards, quaint villages and a food scene that rivals some of the world’s most celebrated Michelin fare. Just a ten-hour drive from the UK, if you’ve got a family in tow it’s definitely possible to avoid airports altogether. Plus, if you go during the summer (May to mid-September) you’ll be blessed with blissful sunny weather. So, for a getaway that’s sure to be a success, here’s where to stay and what to do in the Dordogne…

WHERE TO STAY

Château La Thuilière

Blending French grandeur with modern Spanish design, Château La Thuilière boasts a medley of stained glass, original tapis and furniture by Philippe Starck and Mies Van der Rohe. The Tudor-style building stands proudly at the top of a small hill, fringed by beautiful pine trees and perfectly manicured gardens. Shabby chic corridors lead to modern rooms, adorned with enormous beds, glossy coffee tables and wall-mounted flat-screen TVs. But dinner is when the château really comes to life, with locally sourced food executed to the highest quality. Relax in front of the log fire in the stylish lounge, with classical music and fine wine.

Rooms from €150 per night

Visit LaThuiliere.net

 

Château Les Merles

A mix of traditional and contemporary chic, the 17th-century Château Les Merles offers a world of sleek modern design – expect smart white bed linens, black wooden floors and snuggly textiles. Or rent one of three well-equipped but simple villas, complete with south-facing terrace, their own pool and outdoor dining area for an affordable stay that is ideal for friends and family alike. The restaurant, in a converted barn opposite the château is a dining destination in its own right and the ideal setting for a special occasion (all you want for a big birthday or wedding with boat loads of French style). Tuck into foie gras and duck confit, before wandering outside to the enchanting cobbled courtyard peppered with taupe parasols, potted lemon trees and a front-row seats to the prime château view. There’s also an outdoor pool, tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course, and this hangout is a popular spot for local fashionistas.

Rooms from €190 per night

Visit LesMerles.com

 

Le Manoir De la Malartrie

This beautifully renovated 19th century French manor is set in the heart of the Dordogne and Périgord regions, nestled on the banks of the Dordogne river, here you'll find walnut groves, some of the best foie gras in France, and lots of history. Rooms are luxurious but with a cosy ambience, blending Moroccan style with Edwardian elegance. Sleep in sumptuous bedrooms furnished with antiques; eat Franco-Moroccan meals made with fresh veg from the potager in the magnificent salon; and enjoy the pool where you can lay back and relax, watching boats sail by on the glistening waters.

Rooms from €150 – €280 per night

Visit ChambresdHotes-LaMalartrie.com

 

Le Vieux Logis

A charming boutique that’s geared up for foodies and garden lovers, set in the sleepy French village of Trémolat in the lower Dordogne, about 20 miles east of Bergerac and its airport. Le Vieux Logis became one of France’s first boutique hotels to be taken under the wing of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux hotel label in 1955, and its stylish period furnishings capture the grace and elegance of a bourgeois country home. The gardens are divine, picture sculpted hedges, rose beds, apple orchards and secret stone benches. There’s an outdoor pool for sun worshippers, and the Dordogne river is a five-minute walk along a country lane. The prehistoric Vézère Valley is close, with magnificent cave art for a quick and easy day trip, but it’s the food to really get excited about at this bucolic idyll. The hotel boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, where chef Vincent Arnould serves up exquisite, locally sourced black truffles, among other gastronomic delights. Seasonal produce is available at the Bistro de la Place, and you can tuck into gourmet hamburgers and open sandwiches at Les Tartines, both run by Le Vieux Logis on Trémolat’s village square.

Rooms from €210 – €595 per night

Visit Vieux-Logis.com

 

Manoir de Malagorse

Nestled in the rolling hills of the Lot valley, this 19th century manor house is a home away from home; there’s a family-style ambience, with all the creature comforts of a hotel. Rustic, cosy and charming, this farmhouse-style guesthouse offers everything from cookery courses and gastronomic dining to truffle hunting excursions in the Dordogne valley. This is a must for foodies: diners can look forward to traditional French cuisine, served in the quaint dining room, or outside on the terrace, to soak up the stunning countryside views. Each of the bedrooms are different in style, and have their own quirky designs, but in most you’ll find rustic, mismatched furniture, exposed wooden beams, stylish antiques and freshly picked flowers.

Rooms from €160 – €290 per night

Visit Manoir-De-Malagorse.fr

 

Château de Saint Paterne 

If you’re driving to the Dordogne, be sure to stop off at Château de Saint Paterne along the way. Not only will it break up the ten-hour journey, it’ll give you somewhere special to rest your head. Situated in the greenlands on the Normandy border, this charming, ivy-clad hotel looks like something out of a fairytale, with Renaissance turrets, blossom-specked vines and sprawling grounds. King Henri IV once slept here with his mistress, and there’s a suite dedicated to his memory, as well as a theatrical tower room set 52 floors up. The food here is excellent, and there’s an outdoor heated pool, huge trampoline and beautifully manicured gardens to keep you and the kids entertained.

Rooms from €145 – €260

Visit Chateau-SaintPaterne.com

 

WHAT TO DO

Explore the Vézère Valley

Famed for its wonderfully preserved prehistoric sites, and especially for its incredible collection of cave paintings – the highest concentration of Stone Age art found in Europe – the Vézère Valley is a wonder to explore. The Grotte de Lascaux http://www.lascaux-dordogne.com/en/lascaux-cave is well worth a visit, and inside you’ll find a collection of paintings and etchings from simple scratched lines to complex multicoloured frescos. Most of the key sites are around the towns of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil and Montignac, which are both set up for visitors, though Montignac is by far the more charming. The landscapes are equally stunning, the River Vézère winds through lush green meadows and softly blowing willow trees, leading into a gorgeous tiny valley flanked by limestone cliffs. Intrepid travellers can indulge in various outdoors sports in this area, too, including hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and horse riding.

 

Wander Through La Roque-Gageac

Part of the Dordogne’s captivating charm are the gorgeous, quaint villages. The sheer golden cliffs sheltering are truly breath-taking. Down on the river, traditional gabarres (barges), which used to transport barrels of wine and salt downstream in the 19th century, plough the water, and the narrow streets are filled with bustling street markets and fancy restaurants.

Visit VezereValley.info

 

Mimos (Périgueux) Festival

Boasting an eclectic line-up of street theatre, comedy, acrobatics, circus and puppetry, Périgueux’ International Mime Festival promises a fun day out for the entire family.

24th – 29th July

Visit Mimos.fr

 

Château de Marqueyssac Gardens

A visit to these famous manicured gardens is a must, they stretch along a rocky bluff overlooking the Dordogne. Signposted paths lead through meticulously clipped box hedges and decorative topiary to the gardens’ breath-taking belvédère (viewpoint), which boasts stunning panoramic views of the area castles, the Dordogne and La Roque-Gageac.

Visit Marqueyssac.com

 

The Outdoor Markets

Sarlat’s touristy Saturday market, which takes over the streets around Cathédrale St-Sacerdos, is the perfect pit stop if you’re looking to stock up on traditional French delicacies. Depending on the season, you’re likely to find everything from freshly foraged mushrooms to tiny pots of locally-made foie gras. You’ll find plenty more outdoor markets in Périgueux, where farmers flock into town to sell their wares, and wooden trestle tables are filled to the brim with fresh fruit and veg, with the pearly-white domes of Périgueux’s Byzantine cathedral gleaming in the background.

 

The Vineyards

Wine tasting is a must when visiting the area. This southern part of France is peppered with endless stretches of picturesque vineyards, where wine lovers can taste some of the best vintages of the region. Rosette and Monbazillac vineyards rise above the town and Pécharmant reds age in oak barrels on family-run estates on its northern fringe. In Bergerac, you can taste the region’s 13 different appellations and meet local producers at the House of Wine. Other vineyards worth a visit include Bergerac Wines, Château de Monbazillac and Château de Tiregand.

 

Truffle Hunting

Just a 30-minute drive north of Périgueux is the Dordogne’s truffle capital. Its museum unravels the mysteries behind the black Périgord truffle, which, when fresh in season, sells for around €900 (£680) per kg. You’ll find pear and truffle jams, chutneys, mustard, honey and ice cream for sale in the boutique, and, if you’re keen for an afternoon of foraging, walk along the Sentier des Truffières, a 1.8-mile, truffle-rich trail that winds through vineyards, walnut plantations and meadows.

 

The Cuisine

From food markets to Michelin star fare; gourmands in search of haute cuisine will be spoilt for choice. Local recommendations include Les Jardins d’Harmonie – an excellent Sarlat-la-Canéda restaurant hidden in a courtyard in the old-town labyrinth that serves up Périgourdin cuisine; think tea-leaf scented duck breast and pan-fried foie gras. Or try Bistro La Verrière, set snug against the 19th century Château des Reynat. The Michelin-starred chef serves up creative, modern French cuisine, and it’s particularly good value – a four course Menu de Pâques is €47 per person. For gastronomy, book into Le Vieux Logis for Michelin star fare and skillfully prepared local truffles, or there are gastronomy tours that will keep you and your taste buds suitably entertained.
 

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