Lovers of old stone, medieval castles, deep forests and food amateurs, this part of the Dordogne département known as the Périgord Noir (Black Périgord) is waiting for your visit! Its principal point of interest is its long history of human occupation from as early as Prehistoric times while its medieval villages, with their looming castles, witnessed conflicts and battles such as the Hundred Years War between the French and the English.
Where is Périgord Noir?
The Périgord Noir is called ‘black’ because of the dark colour created by its large sections of thick forest.
The limits of the Périgord Noir are generally accepted to correspond to the arrondissement of Sarlat. However, for two grey areas, it is not known for sure whether they are included or not in the Périgord Noir: the countryside of Villefranche-de-Périgord (with Périgord Pourpre) and Hautefort (with Périgord Blanc). Various Tourist Offices of the villages and regions of Périgord have conflicted information about the subject on their tourist brochures!
The Dordogne Valley in the Périgord Noir
The Périgord Noir includes the popular Valley of the Dordogne River from Souillac to Limeuil. Often known as “Vallée des Cinq Chateaux” (Valley of the Five Castles), this stretch of the Dordogne River is bordered by some of the most visited sites of all south-western France: La Roque-Gageac, the gardens of Marqueyssac, the castle-rich sites of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Fayrac, Beynac-et-Cazenac and Les Milandes, without forgetting the ‘bastide’ (walled town) of Domme.
Find out more about the Valley of the Dordogne.
The Castles of Périgord
Périgord is referred to as the ‘Land of 1001 Castles’. The construction of castles began in the 11th and 12th centuries and most were later enhanced with better defensive mechanisms during the medieval battle of the Hundred Years War between the kingdoms of France and England. Castles are generally located on very inaccessible sites, such as rocky outcrops or hillocks encircled by bogs. In addition, the proximity of main access roads along the Dordogne River to the castles was strategically efficient to grant or deny right of way.
After the war, and from the 16th century onwards, the Renaissance influence brought light, comfort and a certain extravagance to some of the castles, which makes visitors think of the chateaux of the Loire Valley.
Forty-two of the one thousand castles built in Périgord are open to the public today.
Some of the most famous castles in the Périgord Noir are:
This charming little town of 10,000 inhabitants is only the third largest of the rural Périgord region, though it is nonetheless a major tourist attraction, welcoming more than 1.5 million visitors each year.
For many French people, Sarlat is the place which jumps to mind when thinking about the Périgord region. Located off the usual main roads, Sarlat is renowned for a rich architectural heritage that has been remarkably well-preserved, as well as a famous gastronomic tradition (44% of the French think that Périgord is the region where one will eat the best food in France).
Find out more about Sarlat-la-Canéda.
The most beautiful villages of the Périgord Noir
The Périgord Noir includes charming villages, some of them listed as France’s most beautiful villages by the association “Plus beaux villages de France”: Domme, La-Roque-Gageac, Castelnaud, Beynac, Belvès, Limeuil, Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère and Saint-Amand-de-Coly.
Find out more about Domme.
Find out more about La Roque-Gageac.
Find out more about Castelnaue.
Find out more about Beynac.
Find out more about Limeuil.
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin and (v) for verbs
- abbey = abbaye (f)
- Albigensian Crusade = croisade des Albigeois (f)
- battle = bataille (f)
- barge (on the Dordogne) = gabare/gabarre (f)
- belfry = beffroi (m)
- bell tower = clocher (m)
- cave = grotte (f)
- castle = château (m)
- church = église (f)
- cliff = falaise (f)
- cloister = cloître (m)
- cobbled street = rue pavée (f)
- to discover = découvrir (v)
- Dordogne Valley = Vallée de la Dordogne
- Eleanor of Aquitaine = Aliénor d’Aquitaine
- English = Anglais (m), Anglaise (f)
- fortress = forteresse (f)
- French = Français (m), Française (f)
- garden = jardin (m)
- Gothic art = art gothique (m)
- hill = colline (f)
- house = maison (f)
- Hundred Years War = Guerre de Cent Ans (f)
- keep = donjon (m)
- knight = chevalier (m)
- landscape = paysage (m)
- lane = allée (f)
- to list = classer (v)
- market hall = halle (f)
- meander = méandre (f)
- Middle-Ages = Moyen-Âge (m)
- moat = douves (f)
- narrow street = ruelle (f)
- nut tree = noyer (m)
- oak tree = chêne (m)
- to overlook = surplomber (v)
- pilgrim = pélerin (m)/pélerine (f)
- pilgrimage = pélerinage (m)
- pin tree = pin (m)
- Prehistory = Préhistoire (f)
- priory = prieuré (m)
- promontory = promontoire (m)
- Renaissance = Renaissance (f)
- Richard the Lion Heart = Richard Cœur de Lion
- river = rivière (f)
- river trading = commerce fluvial (m)
- rocky spur = éperon rocheux (m)
- Romanesque art = art roman (m)
- Santiago de Compostela = Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle
- street = rue (f)
- terrace = terrasse (f)
- tower = tour (f)
- view = vue (f)
- village = village (m)
- to visit = visiter (v)
- Wars of Religion = Guerres de Religion (f)
Visit the Tourist Board website of Périgord Noir – Vallée de la Dordogne.