Beynac Castle Beynac in the Perigord Noir

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Explore France’s delightful Périgord Noir Region

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If you are looking for a beautiful, fascinating and charming place for a holiday, then take a moment to check out the Périgord Noir region in France.  The Périgord Noir offers all of those features as well a great climate, delicious food and excellent wine. Humans and their ancestors have lived in this hospitable area for many thousands of years.

Périgord Noir View from limestone cliffs overlook the River Dordogne in the Perigord Noir region

A view overlooking peaceful villages along the River Dordogne in the Perigord Noir

There are four regions in the Périgord in the Dordogne area of the French Aquitaine – Périgord Noir region (Black), the Périgord Vert (Green), the Périgord Pourpre (Purple) and the Périgord Blanc (White). While the whole area is interesting, let’s focus on the Périgord Noir.

It’s a region rich in authentic picturesque villages, restored castles, pre-historic anthropological sites and natural caves. The capital of the Périgord Noir region is the medieval city of Sarlat. Sarlat charms visitors with its romantic architecture, wonderful markets and village like atmosphere. It is so popular it attracts over a million tourists over the summer but even in winter, it’s a pretty place.

A village in the Perigord Noir region built under a limestone overhang on the edge of the Dordogne river

A village on the banks of the Dordogne river tucked under a limestone cliff in the Perigord Noir region

The Dordogne is Gorgeous

The Dordogne river flows through the area from east to west on its way to the Atlantic coast. Over millennia the river has etched its way through the limestone leaving deep gorges and cliffs. Ancient oak and hazelnut forests still grow over much of the area interspersed with cultivated fenceless fields.

This is the northern region of French Aquitaine where France and England clashed through the Hundred Years War. Battles and skirmishes were fought throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. There are over 1,000 castles in the area, some crumbling ruins, others lovingly restored. While the castles in the Loire Valley may have all the glamour, those in the Périgord are older and equally as interesting. Many are definitely worth a visit with great views from their ramparts.

Two of the more renowned castles are Beynac which was on the French side of the river, while the fort of Castelnaud is directly across the river on the English side. The impenetrable Castelnaud is now a privately owned museum featuring medieval warfare.  For an interesting side note, the movies ‘Ever After’ and ‘Chocolat’ were filmed in the village of Beynac.

If you are inspired to explore other medieval cities and castles check out this blog post on Lithuania for some more interesting history.

Périgord Noir Beynac Castle Beynac in the Perigord Noir

View of Beynac Castle and medieval village in the Perigord Noir region

Charge like a Knight through Ancient Oak Forests

I rode on a horse trek for some days through the Perigord Noir region. It was magic riding from castle to castle, exploring overgrown trails and historic Roman ways through gnarly oak forests. Not to mention feasting like nobility every lunch and dinner time! Luckily the horses didn’t seem to mind the extra weight.

When you catch a view over the oak forests and fields it seems like there are ruins of fortified castles on every outcrop. If you travel through the area in summer bright fields of nodding sunflowers will greet you. Another main crop is tobacco.

The French Cradle of Mankind

The Vézère valley is a UNESCO World Heritage area where there are an extraordinary number of interesting anthropological and archaeological sites. This might be the land of your ancestors so maybe you will feel instantly at home in France’s “Cradle of Mankind” in the Périgord Noir region.

In 1940 a young Montignac local accidentally discovered beautiful paintings in the limestone cave system. The now world famous Lascaux caves are covered with prehistoric artwork deep underground. The astounding paintings are estimated to have been painted about 17,000 years ago. Tourists can no longer visit the actual caves because of the deterioration moist breath and body heat cause.

Périgord Noir A bison painted in prehstoric times

A prehistoric painting of a bison

In the new Lascaux however, modern artists have painstakingly replicated the original cave interior. You can spend as long as you like with the impressive vibrant figures of prehistoric animals such as aurochs, deer and horses.

Régourdou, overlooking Montignac, hol

Périgord Noir Region Black Gold

The Périgord Noir is also famous for some of France’s trademark foods. This is the land of truffles and foie gras among other delicacies.

Foie gras and truffle dish from the Perigord Noir

A delicacy from the Perigord Noir  region – foie gras garnished with truffle grated on top

Truffle hunts begin over the cooler autumn months in the hazelnut and oak forests. Specially trained dogs and pigs seek out the strong-smelling black fungi. Using pigs is somewhat riskier though, as they have a tendency to eat what they find. You might even get to join a truffle hunt. Otherwise just hunt in the local markets and bargain for a good price.

Périgord truffles are extremely expensive but the pungent smell is divine. You only need a little to add musky flavours to an oil.  Grate a small amount over a simple meal and truffles will transform what is already good, instantly into great.

The Périgord Noir region is also the area most famous in France for producing foie gras. This is made from the livers of special breeds of geese and ducks. At certain times you can see large flocks of birds out in the pastures feeding freely. Foie gras and truffles together make a memorable meal.

Getting around the Périgord Noir region

Getting to the area is relatively easy by  train or flights into Toulouse or Bordeaux. However, the area lacks a network of public transport so to make the most of you time you may need to consider car rental.

The Périgord Noir is one of my favourite areas of the world. I hope this article has given you some inspiration to plan a holiday in the area. I know that if I ever get a chance to return I would be there in a flash.

 

 

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3 Responses to " Explore France’s delightful Périgord Noir Region "

  1. Vin LaSeve says:

    ” At certain times you can see large flocks of birds out in the pastures feeding freely.”

    “feeding freely?” You DO know how they abuse those birds, right? I’m sure you do, because you made a point mentioning how they were supposedly “feeding freely”. You inserted that precisely because you know that the practice of force feeding puts people off. Well you’re right about that, but now you’ve added a lie. I’m sure they do feed freely in the fields when they not busy having stomach busting amounts of garbage shoved roughly down their throats. So much for your magical travel destination and your misleading article.

  2. Linda says:

    Thank you for your opinion, however there is no lie to the fact one often sees flocks of birds outside feeding freely. When I first saw these flocks from a distance I mistakenly thought they were sheep.
    When it comes to foie gras there is a French legal requirement that the birds must be fed by the gavage method for a number of days so if you take offense by this, I suggest you petition the French government. Gavage method of fattening birds has been around since ancient Egypt and I have no personal opinion as to it’s cruelty or system. Not all birds are grown for foie gras and I never personally visited one of these farms but I did see birds outside feeding freely.

  3. […] Rural France – Last summer, I spent a month in Provence and loved it. I stayed in Cavaillon, a small town famous for its market and its mouthwatering Charentais cantaloupe. I arrived just after the conclusion of their annual cantaloupe festival, but the fruit was still available everywhere, and their sweet, musky scent filled the air. I even dined at Maison Prévôt, a Michelin star restaurant that specializes in dishes made with the local cantaloupe! […]

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