We offer two tours in this area, a 7-night/8 day tour and a 9-night/10 day tour. Much of the route is common to both. The 8-day tour is a circuit of approx. 100km in the area of the Upper Dordogne Valley. This is a region largely away from normal tourist haunts in the Departments of Correze and Lot. The scenery is varied, taking in the limestone plateaux or Causses and then later wooded hills, which slope steeply down to the Dordogne at the delightful former river port of Beaulieu. Six villages on this tour are on the unofficial but prestigious list of the '147 most beautiful villages in France'. Curemonte, stretched out along a ridge; the gentlemen's houses or gentilhommieres of Autoire; Loubressac, on a high spur above the Dordogne valley; Carennac, with its elaborate abbey church; Turenne, encircling a hilltop castle; and the celebrated red sandstone village of Collonges-la-Rouge. Castles, stone-built mediaeval villages, ruins and caves lend daily interest to the circuit, 'une surprise a chaque pas'. The individual, family run hotels offer the sort of cooking that people come to France for, and several have noted chefs. This is the land of truffles, foie gras, magret de canard and rich dark wines.
This walk is graded: ‘Moderate’(grade 3) and should present no difficulties for anyone in reasonable condition and accustomed to walking. Day stages: 14km to 22km per day with average altitude gains of 350m. 3 to 7 hours walking per day.
Arrive at the tiny village of Sarrazac, deep in a green valley on the edge of the Causse de Martel.
Accommodation: The cellar of this 2 star Logis establishment was formerly a smithy where, three generations ago, the blacksmith’s wife would serve refreshments to waiting customers. The hoteliers are as hospitable as their ancestors, the smithy has vanished, and guests are housed in a venerable building with swimming pool nearby.
Near the half-way point is the picturesque village of Turenne, with its famous castle towering over the surrounding countryside. The dark red sandstone of Collonges' mullioned windows and towers is a stunning sight, as you approach it in the afternoon.
Accommodation: A delightful stone building 2 star Logis in the heart of town. The interior has been totally modernized with style and individuality. The extensive garden behind the hotel features a swimming pool. As an alternative we occasionally book a Chambre d’Hote in quiet countryside just South of Collonges.
Over undulating country to Curemonte, a mediaeval village where the writer Colette once lived. The day ends with a long descent of an ancient cobbled mule-track into Beaulieu. The town is built on the right bank of the Dordogne and owes its fame to the Romanesque church of the former Benedictine monastery. Make sure you take the time to visit the Abbey Church with its magnificent doorway.
Accommodation: A well-appointed 2 star hotel in a quiet street, close to the Dordogne, where you can dine overlooking the water on a summer’s evening.
Great views as you climb out of the Dordogne Valley on the GR 480. From the crest you descend through splendid mixed woodland of chestnut, oak, and conifers, past a trout farm to the valley of the Cere, once a navigable river. One or two short sections of the day’s walk are little frequented and may be rather overgrown in summer. The village of Gagnac (1.5 km/1 mile) is worth a visit, particularly if you are lucky enough to find the church open.
Accommodation: Old established 2 star family-run hotel overlooking the River Cere. The restaurant is a favourite with many of our customers.
A walk through mixed farming country and the one serious wine-growing district on the tour (Glanes). It is a surprise to stumble upon the dramatic red bulk of Castelnau Castle, built on a shoulder of red ironstone. The village of Autoire with its 'gentilhommieres' or manorial house and waterfall is unforgettable. After a steep ascent past the limestone crags of the Cirque d'Autoire the next hour is spent crossing a typical limestone plateau of oak scrub and dry-stone walls to the village of Loubressac on its panoramic hilltop. The fortified village is situated at a height of 380m on the edge of a scarp and there are splendid views over the valley to the north.
Accommodation: A recently modernised 2 star Logis hotel in the middle of this very pretty village and opposite the 'village green'.
The 10 km/6 mile option follows the edge of the scarp past the ruined castle at Taillefer to Carennac. The 15 km/9.3 mile walk diverts to take in the Gouffre de Padirac Caves (pre booking advised) where a vast chasm in the limestone plateau opens into a most interesting cave system incorporating a short trip on an underground river. The day ends with an abrupt descent to Carennac on the banks of the Dordogne.
Accommodation: Two nights spent at an elegant family-run hotel 2 star Logis with swimming pool in the centre of this lovely and historic village on the banks of the Dordogne. Excellent restaurant with a good local reputation.
A walk along the heights, with views over the Dordogne River, then close below the limestone cliffs overhanging the tiny village of Gluges, before crossing farmland to the ancient village of Creysse, clustered around a little rocky hill crowned by an ancient twin-aisled church.
Accommodation: Another family run 2 star Logis hotel in the centre of a delightful little village. A stream runs beneath the hotel and its terrace.
Departure from Creysse after breakfast.
This was a beautiful tour of a beautiful area. My friend and I enjoyed the varied countryside (pasturelands, river bluffs, woods, a waterfall, and even a cave), and we were smitten by the small villages with their stone houses, slate rooftops, and old Romanesque churches. The accommodations were all around pleasant and comfortable; while some were "fancier" than others, staff were consistently friendly and helpful, and meals were yummy and relaxing. The walks were fairly rigorous for us, although we considered ourselves to be in reasonably good shape beforehand! We were glad to have brought a guidebook along to help us with the history of the area, and glad that we spoke rudimentary French. I highly recommend this lovely tour, and both my friend and I hope to do another self-guided walking tour with this organization someday.
Amy. B., Saint Paul, MN. USA.
Per Person, Twin Share