Visiting the Dordogne Valley and the Lot department is like stepping back in time. It is a predominantly rural area with unspoilt nature, farmlands, forests and of course the Dordogne and Lot Rivers. The region has stunning scenery and a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are numerous medieval hilltop villages and fortified towns to explore and the region is well known for its wonderful cuisine. The motto of the Lot is “A surprise at every step” and there are many things to do here, mostly related to food and wine.
To discover more about the region and the departments of the Lot and the Dordogne click on the link below.
There are over 1000 castles in the Dordogne region alone, with a great number in the Lot. Some are medieval fortresses with military exhibitions or torture chambers and some
have activities such as birds of prey demonstrations. They also offer amazing views of the surrounding countryside.
The most famous caves are the Lascaux caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site, near Montignac in the Dordogne. They contain some of the best known Upper Palaeolithic art, over 17,000 years old. Caves closer to the house In Lacave or Padirac have underground lakes, rivers and caverns
Festivals are very popular in France, especially during the summer months.
Most of those occurring around Martel are based on food such as goats cheese, walnuts, plums and truffles including a walnut and a cabecou festival.
Music festivals include opera, jazz and blues. Cahors in the Lot, is on the Mississippi Blues Trail, so some of the world’s greatest blues players play at the Cahors Blues Festival.
Martel has the “bal populaire”, with music and dancing in the market square in the Summer.
One of the delights of living in rural France is a visit to a local market which plays an important role in French village life. A fresh produce market will occur in a nearby village or town on most days of the week.
Additionally, markets selling furniture, old wares and collectibles such as Vide-Greniers, (‘attic emptier’) and Brocantes occur regularly
Museums range from those specialising on Renaissance architecture, war history and the Resistance movement to food and wine. Martel even has a walnut museum!
The Lot is famous for saffron, cabécou goat's cheese, truffles, walnuts, plums and melon du Quercy (rockmelon) as well as Vin de Cahors, long lived very dark, almost black wines.
It has also held the significant distinction of having the most Michelin starred restaurants (seven) per capita, in a department in France in one year.
It is hard to find a bad meal here and dining out is generally very good value. Local restaurants offer 'le ouvrier' (workers' lunch), and for around 13€ you can have a 5 course meal consisting of soup, entree, main, cheese and dessert with half a carafe of local wine and coffee!
The French love their gardens and as it is a rural area, there are many unique and special parks and gardens in the region.
Most are formal in design, some include displays of topiary art, some have themed garden rooms mingled with art installations and some represent a climatic region of the world.
One of the most unique is the Les Jardins de Colette in Varetz consisting of different landscapes the famous French author loved.
On summer evenings most parks and gardens have extended opening hours with music and entertainment and food and wine.
Walking and hiking are very popular in rural France. The Lot has numerous walking trails with coloured markings on walls, trees and fences leading the way. An 11km trail that starts in Martel is called Water and Stone and takes around 3 hours.
There are two golf courses near Martel and canoeing or kayaking is available at a number of spots along the Dordogne River.. The nearest canoe hire is five minutes drive away.
Rugby is ingrained in the culture of the region. Although Brive-la-Galliarde is a provincial town it is well known internationally due to its rugby club called CA Brive.
Autoire - village in a valley with turreted manor houses, known as 'Little Versailles'
Cahors - large medieval town on the River Lot, with cobblestone shopping lanes, famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Valentre Bridge and its black wine
Carennac - quiet picturesque village on the Dordogne River
Loubressac - medieval village perched high on a hill
Rocamadour - spectacular cliff hanging village, the second most visited site in France.
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie - picturesque medieval village built high on a clifftop with many artisan shops and galleries.
Puy Leveque - picturesque village perched above the Lot River with cobblestone lanes and stairways leading down into its port.
Belves - bastide town with a castle and 13th century troglodyte dwellings.
Beynac-et-Cazenac - medieval town on the Dordogne River, featured in the films Chocolate and Joan of Arc.
Domme - a hilltop fortified town with exceptional views over the Dordogne Valley.
Sarlat - one of the best medieval towns in France with Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
Hautefort - lovely hill top town with a stunning chateau.
Issigeac - a wonderful medieval village with the best Sunday market in the area.
La Roque-Gageac - riverside village and one of Dordogne’s most photographed.
Terrasson-Lavilledieu - a lovely old town divided by the river with blue slate rooves.
Brive-la-Gaillarde - has numerous shops in the old quarter and a TGV train station.
Collonges-la-Rouge - medieval village built in red sandstone with turreted manor houses. Where the “Most Beautiful Villages of France” association was established in 1981.
Saint Robert - medieval village renowned for its stately houses and fortified church.
Curemonte - high on a hill, it is a medieval ‘city’ with three castles and three churches.
Tulle - known for its handcrafted lace, its medieval district has narrow streets and tall houses.
Turenne - stunning 15th century fairy tale village, built on a hill with steep lanes and panoramic views.
Aubazine - Coco Chanel spent her childhood here in the 12th century Cistercian Abbey.