The Dordogne is located in southwest France, in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It’s situated between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees, and is named after the Dordogne river that runs through it. We were lucky to visit this area of France for a photo assignment last year and we are not disappointed by the calming landscapes, towering castles and quaint villages.
The area has earned a nickname as “Dordognshire” due to the thriving British community that have been attracted to warmer weather, French lifestyle and lower cost of living. We weren’t sure what to expect and wondered how the locals felt about the British influx. Especially with Brexit, the amount of British people buying houses in the area has increased. We found that the locals, perhaps surprisingly, have heartily embraced the historical perfidious enemy. The Brits have given new life to the area and English speaking tours of the Dordogne are bringing more tourists to discover this beautiful place. The history of the Dordogne is fascinatingly intertwined with that of England. It was in fact once English!
5 reasons to Visit the Dordogne, France
Castles and Medieval History
This area has a rich history involving wars and familiar names from history class. Due to it’s turbulent history during the middle ages, stunning castles highly populate the region.I was honestly flabbergasted by the amount of signs for historical monuments.
You could say it all started with Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine. She inherited much of Aquitaine, and married the King of France, Louis VII. The marriage union didn’t produce a son, and was subsequently annulled after 15 years. Eight weeks later, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet. Henry became king of England, and a large part of France consequentially fell under English rule. The French, as you can imagine, weren’t amused. Over the next thirteen years, Eleanor bore eight children: five sons, three of whom became kings; and three daughters. Eventually her second son, Richard the Lionheart, ascended the throne. He inherited all the French lands and spent time fighting in the crusades and the Dordogne.
In 1328, following the deaths of the 3 sons of Philippe le Bel, the French selected Philippe Count of Valois to be king, instead of English king Edward III. This shows how closely tied the royal families were. Edwards III was the nephew of the deceased French king!
Philippe VI ordered that the lands of Aquitaine be taken from the English. Then in 1340, Edward III declared himself King of France. This was the start of the disastrous Hundred Years War where a lot of historical battles occurred in the Dordogne.
The wine of this region has often been overlooked as it is adjacent to Bordeaux. Vines, as elsewhere in France, were planted here by the Romans. The River Dordogne was vital in promoting the wine trade and directly led to the wealth of the region during the Middle Ages.
The Bergerac area has exported wines since 1254, when it began shipping its vintages to England based on special privileges such as special tax exemptions granted by Henry III of England. Despite Bergerac’s special privileges, during this period, Bordeaux was known to use its superior position, downriver and near the mouth of the Garonne river, to give its own wines priority over barrels of Bergerac wines being transported on river barges. The region subsequently expanded it’s exportation to other countries in Europe and across the Atlantic.
Now I’m certainly not comparing the markets of Dordogne to the markets of Provence. However, the markets in Dordogne have their own special, more rustic charm. In this land, it’s all about the succulent prunes, sought-after truffles, and products made from ducks such as foie gras and confit de canard.
Some of the most beautiful gardens in France are located in the Dordogne. Impressive, intricate sculptures made of boxwood have taken years to perfect. A great day out with the kids, or for romantic wanderings.
The combination of medieval architecture with the fact that this area was left quiet untouched until recently, means you’ll find all kinds of buildings, some in ruins, full of character. A mixture of stone roofs and wooden timber framed structures are all there to be admired.
Combine it with a Tour