Sightseeing Along the Dronne River
Les-Stables is situated in the heart of the Dronne Valley 40km north of the more famous Dordogne River. The price of fame is crowds of tourists. The Dronne’s humble beauty if mostly undiscovered by all but French tourists.
This valley forms part of the Parc Naturel du Perigord-Limousin, and as a result enjoys some of the most protected beautiful countryside in France, rich in flora & forna.
Less than one km away from Les-Stables lies the quiet village of Bourdeilles, an ancient village clustered around its chateau which sits on a rocky spur above it. An important medieval village that boasted 8000 residents, bourdeilles now has less than 750 souls. But the magnificent chateaux and ramparts remain.
Spend a couple of hours gently wandering the cobbled alleys, enjoying the views from the riverside walks and cliff top promenade. Admire the beautiful old watermill from the ancient bridge over the River Dronne, or visit the two Chateaux. One with its octagonal keep (the tallest in France) and spectacular views of both the village and surrounding countryside, including an unrivalled view of Les-Stables.
Following the river north less than ten km away is the dramatically beautiful town of Brantome, often described as the “Venice of Perigord” due to the abundance of river walks and waterside restaurants that surround its central island.
The town is entered under an ancient arch next to a beautiful watermill housing a first class restaurant/hotel, and as you continue along the cobbled streets one cannot fail to be impressed by the Benedictine Abbey that dominates the town.
The stunning limestone Abbey, set against the wooded cliff face originally offered accommodation to passing pilgrims on the way to Santiago Di Compostella in its caves, and these form the interesting subject of a visit to the Abbey, which also boasts the oldest bell tower in France.
Continuing along the cobbled streets there are numerous restaurants, cafes, bars and tea rooms, or one can simply while away a few quite hours under the shade of a lime tree on the riverbank.
Enjoy a drink in one of the cafes in the market square as you partake in some people watching or the local entertainment of watching canoeists negotiate the weirs that surround this island town. Alternatively you could enjoy a boat trip around the island, or for something more energetic canoe around it becoming part of the local entertainment yourself.
Within 15-60mins drive from Les-Stables are many sightseeing opportunities including picturesque villages, historic chateaux, Romanesque churches and prehistoric caves, all within this wooded countryside littered with lakes, rivers and old watermills.
The Grottes de Villars, situated 16km north-east of Brantome, are an amazing example of stalactites and stalagmites, with an impressive light and sound show giving an explanation of their formation.
Just 1km northwest of Villars lies the Chateau de Puyguilhem set in dreamy countryside, this 16th century chateau is famous for its ornate stone carvings and fireplaces.
10km east of the Chateau de Puyguilhem is the charming village of St Jean de Cole, a winner of “Beautiful Villages of France” it ranks as one of the loveliest villages in the Perigord Vert. Whilst an ancient church and covered market place are it’s main attractions, it offers a pleasant amble through the narrow alleys and down the main street, past pastel plastered houses to an ancient rough cobbled bridge for views of the Cole river and watermill.
The city of Perigueux, administrative capital of the Dordogne, lies just 20km south of Les Stables, and whilst its main attraction is its shops and courtyard cafes there are a small number of notable sights worth a visit.
The grand Cathedral St-Front’s huge domed stone roofs dominate the skyline from the river front, and is well worth a peek inside to admire the magnificent carved oak and walnut altarpiece. Surrounding the cathedral there is a maze of cobbled alleys yielding the odd specialist bookbinder, furniture renovator or antique bookseller and courtyard café.
Within walking distance in the opposite direction is the Museum Vesunna. Built around the ancient findings of two roman houses, which were constructed in the first and second centuries, the museum includes exquisitely carved pillars from the same era, somehow preserved until today and various artefacts from that period. The layout of the museum is exceptional, as it is made of all windows and open space, allowing visitors to see the remnants in their natural light. The renowned architect, Jean Nouvel, designed the unique building, which has quickly become a stopping point for both amateur and professional archaeologists alike.