Cycling holidays in south west France - Dordogne and lot et Garonne
Cycling is a pleasure across the whole south Dordogne and north Lot and Garonne region of south-west France (with the possible exception of the main road along the Dordogne River during the summer months, which you may find too busy). See further down this page for a couple of my personal favourite routes.
Because the roads are quiet, and there are miles of unexplored back roads, this region of south-west France lends itself very well to cycling for visitors. And there are no mountains! There are hills, but these are mostly gentle, or short enough to push your bike up. And plenty of sunflowers to look at on the way...and the pleasures of approaching Chateau Bonaguil or Chateau Biron on your bike will help distract you from the hill you are cycling up...
In the region you could consider either taking an organised cycling holiday, or 'doing it yourself':
Organised cycling holidays
There are several companies that offer organised cycling holidays in the Dordogne area of south-west France. The majority operate to the north of the River Dordogne. These holidays have several advantages:
- you will stay somewhere different each night, probably in a small hotel
- meals will often be arranged for you
- your baggage will be transported for you
- there will be backup support if your bike has a problem
- chance to meet new people with shared interests
The possible disadvantages are:
- the set itinerary may not be as challenging as you would like (or may be too challenging) - the daily distances covered are often quite small
- the itinerary may not be flexible in the event of bad weather
- you may not like the people you are touring with
- the cost
Many people enjoy these kind of holidays and they are an excellent way to see the countryside with no stresses of organisation.
If you can't bring your own bikes, many towns will have bike hire centres. Ask in the local tourist office.
'Do it yourself' cycling holidays
If you are driving to your holiday destination it is relatively easy to bring bikes, otherwise they can be hired in many places. Having your own bikes with you gives a great amount of freedom in where you can go and what you can do on your bikes.
Tourist offices will be able to suggest lots of possible cycling routes, mostly on roads but sometimes 'off-road' on tracks etc.
When estimating the time required for a cycle ride, a typical, gentle, touring speed for cycling is 15 km per hour (10mph), and 20kmh is reasonably fast, perhaps the speed you will do if you cycle recreationally from time to time. 25 kmh or more takes quite a bit of effort...but you can always find somewhere nice to stop and rest and enjoy the scenery.
Below I have described two of my favourite routes just to get you started...the directions are given with a Villereal start (because that's where I live!) but can of course be started anywhere on the route.
The main trick is to avoid the larger roads that join the towns in the area - always look on a map for the smaller roads. You will seldom be disappointed.
Route 1 total length 27km (1.5 - 2 hours)
- Leave Villereal (Lot et Garonne) on the road towards Monpazier (opposite the Cafe St Roch)
- After 3km turn right, signposted to Vergt de Biron
- Follow this road all the way to Vergt de Biron (last part uphill)
- In the village of Vergt, turn right, signposted Monflanquin D272 - a long descent
- 1 km after passing through Le Laussou take the right turn signposted Envals
- Follow this route all the way to its junction with the D676 Villereal - Monflanquin main road.
- Turn right onto this road, then after only 50m turn right again, signposted St Etienne de Villereal
- Pass through St Etienne de Villereal and continue on to Villereal
Route 2 total length 44km (3 hours)
- Leave Villereal on the road towards Monpazier (opposite the Cafe St Roch)
- After 7km turn right, signposted to St Martin de Villereal
- Continue through St Martin de Villereal, shortly reach a junction with the Biron road, where you turn left towards Biron.
- Continue through Vergt de Biron and straight on as signposted to Biron itself.
- That's got the two main hills out of the way!
- In Biron, continue on road towards Lacapelle Biron
- Pass straight through Lacapelle Biron (your road leads right as you enter the village, just passed an estate agent, and then straight on) and into the Gavaudun Valley
- Pass all the way down the Gavaudun Valley, passed St Avit and through Gavaudun.
- At the end of the road, turn right direction Salles
- In Salles, take the small right turn (next to the village square) signposted Bonnenouvelle.
- After about 3 km, turn right at the small junction / crossroads (the only crossroads you will come to on this part of the road)
- Continue straight on through the woods.
- When you reach the D255 in Bonnenouvelle, pass straight across, direction Le Laussou
- In Le Laussou, turn left then after about 250 metres turn right (signed Vin a la Ferme)
- Continue on this road until it ends - Villereal is now about 1km to your left
Personal comment: cycling in south-west France, in the Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne, is for me the best way to see the scenery and the countryside. The weather is usually perfect for cycling - you might prefer to cycle in the morning in the summer and the afternoon in the spring and autumn, because afternoons in the summer can get a bit warm...with canoeing, my other favourite, it is a perfect way to pass a day.