Cyclists taking a break in the Dordogne walnut groves | Rob Mills
Traveller Tale: Beautiful Cycling Days in the Dordogne
Ferne-Marie and her three friends chose the Dordogne, in France, for their first cycling holiday and they had an absolutely fabulous experience.
This was my first bike tour and what a beautiful adventure it was!
We are a group of four good friends and though one of us was an experienced cyclist, we all chose e-bikes for our self guided tour of the Dordogne.
The region is quite magical with storybook castles to visit and many "belle villages", delicious food and wine, rolling green hills laced with sparkling rivers.
It's also famous for its foie gras, fromage de chevre, walnuts, chesnuts and truffles. Though I'm not a fan of fois gras.
Highlights were Day 1 from Souillac to Sarlat. In superb weather, beautiful blue sky and 33 degrees we cycled along quiet country roads, along the Route de la Noix (Nut Route). After a mid morning coffee stop at Saint - Julien - de - Lampon, we reached a dedicated bike cycle path at Grolejac.
Spinning along the bike path above a tiny village, one of us smelt coffee and food. We cycled down and found a great pub restaurant dining on an excellent lunch and avoiding the house speciality, salad de gezier (geese gizzards).
The bike path ended on the outskirts of Sarlat, with very busy roads, round abouts and traffic, a little scary for a novice cyclist. I fell onto some gravel skinning my knee and shin and hurting my pride. A visit to a local pharmacy using my French language skills and my leg was all patched up.
Day 2 was also a fabulous ride up to the Castle of Domme.
Although in the morning when we were leaving Sarlat, I found it very heavy going as I had no power from my battery. We called the help line and got a call back from the French team and after going through a checklist, the problem was solved and I was back in the saddle with full battery power, which was much needed on the steep climb up to Domme.
We arrived at Domme just before midday. The restaurants were just about to open and we enjoyed another delicious lunch and wine at a table overlooking the stunning views of the valley and river below. After leaving Domme we enjoyed free-wheeling down the steep hillside and a ride to the "belle village" of Le Roc de Gagneau.
While there were many restaurants and bars open, they would only serve a full meal, so we left le Roc de Gagneau thirsty with a long steep ride back to Sarlat. Thank God for e-bikes and our bottles of water!
Another highlight was the next day's ride through rolling green hills to Chateau de Beynac, a medieval castle perched majestically above the Dordogne river. The ride continued to Les Eyzies taking us down dirt tracks between maize fields.
Due to forecast rain on Day 4, two of us rested in our very comfortable hotel in Les Eyzies, whilst two rode out to visit one of the pre-historic caves. Visits to these caves need to pre-booked and our friendly host at the Hotel Cro Magnon booked the tickets, the day we arrived.
For me the best day was Day 5, cycling in quiet, pretty countryside, past the amazing troglodyte Roque St Christophe.
We stopped for a coffee and cake overlooking the rock and river. A picnic lunch by the river in another belle village, Saint - Leon-sur Vezere and a visit to Chateau de Losse before we cycled to our hotel in Montignac. That evening the weather was perfect and we walked into Montignac for a dinner overlooking the river Vezere.
The final day is the longest ride at 50km. While we had coffee and enjoyed the Sunday markets in Saint-Genies, when we arrived at the main town it was still too early for cafes and restaurants to serve lunch, so we pushed on. As it was Sunday, most places we rode through were closed and my battery died a couple of kilometres outside Souillac.
Ferne-Marie's Top Advice for Cycling in the Dordogne
- Adjustable gel bike seats and padded bike shorts are invaluable (your bottom will thank you!).
- Phone the friendly staff at the first hotel in Souillac to pre-book a taxi pick up from the train station. It's a reasonable walk, especially if you have a lot of luggage.
- Water bottles and a rain jacket are also necessary.
- Practice riding on the roads in traffic, if you are a novice cyclist, like me.
- Because our phone had been stolen in Paris, we did not have GPS and relied on paper maps. Overall directions were good, but trying to find the correct routes out of Sarlat were a little difficult.
- Cafes and restaurants are not open for lunch every day and only for a few hours in the French countryside, so pack a picnic. Check the trip notes carefully!
Is exploring the Dordogne region on your bucket list, or have you already experienced the area? Let us know in the comment section below.