A hike through an ancient heritage, hilltop villages of the DordogneCorreze, the 19th Department of France, that hosts the start of this walk. To the West lies Bordeaux, to the South, the city of Toulouse, both some two and a half hours by car or train, yet to enjoy the wide panoramas and clear skies of this corner of the Massif Central some effort is required to reach it – it’s worth it. Collognes-La-Rouge is busy even out of season, its reputation as one of the top “Plus Beaux Villages de France” attracting visitors from afar, but in spite of its reliance on tourism, its restaurateurs and artisans have preserved the medieval charm with sympathy. Red stone fades to a soft yellow, country lanes and farm tracks lead through more open vistas and the village of Curemonte offers a profile in keeping with the spirit of the walk. The central cluster of “pepper pot” towers is three distinct castles built around a 12th Century church. The names are confusing as the Department of the Dordogne is not visited at all and the tour continues into the neighbouring Department, the Lot. It is, however, the River Dordogne that dominates, from the snow of the Puy de Sancy, at over 6000ft, to the beaches of the Atlantic. Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne lives up to its name. A day walk option from the city offers the hiker the choice of wider views of the valley or a chance to wander amongst the narrow streets. Although busy with visitors in high season, this community provides facilities all year round and it is very pleasant to stroll the river banks, drop into a patisserie or visit the Abbey Church of St Pierre. Leaving the city demands a brisk climb onto a plateau of rolling farm land as the route cuts off a large meander in the river until crossing the Dordogne bridge into the Lot and thence to Carennac. This village, another of the five “Plus beaux Villages de France” on this tour, takes the visitor into its heart. Standing in the intimate “Court du Prieure” transports you back in time, a sensation reflected in the neat, tightly packed houses. Perched high above the Dordogne River, Carennac fulfils the expectations of the “hilltop village” in all respects. The next day’s hike traverses the edge of the arid limestone plateau characteristic of the region, the “Causses du Quercy”. On route is the “Gouffre de Padirac”, a spectacular sink hole formed by a collapsed subterranean cavern, and thereafter the route follows the GR652 long distance path. Loubressac, standing above the Bave and Dordogne Rivers, is able to look down upon even the haughty Chateau de Castlenau.
In the adjacent valley, the “Gentilhommeries”, the dwellings of the well-to-do merchants of medieval St Cere, occupy the most sought after locations in Autoire. The path threads through thevillage to the Cascade, a stiff ascent to the cliff line and the track back to Loubressac, finishing the tour with a first class circular walk.
Good hike, thanks, MacsAdventure
Find out more about Macs Adventure's Hilltop Villages of the Dordogne trip here: http://www.macsadventure.com/holiday-659/hilltop-villages-of-the-dordogne