Historically called Périgord, the Dordogne is popular for many good reasons: lashings of the plus beaux villages de France (most beautiful villages in France), diverse natural landscapes from gorges and rocky plateaux to caves, medieval churches and renaissance buildings. The Dordogne is also known as the “valley of 1,000 castles”.
The cuisine is also a massive draw with plenty of fine-dining and local restaurants, with foie gras, cassoulet and duck confit featuring strongly. It’s possible to drive to the Dordogne – especially if you plan a relaxed stop-off in one of the fabulous restaurants in Normandy – but it’s also served by three airports: Bergerac, Bordeaux and Brive-la-Gaillarde. Or you could take the TGV from Paris to Périgueux.
Why is it so popular? “It is due to the huge number of outdoor activities for visitors, the varied countryside with something to suit everyone and the fact that there is still real value for money to be found if you are buying a property,” says Julie Savill of agent Beaux Villages. “And for many people the memories of idyllic childhood holidays just keep drawing them back.”
Popular areas include the Périgord Vert area, named after the area’s green (vert) forests and meadows, including the small town of Nontron – officially “a recommended diversion” close to the more well-known Brantôme.
Bergerac, famous for its wine, sits at the heart of many vineyards and the buzzy town, full of great restaurants, is a little more expensive, as is around the fashionable market town of Sarlat with its artisan food producers and chic cafés. The villages of Eymet and Montignac are popular among Britons, with the former gaining a name for becoming the “little Britain” of the region.
There is a real spread of prices across the Dordogne, but there are plenty of great properties, including traditional detached houses with swimming pools, priced at less than £150,000.