12 day 3 Rivers Tour
An 11 Night, 12 Day Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe tour to the Perigord & Lot regions of the south of France with canoeing on three different rivers, visits to caves to see 25,000 year-old paintings, troglodyte dwellings along the river, huge castles and beautiful chateaux, as well as paddling through beautiful and dramatic nature and tasting the local cuisine & wines.
This is our classic, much loved, orginal tour. We paddle the Valley of Man on the Vezere river and visit the painted caves at Lascaux plus as many other interesting pre-history sites as we can along the way.
We then travel south via the superb market town of Sarlat and the legendary hanging village of Rocamadour to the Cele valley. Here we have some peaceful paddling in this hidden valley off the Lot. We visit more painted caves at Pech Merle and the fabulous steep village of St. Cirq Lapopie.
We then return north to the fabulous Dordogne river and paddle 3 days past many Chateaux and Castles visiting Castelnaud, Beynac and Milandes as we go.
This tour is run on demand. If you are a group of between 4 and 14 then choose your own dates and we will arrange it.
Our usual Tour size is between 4 and 7 guests with 2 guides.
If you are not a group of 4 then tell us your preferred dates and we will reserve that for you and try to rustle up others to make the tour viable.
4 people are required to run a tour. A tour of less than 4 can be run with a surcharge.
Fully Guided whilst on the river & trail
Full minibus support throughout
Transfer to & from Arrival/Departure point
All accommodation in B&Bs & small Hotels
All breakfasts, lunches and evening meals
Canoe the Valley of Man on the Vezere river
Canoe the Dordogne past Chateaux & Castles
Visit caves at Castel Merle, Lascaux & Pech Merle
Hike along the route of the Way of St. James
All canoes, paddles & life-vests
The price is €3175 per person.
Groups of more than 14 can be accommodated on special request. A private tour for 1 or 2 persons can be arranged with a surchage.
The tour meets & departs from Brive Railway station at about midday or at close regional airports by arrangement. Brive is 4 hours from Paris by train. Local airports are at Limoges, Brive and Bergerac.
The Vezere is a medium sized river that flows down the famous ‘Valley of Man’ into the Dordogne. On the way it passes through several small towns and picturesque villages such as Montignac, St. Leon and Les Eyzies.
Along this river man has lived for tens of thousands of years. The famous caves of Lascaux are close to Montignac and many other cave sites are spread down the valley. The valley also has the remains of medieval dwellings along its course: we can see them at Roque St. Christophe and Madeleine. We will also pass several Châteaux dating from the 13th and 14th C as well as the remains of a lock gate system which controlled the flow in the river when it was a major transport link.
The river and trails along this Unesco Heritage site will give an easy opportunity to visit many of the places mentioned.
The Célé is a small winding stream that flows down a steep sided valley into the Lot. On the way it passes through several small and picturesque villages such as Espingnac, Marciilhac, Sauliac and Cabrerets, which is the site of the famous Pech Merle cave which we visit..
Along the same valley a long-distance trail winds its way. Sometimes besides the river but mostly up high along the valley’s edge. This is the GR651 which is a small deviation off the famous GR65 more commonly known as the ‘Way of St. James’ or the ‘Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle’.
In an adjacent valley flows the Lot river with the famous cliff-hanging village of St. Cirq Lapopie.
The Dordogne is a large river that flows down to the Gironde before it reaches the Atlantic Ocean just north of Bordeaux. On the way it passes many large castles before the valley widens out into the famous vineyards of Bergerac and Bordeaux itself.
The castles along the stretch of the Dordogne we paddle are those that were built to defend the borders of England and France during 300 years of struggle which ended after the 100 years war.
Day 1. Arrival and first meeting.
You will be met at our arranged meeting point by our guides for your transfer to the Vezere valley. This is usually Brive-la-Gaillarde Station for those guests arriving by train from Paris.
Alternatively arrangements can be made for arrivals at regional airports: Brive, Limoges and Bergerac are possibilities.
We will meet you off the train that arrives at Brive at 1pm or 2pm. The drive to St. Leon-sur-Vezere valley takes about 45 minutes. We will stop here for a picnic lunch, get to know each other and go over the trip together. It is a 10 minute drive from here to our accommodation, or a 45 minute walk instead.
Our first picnic and meeting place is under the willows on the banks of the Vezere.
On our arrival at the Relais de la Cote de Jor we will be met by our host Roland. If time and the weather allows we will be able to use the swimming-pool and relax before dinner.
Day 2. Our first day on the river
Today we will paddle the Vezere river from Montignac to St. Leon. When we pass the village of Sergeac we will stop to visit and look at the village and the old church. We will have our lunch on the river-bank here too. Later we can walk along the river bank and visit the cave at Castel Merle. This is a working excavation where a recent find is reputed to be the oldest known cave painting in Europe. We may also have time to visit the Chateau du Losse.
We will pass several Chateaus built out over the river today and also see the remains of a lock system built in the 18th Century. We remain at the Cote de Jor tonight.
Day 3. Down to Les Eyzies
We will continue our paddle from St, Leon down to Les Eyzies. We will stop for our picnic lunch at Tursac. Today we will pass under the cliffs of Roque St. Christophe which was a troglodyte city built into the cliffs and inhabited until the Middle Ages.
Further downstream we will pass the Chapel Madeleine built into the cliff below a Roman Fortress.
Today we move onto the Hostellerie du Passeur in Les Eyzies and have the choice of several restaurants in the town to choose where to have dinner.
Day 4. Sarlat & Rocamadour
In the morning we will visit the open-air market in Sarlat and wander the streets of the picturesque town.
Later in the afternoon we will visit the world famous Rocamadour which is a set of numerous chapels built into a cliff-face with a chateau above and a village below. It is a renowned pilgrimage site.
We will then drive onto the Cele valley an hour or so away.
On our arrival at la Métairie Basse we will be met by our hosts Helen and Richard. If time and the weather allows we will be able to use the swimming-pool.
Day 5. First paddle on the Célé
Today we will paddle the Célé river from St. Eulalie to Marcilhac. When we pass the village of Espingnac we will stop to visit and look at the ruins and design of the old tower.
Later we will have our lunch on the river-bank around about Brengue. Before the days paddle we can walk on the limestone causse and visit a Dolmen.
We remain at the Métairie Basse tonight.
Day 6. The Célé to Cabrerets
We will continue our paddle from Marcilhac down to Cabrerets.
Before the paddle we can walk a short stretch of the GR651 and make sure we see the ruins of the old abbey in the village itself.
We will stop for our picnic lunch at Sauliac beneath a Chateaux and a lovely spot for swimming.
We remain at the Métairie Basse again tonight.
Day 7. A Cave, a paddle, & walk
We will walk from our lodgings across the causse and down to the Célé valley at Cabrerets.
Will will then visit the caves at Peche de Merle to see the world famous 25,000 year old paintings.
We will then finish our canoe on the Célé with a short paddle down to Conduche and finish off the day with an hours river-bank walk to the beautiful village of St. Cirq Lapopie.
Depending on timings we will have our picnic today at the caves or beside the the Lot river.
Tonight we stay at the Auberge du Sombral in St. Cirq Lapopie.
Day 8. A Hike or a Paddle
Today we have a choice between several long hikes. Either the GR651 pilgrims trail along the Célé valley, or a walk along the cliffs above the Lot river or perhaps some walks around the forests and cliffs above St. Cirq Lapopie.
We will carry our lunch with us today and find a suitable spot ourselves.
Alternatively we can canoe along a section of the Lot river – completely different from the Célé.
Tonight we remain in the Auberge du Sombral.
Day 9. On the Dordogne river
In the morning we will drive to Souilliac and then later we will paddle the Dordogne river from Cazoules to Montfort.
We will have our lunch on the river-bank somewhere near St. Julien. The size of this river will allow us to explore various routes around several islands before we arrive under the massive Castle at Monfort.
Tonight we will be staying in the the Hotel Plaissance at Vitrac.
Day 10. Castles and Chateaux
We will continue our paddle from Montfort down to Beynac.
Today we will pass under the village of Domme before arriving at the cliff-hugging village of Roque-Gageac where we usually stop for drinks and a walk around.
Further downstream we come under the watchful gaze of Castelnaud before arriving at another cliff-top castle at Beynac.
We will take time to visit these places as we pass. Lunch will probably be taken on the river-bank at Castelnaud, either before or after we visit the castle.
Tonight we stay at the Hotel de Chateau in Beynac.
Day 11. 3rd day on the Dordogne
Today we will continue our paddle down the Dordogne from Beynac down to Siorac.
Before leaving Beynac we will visit the castle and the village and then paddle down to the Chateau de Milandes for a visit there too. It's a short walk from the river.
After our picnic lunch we will continue to meander downstream and have some fun exploiring a number of islands.
We remain in the Hotel de Chateau for tonight.
Day 12. A visit to Lascaux
After a leisurely breakfast we will return to Brive in time to catch the 1pm train to Paris.
But before that we will visit the world famous painted caves at Lascaux, which are unmissable.
Finally we will say our farewells and reflect on our epic tour of the region.
Relais de la Côte de Jor
For the first two nights we are at the Relais de la Côte de Jor just outside the village of St. Leon-sur-Vezere. Sitting high above the valley of the Vezere with beautiful views from from the garden and balconies the small hotel is a short 10 minute drive from the village or an easy 30 minute walk down a trail.
The hotel has a pool in which we can relax after a busy day on the river.
For those that wish to walk before breakfast we have a couple of ideas. Firstly along to the Côte de Jor itself which is a viewing point looking down on a bend in the Vezere river with the village of St. Leon and it’s chateau and church in the distance. A second possibility is to take the trails through the chestnut woods and down to a couple of small fishing ponds before returning past a private Chateau with ornamental gardens.
The Relais does not do evening meals so we shall drive into the village and visit the Restaurant de la Poste on one night and choose from a selection of other nearby restaurants for our second night.
Hostellerie du Passeur
On the third night we are at the Hostellerie du Passeur in the small town of Les Eyzies. This charming and comfortable hotel is at the heart of the village off a small square opposite the National Pre-History Museum.
When in Les Eyzies we can choose our own restaurant for the evening. The hotel itself is available as are a number of restaurants in the town: they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
If you are in the mood for an early morning walk then we have a circular ramble that takes us across the river and up through some forests to the causse past some remote farms.
For the 4th, 5th and 6th nights we are at the Métairie Basse which is situated high above the Célé valley on the Causse above the village of Sauliac. Our hosts Richard and Helen have converted a farmhouse from almost a complete ruin to provide fabulous accommodation in this quiet area.
In the grounds we can look at the market garden and chickens and also use the outdoor swimming-pool which nestles surprisingly in a converted barn
Early morning walkers can enjoy some trails out onto the Causse and visit an ancient Dolmen: a Iron-Age burial site perhaps 8,000 years old. We can also walk the long, but downhill trail, to the village of Cabrerets on the Cele river to begin our third day with a visit to the cave at Peche Merle.
Richard and Helen will provide us with some delicious home-cooked meals featuring regional specialities and using ingredients from their own garden. They will also introduce us to some local Apéritifs such as Vin Noix, a Ratafia or perhaps a Fénelon.
l‘Auberge du Sombral
On the 7 and 8th nights we stay at the l’Auberge du Sombral in the heart of Saint Cirq Lapopie. This picturesque village perches on the side of the cliff above the Lot river and is looked over by a ruined castle and abbey and surrounded by the remains of a fortified wall with entrance gates at the top and lower ends. The village has a single street from which vehicles are barred (excepting access for locals) and is riddled by a network of tiny cobbled pathways.
Our hotel sits in the main square almost at the top of the village within easy walking distance of the restaurants and small shops. On our first evening here we are able to choose our own restaurant but on our final evening we will all dine together again either in the village itself or close by.
For those that like to walk we have plenty of choices of all lengths and difficulties. The village is surrounded by woods and the top of the Causse can be easily reached to offer superb views over the valley. Other walks take the winding trails down to the river and we can follow the Chemin de Haulage which is the path previously used by the Bargemen and their horses to pull boats along the Lot.
On the 9th night we are at the Hotel Plaissance or La Trielle, in the villages of Vitrac on the banks of the Dordogne river.
The Plaissance has a garden with a swimming-pool just a short walk up the hill and a terrace for drinks & socialising.
We can take an early morning walk to visit the Chateau Montfort which can look spectacular in the early morning light when the mist is rising on the river. Our walk will take us through tiny hamlets and past numerous walnut orchards and we'll be able to view the Dordogne river from various spectacular vantage points.
Hôtel du Château or the Domaine de Monrecour
For the final two nights we are at the Hôtel du Château in Beynac. The hotel sits at the heart of this small village directly underneath the Chateau Beynac which looms above us. It is directly on the river and no more than a two minute walk from where we take-out the canoes in the afternoon and put-in the next morning. An alternative is to stay at the Domaine de Monrecour which is a small chateau near Beynac in the village of St. Vincent de Cosse.
The early morning walk takes us up to the castle via a secret path with smugglers caves and out into the countryside beyond, past some farms and through a mysterious wood before looping back home.
The hotel’s restaurant has tables on a terrace beside the river, and also a small swimming pool.
What we see
Cave Painting Sites
Castel Merle: close to St. Leon-sur-Vezere where we shall visit on our first day on the river. Though a small site it gives a great introduction to the pre-history of the valley. Next door is an excavation by the University of New York. If Professor White is on hand he often gives us a small talk.
Font de Gaume: this is in Les Eyzies. Access is now restricted and cannot be booked in advance. We can try to make arrangements to visit if required.
Rouffignac: the cave drawings in this cave are accessed by a small railway. If time allows we can visit this.
Pech Merle: this famous cave is in the Célé and we will definitely visit this when we arrive in Cabrerets.
Lascaux: visitors are only allowed to access the replica site, Lascaux 2. But this is still amazing. From 2017 Lascaux 4 is open which is a new replica cave & museum. We've been here and can attest that it too is brilliant.
Roque St. Christophe: we canoe past this on the Vezere and we can stop and visit if we wish.
Madeleine: we also canoe past this on the same day. We can also see the Roman Castle and the 11th C Chapel perched on the cliff. Access is not possible from the river though.
Forte de Riegnac: we also pass this on the same day and get a glimpse through the trees.
When canoeing down the Célé river we can see the ruined English Castle high in the cliffs above us (we can pass this too if we take a walk up here) and also the Devils Castle in Cabrerets.
Many of the villages we pass through and visit have Churches dating from the 11thC. Marcilhac aslo has a ruined Abbey and Espignac a former Monastery.
The city of Sarlat has a beautiful Cathedral as well as a stunningly picturesque medieval town centre of narrow streets.
Rocamadour is famous for its cliff hugging sequence of seven chapels, topped with a Chateau.
Montfort: we pass under this beautiful castle when canoeing on the Dordogne river.
Castelnaud: this is also on the Dordogne. Often called the English castle because of its role in the 100 years War. We stop for lunch at Castelnaud and have plenty of time to climb the Roman Road to the village and visit the castle.
Beynac: is also on the Dordogne. We stay in a hotel at the bottom of the medieval village which runs up the hill on top of which is the castle and a huge church. This was a French stronghold during the 100 years War. From its ramparts you can see the spying castle opposite at Fayrac as well as Castelnaud and the castle that spied on it at Marqueyssac.
We visit Beynac before we start our last day of paddling.
Commarque: we could visit these wonderful ruins in the Vezere valley if we can find the time.
Marquessac: we see this on the Dordogne river - it sits opposite Castelnaud. We can arrange to visit the house and amazing gardens in the late afternoon if we have time.
Milandes is famous for Joesephine Baker's time there. We visit this on our last day on the Dordogne river.
Fayrac: we canoe past this on the Dordogne river as we approach Beynac.
Cenevieres: we canoe past this on the Célé tour when paddling the Lot river. We can also arrange to visit on our 'rest' or 'hiking' day.
Le Plus Beaux Village De France
We are fortunate to visit and indeed stay at some of the most beautiful villages in France.
Beynac-et-Cazenac: we stay here on our last two nights.
Castelnaud-de-Chapelle: we visit this village when canoeing the Dordogne.
La Roque-Gageac: we usually stop here for a coffee and a visit on our second day on the Dordogne river.
Saint-Amand-de-Coly: we can visit here if we decide not to visit Lascaux.
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: we stay here two nights when visiting the Célé & Lot valleys.
Saint-Leon-sur-Vezere: we stay here on the first two nights of our tour.
The Rough Guide to Dordogne and the Lot by Jan Dodd
The Rough Guide to the Dordogne and the Lot is the ultimate handbook for discovering the region, from its spectacular limestone caves to the fairytale château of Najac. Discover walks and cycle trails to ancient cliffs and peaceful riverbanks, and stop off at world-famous vineyards. Foodies will enjoy a full-colour section on A taste of Périgord, sharing the best of the region's world-renowned cuisine, while readers are directed to the finest restaurants and water-side cafés, not to mention festivals and local markets. Whether you're looking for the best campsites or the most stylish hotels, you can rely on accommodation suggestions for every budget and taste. You'll find practical advice on travelling around the region, from boat tours to rail services, relying on the clearest maps of any guide. Explore all corners of this region with authoritative background information on everything from the region's varied landscapes and wildlife to its fascinating history and cultural heritage.
Dordogne and Lot by Michael Pauls and Dana Facaros
The Dordogne takes people by surprise. Green and calm and quiet, at first glance it seems like just another corner of rural France designed for good food, fine wine and easy living. Then they notice that it holds humanity's first great works of art, provocative paintings on the walls of its caves that go back over 15,000 years BC. It's been a busy crossroads ever since. The land of a thousand castles has cinematic medieval donjons and turreted Renaissance chateaux to rival those of the Loire. A dramatic history hasn't kept the Dordogne from polishing the arts of everyday life. There's an inviting cuisine based on duck, foie gras and truffles, and lovely villages of warm golden stone that complement some of France's most civilized landscapes. Including ideas for great days out, locals recommendations and travel tips to avoid the crowds and save money, FootprintFrance Dordogne gives an insight into a region that will have you reaching for your passport today.
Illuminating, engrossing and full of surprises, The Discovery of France is a literary exploration of a country few will recognize; from maps and migration to magic, language and landscape, it’s a book that reveals the ‘real’ past of France to tell the whole story – and history – of this remarkable nation.
‘With gloriously apposite facts and an abundance of quirky anecdotes and thumbnail sketches of people, places and customs, Robb, on brilliant form, takes us on a stunning journey through the historical landscape of France’ Independent
‘Certain books strain the patience of those close to you. How many times can you demand: “Look at this! Can you imagine? Did you know that?” without actually handing over the volume? This is such a book’ Mail on Sunday
‘An extraordinary journey of discovery that will delight even the most indolent armchair traveller’ Daily Telegraph
For over a hundred years England repeatedly invaded France on the pretext that her kings had a right to the French throne. France was a large, unwieldy kingdom, England was small and poor, but for the most part she dominated the war, sacking towns and castles and winning battles - including such glorious victories as Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt, but then the English run of success began to fail, and in four short years she lost Normandy and finally her last stronghold in Guyenne. The protagonists of the Hundred Year War are among the most colourful in European history: for the English, Edward III, the Black Prince and Henry V, later immortalized by Shakespeare; for the French, the splendid but inept John II, who died a prisoner in London, Charles V, who very nearly overcame England and the enigmatic Charles VII, who did at last drive the English out. Desmond Seward's account traces the changes that led to France's final victory and brings to life all the intrigue and colour of the last chivalric combats as they gave way to a more brutal modern warfare.
A Concise History of France by Roger Price
This book provides a clear and well-informed guide to French history from the emergence of a strong state in the Ile-de-France in the early middle ages, to the trente glorieuses following the Second World War and the Mitterrand presidency. As such, it provides the most up-to-date and comprehensive study of French history available. Among the book's central themes are the relationship between state and society, the impact of war and such crucial questions as who possessed political power, how this power was used, in whose interests, and with what consequences. Roger Price examines the role of leading figures including Philip Augustus, Henri IV, Louis XIV, the two Napoleans, Clemenceau and De Gaulle as well as the lives of ordinary people. A rich entertaining guide for the student and general reader.
A Traveller’s History of France, by Robert Cole
The Traveller's History series is designed for the traveller who feels they need more historical background information on the country in which they are staying than can be found in an ordinary guidebook. For those who want to look deeper and discover more about the roots of France, its history and culture, in an enjoyable read, this is the book to choose. Designed for easy reference it is the key to unlocking the secrets of France. If you want to find about the mysterious Merovingian kings or the results of the last election; if you want to know when Chartres cathedral was built or how Napoleon rose to power or when and where Princess Diana died - you'll find it all in A Traveller's History of France.
'Undoubtedly the best way to prepare for a trip to France is to bone up on some history. The Traveller's History of France by Robert Cole is concise and gives the essential facts in a very readable form.' The Independent
'This little book is a very good idea indeed, a running commentary on the complexities, triumphs and tragedies of French history from the Lascaux Caves to the Pompidou centre. A must for tourists who want to know what happened where.' The Birmingham Post
'A brilliant idea from Gloucestershire publishers Windrush: a series of books which give a potted history of European countries. Ostensibly aimed at holidaymakers, the first on France, is an excellent introduction for anyone who wants an idiot's guide to a history that has so often intertwined with our own.' The Oxford Times
Cave Art: A Guide to the Decorated Ice Age Caves of Europe by Paul G. Bahn
The decorated Ice Age caves are some of mankind's greatest artistic achievements, and there is no substitute for seeing the caves themselves. There you can see the art – paintings, engravings, bas-reliefs or drawings – in its original, natural setting, and stand where the artists did 30,000–10,000 years ago. For speleologists and holidaymakers alike – indeed anyone who wants to add a visit to a cave to their itinerary – here is an essential handbook.
The first guide to all the decorated Ice Age caves in Europe that are open to the public, Cave Art covers more than 50 caves in England, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, as well as relevant museums and centres. This second edition has been fully revised and includes three additional caves and four new facsimiles.
The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists by Gregory Curtis
The Cave Painters is an introduction to the spectacular cave paintings of France and Spain. From the individuals who rediscovered them, through theories about their origins, and to descriptions of their splendour and mystery.Gregory Curtis makes us see the astonishing sophistication and power of the paintings and tells us what is known about their creators, the Cro-Magnon people of some 40,000 years ago. He takes us through various theories—that the art was part of fertility or hunting rituals, or used for religious purposes, or was clan mythology—examining the ways interpretations have changed over time. Rich in detail, personalities, and history,
The Cave Painters is above all permeated with awe for those distant humans who developed—perhaps for the first time—both the ability for abstract thought and a profound and beautiful way to express it.