The Dordogne, as the French say, is a land with 'un peu de tout', a little of everything; a gently meandering river, lush pastures, wine, walnuts, geese, the warm southern sun and of course a web of country roads linking the historic hamlets and towns, all just ideal for a stimulating cycling holiday. From Souillac in the valley of the Dordogne River, the cycle route follows tiny lanes and byroads, initially following the river, which winds through a landscape of steep green wooded hills, patchwork fields and terraced slopes. This area of France is rich in scenery, architecture, history - and of course has a famous gastronomic reputation, as this is the home of the truffle! Spend two nights in Sarlat the capital of Black Périgord; it is an exceptionally well-preserved city. The second half of the circuit is a little more rural and there is a chance to visit the world famous Lascaux Caves. Staying in a selection of hand picked hotels, there is ample time to relax and enjoy the villages and scenery for which the area is famous.
Grade Moderate (grade 3). A reasonable standard of fitness is required. Daily stages of between 29 to 55km (18 to 34mi) per day. Hilly terrain with ascents and descents up to 300m/1000 feet. The accent is on keeping a relaxed pace to take in all of the attractions, with time to stop and take photos. Minor roads with reduced traffic are customary on this trip and we recommend that you familiarise yourself with road cycling in order to participate.
Arrive in the bustling old town of Souillac, strategically placed since pre-Roman times astride the river Dordogne, and easily reached by rail or autoroute from Paris via Brive. Time to explore the old quarter and magnificent 11th century Romanesque church.
Today you have a choice of two cycle routes to Sarlat. The longer route goes beside the Dordogne river mainly along a cyclable piste visiting Chateau Fenelon and the pretty village of Carsac. The shorter route is hillier and slightly more challenging.
Today you can choose to take a rest day and explore and shop in Sarlat. Alternatively, you can cycle out to visit the bastide town of Domme and the spectacular village of La Roque Gageac that is tucked beneath the cliffs alongside the Dordogne river. Dinner is not included tonight so you are free to sample the local restaurants.
Cycle today across rolling country to visit the Château of Beynac before arriving at Castelnaud, dominated by its own 12C Château. The nearby Château les Milandes can also be visited before you arrive in the delightful old town of St. Cyprien. From here you leave the Dordogne river to arrive in the Vézère valley and the cliffs of Les Eyzies, renowned world-wide as the centre of prehistory.
Today you can choose to have a rest day in Les Eyzies. Alternatively, you have the option to cycle a 29km route where you will pass by troglodyte caves, the Chateau de Commarque with its prehistoric caves beneath, a roman chapel and knights tower, and nobles houses recently discovered after 350 years covered by vegetation which are all carved into the cliff. Then continue on to the tomb of Cro-Magnon man which was discovered by rail workers in the 1800's. You can also view prehistoric art 15000 years old in the only original site in the region still open to the public. Tonight you have a choice of local restaurants for dinner.
There is a choice of two routes to Montignac. The shorter option enables a stop at the prehistoric caves at Castel Merle. The longer ride passes along the Vézère valley beneath the towering cliffs of la Roque St. Christophe, a remarkable troglodytic site inhabited from prehistoric times until the 18th Century. Continue via the Romanesque church of St. Leon sur Vézère to Montignac.
Today it is possible to visit the cave paintings at Lascaux. The ride to the caves is slightly longer, but also includes lots of downhill sections. Return to Souillac past the golden limestone village of St. Geniès, and the 13th century convent of Salignac. The lovely 18th century Italianate gardens of Eyrignac can also be visited.
Trip concludes in Souillac after breakfast.
Per Person, Twin Share