TOUR OF THE REGION
From Esparoutis you can travel in all directions – north, south, east, west – to explore some of the region’s most captivating sights and sites of interest, each with their own unique treats and delights. The larger region offers superb tourist and ‘mild’ adventure experiences, with caves, chateaux, canoeing, cycling, walking, climbing, all within spectacular scenery. The region is noted for its local food and markets, and fine dining.
The area is of outstanding beauty, with gorgeous stone villages, including a disproportionate share of “Les Plus Belles Villages de France” (most beautiful villages of France): the Dordogne has 10% of the chateaux in France including spectacular examples within a five-minute drive at Castelnaud, Beynac, La Roque Gageac, Les Milandes. The area is excellent for cycling with many quiet back roads, and a mixture of relatively flat valleys and more challenging hills onto the plateau. But you will need a car to get the best out of the area.
We have just given you a taste of what you can expect form the region; we will provide you with more detailed local information and tips for what to see and do when you decide to stay at Les Paroules at Esparoutis.
On your way to Castelnaud along the Céou stream across green pastures, walnut groves and majestic poplars, you have an enchanting view of the Chateau de Castelnaud high on the cliff. In Castelnaud village itself, where the waters of the Céou flow into the Dordogne, you can enjoy your cafe au lait with a croissant from the local, award-winning bakery.
From Castelnaud you can climb to the imposing Chateau de Castelnaud with its medieval war museum. From the top of the castle, you will enjoy sweeping views of the magnificent Dordogne river, meandering lazily through a valley dotted with some of the most picturesque villages of France with their typical Perigourdine architecture of yellow limestone and steep, red-tiled roofs: La Roque Gageac, Beynac, and so on.
A short trip further North is one of Frances most beautiful viilages, La Roque Gageac, set on the North Bank of the Dordogne River, its Perigord-style houses nestled back into the cliff face. You can stroll along the newly refurbished promenade, wander through the ‘tropical’ gardens, view the famous troglodyte fort set in the cliffs 40 metres above the village, and the Renaissance-style houses: Chateau de la Malartrie and the Manoir de Tarde with its round tower and mullion windows.
This section of the Dordogne river is known as the Vallee des Cinq Chateaux (Valley of the Five Castles), so-called because it’s where you can see around you five of the most awesome castles of the area: Beynac, Les Milandes, Fayrac, Castelnaud and Marqueyssac. For garden lovers, there is the former home of Josephine Baker, Chateau des Milandes, a Manor house built in 1489 and with beautiful gardens and a regular birds-of-prey show.
The winding road along the Vezere river (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) takes you to the attractive town of Montignac and the Cave of Lascaux, where the discovery of cave paintings in 1940 was of great importance to the history of prehistoric art. Due to the fragility of the paintings, the original Lascaux cave is now closed to the public, but you can visit the duplicate Lascaux II, one of the most eagerly visited tourist attractions of France.
But there are many other attractions around Esparoutis. If you go south, you quickly arrive in the quaint village of Daglan, where you can stop for coffee or lunch on the square. Further south towards the Lot River, you can explore the extraordinary medieval bastide towns of South West France.
Founded in the 13th century, these towns were usually built to a strict grid layout, centred around a main square with a market hall and sheltered arcades around the edges. Although not primarily fortified towns, the bastides often acquired fortifications later, especially during the Hundred Years War that raged in the region between the English and the French. A particularly fine example of such towns is Montpazier.
EAST & WEST
Domme, a village perched at the top of the hill from the commercial town of Cenac, is also a bastide town. It’s a must-visit place and only 5 km drive east from Esparoutis. Further to the East, there are many other beautiful villages and landscapes. Towns such as Gourdon and Souillac are vibrant places for a lunch stop and some shopping, and further east yet, crossing the A20 motorway, one enters the Lot region.
The landscape here changes from green and undulating, forested hills to barren, almost desolate causses (plateaux) criss-crossed by dry stone walls and vegetated with dry shrubs. One finds here the famous pilgrim village of Rocamadour in its spectacular setting, about an hour’s drive from Esparoutis.
From here it’s an easy drive to larger places such as Cahors (well known for its deep red wines) and Toulouse. If you want to explore other parts of southern France, such as the Pyrenees and the Provence, this is where you will connect up with the network of French highways that will lead you to these areas and more, such as Spain (Barcelona is a five-hour drive from Esparoutis).
You can walk along the two paths or hire boats to explore the beautiful River Lot, navigating the many locks along the way, or visiting the local wineries along the riverbank.
Driving west from Esparoutis, one enters the so-called ‘purple Perigord’ – the area of wineries and yet more wonderful small villages, such as Limeuil, Issigeac and Cadouin. The small town of Bergerac, about an hour’s drive, has a very pleasant central square where one can enjoy lovely al fresco lunches and dinners. Bergerac airport is not far away, with flights coming in from many cities in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium. Go further west, and one arrives in Bordeaux.
In short, there is so much to see and enjoy, one holiday will surely not be enough. We hope you will fall in love with the region around Esparoutis as we have.