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France - The Dordogne

Tour Code: FRA13

An 8-day holiday in search of the plants, birds and butterflies of an unspoilt and idyllic region of rural France.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £170


During this week-long wildlife holiday we will be based near Rocamadour, a spectacular medieval village, abbey and castle built into the side of a cliff. From our very pleasant village hotel, we will not only enjoy the local cuisine and wines, but explore – as much as possible on foot – the varied habitats of the surrounding countryside. This unspoilt and lovely part of France is a veritable paradise for the keen naturalist. Birds are everywhere, butterflies and other insects abound, whilst a bewildering array of wild flowers provides a sea of colour in meadows, hedgerows and woodland glades. This is southern England before the days of intensive farming and suburban sprawl … only with twice the number of species!

  • Daily wildlife walks – ideal for the all-round naturalist
  • Flowers, birds & insects in abundance
  • A profusion of spring flowers (including 25-30 orchid species)
  • Look for Hoopoe, Golden Oriole & singing Nightingales
  • Pretty medieval towns & villages
  • Typical Dordogne village hotel serving tasty local cuisine (& wines)
  • Expert leadership from a locally based Naturetrek naturalist

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A charming rural hotel with private facilities, serving excellent local food.

Wild Cornflower (Mark Galliott)

Wild Cornflower (Mark Galliott)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Limoges and drive to the Dordogne

Day 2/7 Daily programme of natural history walks and excursions in the Dordogne region

Day 8 Fly London

The Dordogne, one of the major rivers of France, rises from just below Puy Sancy, in the mountains of the Auvergne, and enters the Bay of Biscay by means of the Garonne estuary near Bordeaux. However, it is at the middle of its course, amongst the heartlands of rural southern France, that it is at its most beautiful, meandering so peacefully through wide limestone gorges and rolling hills bedecked with dense oak woodlands. Here, stunning ochre-coloured stone hamlets nestle in the valleys amongst walnut trees and fields of maize and sunflowers, whilst large villages cling precariously to the riverside cliffs or perch fortress-like atop hills and ridges, often huddling around an 18th century chateau or the ruins of a castle dating back to the Hundred Years War with England.

During our week-long holiday we will be based near Rocamadour, a spectacular medieval village, abbey and castle built into the side of a cliff. Choosing a very pleasant village hotel, we will enjoy good local food and wines, and explore — as much as possible on foot — the varied habitats of the surrounding countryside. In late May this unspoilt and lovely part of France is a veritable paradise for the keen naturalist. Birds are everywhere, butterflies and other insects abound, whilst a bewildering array of flowering plants provide a sea of colour in meadows, hedgerows and woodland glades. This is southern England in the days before intensive farming and suburban sprawl ... only with twice the number of species!

One of the reasons for this great diversity is the varying density of the underlying limestone, a characteristic of this landscape being the spectacular cliffs, formed where the river’s course has been impeded by harder rock. Such broken country suits many birds of prey, including both Red and Black Kite, Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Peregrine, harriers, and even the occasional Booted Eagle, as well as Crag Martin and Alpine Swift. These limestone gorges also support a very rich flora, with orchids being particularly well represented. Most noticeable perhaps, with abundant large spikes, are the strange but beautiful Lizard Orchids, but Man, Military, Lady, Monkey, Burnt-tip, Bee and Fly Orchids are plentiful, together with Red, Sword-leaved and White Helleborines. Many other rare and beautiful plants can also be found, which helps explain the abundance of the many butterflies on the wing at this time of the year. Comma, Southern White Admiral, Cleopatra, Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Large Tortoiseshell, and numerous different fritillaries and blues are just a few of the species we should see.

Away from the river, the alkaline rocks have eroded to form a stony, mineral-rich red soil that encourages woodland, sparse grazing and just a few small cultivated fields. This is a rolling landscape of small villages and subsistence farming, absolutely brimming with wildlife. Flowery banks are everywhere, with more orchids and other plants, including Field Eryngo (Eryngium campestre), Meadow Clary (Salvia pratensis), Hoary Mullein (Verbascum pulverulentum) and White Flax (Linum suffruticosum), present. The rare cornfield weeds, Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), Corn Buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis) and Corn Cockle (Agrostemma githago), can also sometimes be found in the small fields. This pastoral landcape is the ideal country for Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Wryneck, Melodious Warbler and more birds of prey, while the beautiful song of the Nightingale seems to emanate from practically every piece of scrub. Butterflies and other insects are again very abundant, whilst Green and Wall Lizards scamper away from our footsteps.

A little to the north-east of our base we will also explore the area where the river emerges from the hard volcanic rocks of the Massif Central plateau, to flow through the charming small market towns of Argentat and Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. The predominant schist and sandstone rocks here give rise to acid soils, with a mixture of oak and Sweet Chestnut woodland, sandy heathland and damp boggy areas so markedly different in character from the habitats of our previous forays. Goshawk may be seen displaying on fine days, and we have a chance of an elusive Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting or Firecrest. The flora is not so rich, but specialities like Summer Lady’s Tresses (Spiranthes aestivalis) and Spiked Rampion (Phyteuma spicatum) are likely to be seen. There is also a rare outcrop of Serpentine rock which has its own interesting flora.

This holiday offers the chance to enjoy a great diversity of species amongst idyllic rural scenery of a character which is fast disappearing from the rest of Europe. It also provides the opportunity to view and appreciate the superb architecture of this region, while also, of course, sampling the gastronomic delights of the food and drink for which it is justifiably famous.

We currently don’t have any images for this tour. If you have any suitable image you would like published then please email us.

Mr & Mrs G
Somerset
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The hotel was well placed in a lovely setting. The room we had outside the hotel was well appointed and very clean. The staff in the hotel were helpful and pleasant and the food was superb and very well served. Despite the variable weather, Mark worked very hard to provide an entertaining and informative visit.
D.S.
Devon
Mark was an extremely affable, friendly and helpful leader. He was concerned we should see as much as possible, in spite of the inclement weather conditions. He worked hard to give us a memorable and enjoyable week - and succeeded. He was open to suggestions from the group and willing to accommodate ideas where possible. He has an impressive knowledge of the plants we saw and knows the area really well. He was a very good, safe driver.
J.S.
Devon
The holiday was very enjoyable and the tour leader, Mark, was very friendly and knowledgeable. The only thing that prevented the holiday from being 'excellent' was the disappointing weather - and that is something none of us can do anything about. Mark sensibly rearranged some of the itinerary to suit the weather conditions and included a very interesting visit to Castelnaud. The accommodation was good and the food at dinner was superb. All the staff at the hotel were very pleasant.
M.R-F.
Norfolk
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Mark and Sue Galliott did their very best to make this an interesting and enjoyable week. The hotel was an exceptionally good choice with excellent bird and plant life as well as a swimming pool!
V.B.
Ceredigion
The trip represented, not only the experience of the wonderful nature found in the Dordogne, brought to life by our fantastic tour guides Mark Galliott and Malcolm Stott, but also gave us an insight into the French way of life. The team leaders coped with all the guests’ various needs and made it a wonderful holiday for all.
D.R.
Sussex
I enjoyed the holiday. It seemed to me to provide a good combination of pre-planned walks with the flexibility to take advantage of situations as they arose. Mark's knowledge of the local topography and different habitats was really useful in order to understand the botany of the area. The orchids in the Dordogne were particularly impressive, not just because we were taken to see the rarer species, but also because the area had such a large number of the really showy species and natural hybrids.
Y.D.
Cleveland
The leader, Mark Galliott, was very good indeed. He adapted the itinerary to fit the weather conditions and was keen to ensure all the group members got maximum enjoyment. The small family-run hotel used was good too and the evening meals were good. The picnics were excellent! Certainly a trip I would recommend to others!
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Fri 11th May 2018 - Fri 18th May 2018

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£1495

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

The hotel was well placed in a lovely setting. The room we had outside the hotel was well appointed and very clean. The staff in the hotel were helpful and pleasant and the food was superb and very well served. Despite the variable weather, Mark worked very hard to provide an entertaining and informative visit.
Mr & Mrs G, Somerset

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