The Perigord Noir
The Perigord Noir is the most visited and well known part of the Dordogne. Located in the south east of the Dordogne department, it is named for the dark oak forests around the Vézère Valley and its capital, Sarlat.
The Perigord Noir is packed with amazing sights. Pick up a guide book (or these days ‘Google’ it) and you will find a whole host of incredible castles, beautiful villages and prehistoric sites well worthy of a visit.
The sights of the Perigord Noir
A trip to the capital, Sarlat, is a must. It is one of the most intact medieval cities in Europe. Sarlat is classified as a ‘Town of Art and History’ and as a ‘Plus Beaux Detour’ – a town meriting a visit for its beauty. If you are planning to take in Sarlat during the peak summer months, please be aware that market days on a Wednesday and Saturday are particularly busy. During the winter you can enjoy the Christmas market, a truffle festival and the Feast of the Goose.
Between Sarlat and St Cyprien (which also has a fantastic Sunday market) is the lower Dordogne valley. Here, you can canoe on the Dordogne River and take in the stunning villages of Beynac and Domme. There are a number of incredible castles along this part of the river. Some, such as Chateau de Castelnaud, seem to cling precariously to the edge of the rock face.
The chateau at Marqueyssac also affords great views. However, it is the gardens that are the main attraction. Indeed, it is said that they are the most visited gardens in the whole of the Perigord. Marvel at the incredibly clipped boxwood hedges (and be thankful you aren’t responsible for their upkeep!).
The Dordogne Valley has pretty villages aplenty. Two that stand out are La Roque-Gageac (where life seems to have stood still for three centuries) and Beynac (with its magnificent chateau, shops, galleries and restaurants. An ideal canoe stop!)
Around 7 kms away from Beynac is our neighbour, Chateau des Milandes. This beautiful building was owned by the incredible Josephine Baker and has been described by The Sunday Times as “…the most moving chateau in the Dordogne.” So do visit and find out more about Josephine.
Around 25 kms north of Les Milandes, in the Vézère Valley, you will find Les Eyzies. If you thought you had stepped back in time with a visit to Sarlat or La Roque-Gageac this part of the Perigord Noir takes things to a whole new level. The prehistoric caves at this UNESCO World Heritage site are less well known than those at Lascaux, but, arguably, they are more impressive. Les Eyzies is home to some of the most extraordinary painted caves in the world.
There are plenty of bastides to enjoy in the Perigord Noir. Around 20 kms south of Sarlat is Belves, officially classed as one of the ‘most beautiful villages of France’. Belves dates back to the 11th century and is particularly well known for its bell towers and Troglodyte caves. The caves can be found under the main square.
I’m starting to get writer’s cramp and it feels as though I have barely scratched the surface of the Perigord Noir. We bought Les Milandes in 2002 and never tire of coming to this part of the Dordogne. One final tip. To travel around the Perigord Noir you will need a car (unless you are a fitness fanatic who loves cycling or walking). The area has very little in the way of public transport but a glut of incredible sights.
For more ideas, read our blog, ‘What to do in the Dordogne‘.