Dordogne: A Brief History
The Dordogne really does possess and incredibly rich history with plenty of impressive finds dating back to pre-historic times, châteaux dating back to the middle ages and a strong Roman influence.
The paintings at the Lascaux Caves are one of the most impressive and best known manifestations of pre-historic art. Discovered in 1940 the caves are now open to visitors despite being beset by problems since opening up to visitors in 1948.
Lascaux II is in fact a replica of the Great Hall of the Bulls which was opened in 1983. It allows visitors to view the paintings whilst having a minimum impact on the originals.
Romans in the Dordogne
The major Roman towns of the Dordogne were Périgueux and Cahors. There are plenty of Roman ruins such as splendid villas which remind us of the lavish lifestyles the Romans had in the region.
There are also plenty of Roman churches (link in French) to visit which are, for the fan of Roman architecture, a real treat. A good place to start is Brantôme.
Wars in the Dordogne
Throughout history various invasions and wars have helped shape the political, economic and general make-up of the Dordogne. The Hundred Years’ War which pitted the House of Plantagenet against the House of Valois is one of the most notable conflicts of the Middle Ages, and one which helped shape not only the region of the Dordogne but the whole of France.
The Hundred Years’ War was still fresh in the memory when the War Of Religion took hold in the region, Catholics and Protestants fighting primarily over the Protestant stronghold of Bergerac.
Second World War in the Dordogne
The region really did find itself on the borderline of occupied and non-occupied France during the Nazi invasion.
This meant that – as with many regions of France – there was a strong sense of resistance and the Maquis (as pictured) were a very present.View Accommodation
Walking Holidays In The Dordogne, France
Many guests who stay with us here at Dordogne Holiday Barns enjoy walking in the Dordogne, discovering the many routes perfectly suited for all abilities. Late September and October are, in our opinions, perfect for walks as the colours remain vibrant and autumnal. The days are slightly cooler but there is still plenty of sunshine to keep everybody happy. Springtime, as everything comes into bloom, is also picture-perfect.
The Cicero Guide by Janette Norton is a good place to begin as it lists 30 lovely walks based around Sarlat and Bergerac, all with detailed maps and plenty of local information.
Walking Tours Around Sarlat
Sarlat is the perfect place for a walking trip as you can take in many amazing sites in one visit of this mythical medieval town. There are plenty of tips and even guided walking tours via the Sarlat Tourism website.
Walking Tours Amongst The Vineyards
Why not combine a walking trip with a visit to a vineyard or two? For those who enjoyed reading our piece on wines of the Dordogne you’ll no doubt want to get out there and discover the wines, wine-makers and vineyards for yourselves.
A good place to begin is at the Maison des Vins in Bergerac (web page in French), where we are reliably informed the staff will be more than happy to advise intrepid oenophiles on the best wineries to visit depending on your chosen itineraries.
Walking The Dordogne Off The Beaten Track
If you have an adventurous side and enjoy discovering places slightly further afield, then the Walking Dordogne website is a good place to start searching for inspiration. With information on the gloriously entitled ‘Trail of Wild Garlic’ and the equally impressive ‘In The Footsteps Of The Mammoth’ trail amongst others, this is the place for those who want to discover the real Dordogne.
Discover The Wine Regions Of The Dordogne In South West France
Sipping a glass of chilled rosé by the Dordogne river, basking in the warmth of the summer, it’s easy to let the mind drift and forget about the provenance of the fermented grape juice within the glass. But it’s at this time that the vineyard is at one of its most active phases of the annual cycle. The grapes are slowly changing colour under the heat of the summer sun in a process known as veraison.
Although not directly surrounded by vineyards in our little corner of France, we do have some little gems in this neck of the woods, slightly off the beaten track for those intrepid explorers who prefer to discover the slightly lesser-known wines.
To the south we have Cahors, renowned for its intense and tannic reds. Heading west, and before the Grande Appellations of Bordeaux, we touch on some delightful wines from Bergerac, Pécharment and Monbazillac.
You will find Dordogne Holiday Barns cunningly placed pretty much due north of Cahors and due East of Bergerac (map link at top of page for true location).
Wines Of Bergerac
The red wines of Bergerac are made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France and Merlot. So far so Bordeaux you might think. The lesser known local varieties of Malbec (or Côt as it’s known locally), Fer Servadou or Mérille may also be found in the blend.
The red wines tend to be heavier and fuller than Bordeaux, but what they lack in finesse they often more than make up for in a blend of intense dark flavours and hearty tannins which help soak up meaty bbq dishes.
The whites tend to be very dry with good amounts of fruit.
Wines Of Pécharment
The red wines of Pécharment are very similar to Bergerac reds, meaning they are perfect for accompanying local pâtés, charcuterie, confit and red meats.
Wines Of Cahors
In a similar vein, the wines of Cahors produce essentially full-bodied, tannic reds but almost only from the Malbec grape (Tannat and Merlot are allowed in the blend but Malbec must form at least 70% of the wine).
Wines Of Monbazillac
Monbazillac wines are sweet, white wines which are often compared to the more prestigious Sauternes. They are made from the same grape varieties of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle (with often a higher percentage of Muscadelle making up the blend) which benefit from botrytis (noble rot) in the vineyard. This is what helps give the wines their distinctive sweet flavours by concentrating the sugars present in the grapes.