The Dordogne, France

Happily these are also ideal surroundings in which to linger and enjoy the world’s finest wines and the region’s gastronomic specialities. The names of the honey-coloured mediaeval towns, villages and châteaux of the Périgord are instantly recognisable to gourmets, from the vineyards of Bergerac and St-Émilion to the truffle stalls of Périgueux. Here, time is measured in vintages and happiness comes by the glass.

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When to go

Spring is sunny but changeable, with May and June absolute perfection. Summer is busy but ideal for canoeing on the Dordogne. September and October see fine weather and the all-important grape harvest. Winters are usually wet and mild.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    The low-cost airlines fly to Bergerac airport, 5km southeast of the town centre. There are also regular flights to Bordeaux throughout the year.
  • Trains

    The high-speed TGV from Paris to Bordeaux takes three and a half hours. It’s eight hours from London via Eurostar. Bordeaux to Bergerac takes one hour.
  • Automobiles

    A car is indispensable for exploring the vineyards and countryside.
  • Taxis

    There’s no chance of hailing a cab out in the sticks. In Bergerac, call 05 53 23 32 32 to pre-book your ride. Or burn off those foie gras calories and hire bicycles from Apolo on 05 53 61 08 16.

Dordogne's cuisine

Dordogne's cuisine

The Périgord's vine-sprinkled terroir is a no man's land for vegetarians and calorie counters: with creamy offal-filled pâtés, duck every which way and vin de pays on tap, only bons vivants need apply…

Known for ubiquitous foie gras, golden-hued goose roasted in its own fat, crusty pain, creamy chèvre, walnut wine and cake, plump strawberries and fungi worth as much as a car.

There's little Parisian-style frippery here; expect earthy andouillette sausages and confit de canard slathered in cèpes-flavoured sauces with a side of Sarladaise potatoes. Foie gras with something fruity and strawberry-strewn tarts too…

Don't miss

• Mediaeval pilgrim-resting-point Collognes-la-Rouge is hosting a new wave of sustenance-seekers. Ferme de Berle dishes up Limousin beef, cabécou smeared on walnut bread (studded with locally grown nuts) and comforting choucroute. Don't be squeamish, the 'veal-head' and 'pig-trotter' menus are excellent; La Grange aux Oies, close by offers a great modern menu, too. 
• There's black gold in the Périgord noir: try your hand at truffle prospecting – and seek out wild saffron – in the Natural Park of Quercy. Slim pickings? Head to self-proclaimed truffe central Sorges, where Auberge de la Truffe's dishes are dappled with black-diamond shavings, and die-hard fungi fans can go follow a truffière trail and visit Musée de la Truffe.
• Home to the Truffle Festival, foie-gras fiesta Fest Oie and Les Journées du Terroir (where tastings and cookery demonstrations take place), Sarlat is the premier destination for Périgordine produce. There's a market every day too, alongside the organic night market (every Thursday from June to September) and the Truffle and Foie Gras market (Saturdays from December to February).

Stay at Château les Merles; the new-Périgord cuisine at La Bruyère Blanche – whipped up with veggies from the hotel's organic garden – is colourful and creative; Bergerac's wine and Sarlat's stonking food are nearby for top-notch guzzling, and the cookery school gives you something to do in between gorging.