Self-Catering in the SW of France – Dordogne and Perigord

Le Maine, Cubjac


About 25 years ago I discovered the Dordogne river valley, invited there by a French friend in the summer holidays. I’ve since been back many times. Recently we (my partner and I) went with our 7 year old daughter and stayed there for a month.

Moving a 7 year old from hotel to hotel becomes quite difficult and we found our daughter felt much more settled in a house and for longer periods like a week. We rented several holiday rental houses in the SW of France both from locals and from Australian owners. This worked out much cheaper than hotels (you should be able to find something for around $1000-1200 per week) and had the added advantage of us being able to buy local produce and cook at least sometimes; eating out in restaurants you can start to feel quite unhealthy – particularly as everything involves either large amounts of butter or goose fat (or both). Also eating at home can be fun and the markets have unbelievable produce.

The SW of France is much quieter than the big cities (obviously) but also is relatively under-populated compared to the rest of France with small villages scattered across gorgeous countryside, big rivers and spectacular valleys.

We stayed close to the Dordogne river near St Cyprien, a short drive to bastide towns like Monpazier and also pretty hilltop villages like Belves. There is also Sarlat (the first town in France with a preservation order because of its architecture), it is a slightly bigger town which is beautiful and thus may be overrun with tourists in summer, but in May, June or September/October it is much quieter.

The weather in this part of France is terrific in spring, summer and autumn. If you can go when the French school kids are not on holiday, then life will be perfect. French school kids and most workers have long holidays in summer, but the kids go back to school (la rentrée) the first week in September and from this day on everything is magically sane again, including the roads.

One of our favourite parts of the Dordogne is around the slightly larger town of Perigueux. If you base yourself around here you can visit many lovely towns, Sarlat, Beynac and le Roque Gageac which have chateaux clinging to high cliffs overlooking the Dordogne river (and a good spot apparently to film bodice rippers like Dartagnan’s Daughter). There are also great restaurants such as the one at le Vieux Logis in Tremolat (which has an affordable sister restaurant across the road called le bistrot d’en face).

Also, the prehistoric cave paintings at the Lascaux caves (which are in fact a reproduction but still fascinating) and the prehistory museum at Les Eyzies are worth a visit. As mentioned above you can find Dordogne cottages to rent from Australian owners, and also there are great places to stay owned by locals. One such is ‘Le Maine’ in a small village called Cubjac near Perigueux. It is a beautiful house set on acres of park-like gardens and has 3 self-catering cottages that can be rented. Catherine and Maxence live on site, speak English and have had many Australian guests in the past, so can give plenty of travel advice (

For getting there by air, there are now several budget carriers flying into France – mainly from England, so you can get to Bergerac airport for example cheaply from London (Stansted) and Liverpool. Otherwise, train to Brive, Perigueux or Limoges from Paris and you are quite close. We rented a car through one of the French manufacturers (Citroen) and got a brand new car cheaper than a rental car.

Of course one of the other advantages of the quietness of this part of France is that driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road is slightly less intimidating. I did get pulled over once by the gendarmes; a slightly worrying experience as they looked really grim; for overtaking a car with a trailer and that was about to turn. Luckily they believed my excuse that the trailer had no working indicators on it so I would have had to be a mind reader to know why it was slowing down. Anyway, if you’d like to see a more real part of France, eat fantastic food and meet people who are not totally bored by dealing with tourists, try the SW in the Dordogne river valley.

The village of Cubjac

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