Ancient and medieval architecture: dolmen, pigeonniers and colombage in Dordogne and Lot et Garonne


Dolmen near Beaumont du Perigord

There are various dolmen in the area. Interesting to see (but not often renovated into luxurious accommodation!) Along with prehistoric cave paintings they provide a fascinating glimpse of life in another time.


Pigeonnier near Villereal

There are many pigeonniers in the north of Lot et Garonne, some remarkably elaborate. The common feature is the 'legs' that support the building, constructed in such a way that rats and vermin can not enter. This one is very close to Villereal.

Maisons a empilage

Maison en empilage near Villereal

Reputedly built during the hundred years war, maisons en empilage (literally 'piled up' since they are made of large wooden beams piled one on the other), there are several of these houses in the area. This one is near Villereal and has featured twice recently in magazines celebrating the patrimony of France. Note that the tiled roof here is not original - there would have been a roof of thatch or straw.

These maisons a empilage are fascinating - there are now only 50 remaining in existence, and the only place in France where they are still found is in the Lot et Garonne region.

Communal Bread Oven

Bread oven at Urval

This communal bread oven at Urval is still fired up once a year for the village fete.


Colombage is a technique that was used for buildings in the region over many centuries, for grand townhouses, small farm buildings, and everything in between. The structure uses a wall in stone at ground level, to protect the wood from the water, and then a wooden frame with the upright struts filled with a mix of manure, straw and clay - called torchis. The wall was then covered with lime for protection.

comombage before repair

colombage during repair

colombage after repair

Nowadays the wood is usually left visible for aesthetic reasons but this is not the original appearance of the building.