If you are thinking of taking a cottage holiday in South France next summer, come to the Lot Valley! With its lush green farmland, mountains, forests, vineyards, spectacular gorges and beautifully preserved medieval villages, the Lot Valley in South West has plenty to offer couples, friends and families. Whether it is tranquil countryside you want to discover, medieval castles and churches to explore, local markets to shop in, or if you want a holiday in South France filled with activity, the Lot Valley is the ideal place for a get-away.
Kingfisher Holidays offer for rent an excellent selection of farmhouses, gites and cottages in South France. Our South France holiday accommodation is all situated around 50 miles from the lot river between Cahors and Villeneuve-sur-Lot.
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If you are planning stay in a cottage in South France, here is part one of our A – Z guide of things to do in the Lot Valley. Read on for our best suggestions of places to visit / things to do.
A – Agen
Agen, on the banks of the River Garonne, is Lot-et-Garonne’s county town. It has a history which dates back to Roman times, although there is evidence of an occupation here as far back as Neolithic times.
Although most of the town is quite modern, there are many beautiful medieval houses and churches here. The Museum of Fine Arts also houses five masterpieces by Goya which includes the self-portrait. Visit the Pine Hall farmers market, open Sunday and Wednesday mornings until 12 noon, where you can get fresh fruit, vegetables and poultry. There is also plenty of opportunity for pretty riverside walks in Agen. The nearby Place des Laiters has lots of interesting shops and cafés to unwind in. If you are all shopped out, why not take a day long or hour cruise or hire a canoe on the Canal Lateral?
B – Bergerac
Bergerac on the banks of the Dordogne is well-visited by tourists and boasts some of the best wines in the Bordeaux region. In as far back as the middle ages, the town was known for exporting wines and in the 20th century it re-established its significance in the wine and tobacco trade. Among the attractions are a tobacco museum (where oddly smoking is not permitted unlike in the other museums!) and The Maison des Vins, a former monastery, where you can discover more about the local wines in the 16th century cloisters.
On the outskirts of Bergerac in Podestat is the Arboretum de Podestat which is open by appointment but offers free admission. It contains a variety of plants from Asia and a nationally renowned collection of miscanthus.
C – Chateau de Bonaguil
Tel 05 53 71 90 33
Situated high up between the valleys of Thèze and the Lémance in the Lot-et-Garonne, Bonaguil is said to be the most beautiful castle in France. It was declared a national monument in 1862 and has undergone some restoration work since then. It has plenty to see including graffiti on the castle walls from the late 16th and early 17th century. Visit towards the end of July and you can enjoy a stunning annual night-time firework display with lighting and sound effects, which will leave you with a lasting memory of your visit.
C – Cahors
Cahors is a typically French Medieval town which was as important as Toulouse in the Middle Ages. It is surrounded by the Lot River so there are lots of opportunities to take boat trips here, including full day outings with lunch. You can also hire a motorboat on the river for an alternative way to discover the beauty of the area.
The old town is based around the Cathedrale St-Etienne and another landmark is the stunning 14th century bridge, the Pont de Valentre, one of France’s finest Medieval Bridges. The town is famous all over the world for its fantastic wines. It has a covered market called Les Halles and open air markets on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
D – Dining
You will get plenty of opportunity to dine out in the Lot Valley and will be spoilt for choice as there are so many good restaurants here! The area has many regional specialities and you can see duck featuring on the menu of most restaurants.
Foie Gras is another local delicacy, made from the liver of a specially-fattened duck or goose. Other dishes to try include Cassoulet (a rich slow cooked bean stew or casserole), Toulouse sausages and a dessert made from prunes from Agen which contains Armagnac. For dining inside or outside, take a visit to Les Voyageurs Route de Cahors, Tournon d’Agenais Tel: 05-53 40 70 28 where you can enjoy delicious traditional French cuisine. It is advisable to book this restaurant in advance and prices range from about 16 to 32 euros.
E – Exploring
With its stunning peaceful open countryside, lush green forests, hills and idyllic waterways, there is much to explore in the Lot Valley, whether by foot, car or bike. If you enjoy cycling, take a ride on the 160 km veloroute (cycleway) which follows the Garonne River and goes through Aiguillon, Fumel and on to Cahors. To find out more about good walks and cycle pathways near you, contact the local tourist information office.
F – Fumel
Fumel is situated on the banks of the Lot River and although great for shopping, you can also take river cruises from here. The Chateau de Fumel is now the mayor’s office but has beautiful gardens looking out to the water. The Chateau at Bonaguil, is near Fumel, so the two combine well for a day out.
G – Garrone River
A leisure cruise is a romantic way for couples to explore the beautiful countryside and is also a fun day out for the whole family. For the Garonne River, you can take a riverside cruise from Nerac. You can also take a boat from Luzech or the foot of the bridge at Fumel (05 53 71 13 70) for a cruise on the Lot river.
Boats can be hired by the hour at the Canal du Midi at Agen (05 63 04 48 28) and from Moissac.
G – Gouffre de Padirac
Tel: 05 65 33 64 56
Just north of Cahors is the impressive Gouffre de Padirac which have been named the best caves in Dordogne! You can descend 103 metres into the caves via a lift or by foot and take a fascinating and memorable boat ride on the underground river. Don’t forget to wrap up warm and do arrive early to beat the queues!
H – Horseback Riding
If you like a ride in the open countryside on horseback, there are plenty of places in the Lot Valley to enjoy this. Riding stables can be spotted all over the region including at Saint-Front Lemance, Trentels, Lacour de Visa, Prayssas, Villeneuve sur Lot, Frespech, Pinel-Hauterive,Dolmayrac, Sainte-Livrade sur Lot, Lacapelle-Biron, La Croix Blanche, Monbalen, Pujols and Saint-Front Lemance.
I – Issigeac
Just before Bergerac is a pretty medieval small town called Issigeac set near Chateau de Monbazillac, known for its delicious, sweet dessert wines. The town is simply stunning with narrow streets and fascinating ancient buildings, some of these have attractive carved detailing. In the centre is the 17th century Bishops Palace once the home of the Bishops of Sarlat.
Issigeac has a very popular Sunday market where you can pick up tasty fresh local produce and in July and August there is a night-time market open on Thursdays from 7 pm. In August you will also experience Medieval Day, where many of the locals dress up in medieval clothing and there are arts, crafts and entertainment.
J – Jewellery
You can pick up some lovely handcrafted items of jewellery at the various markets in the medieval towns and villages. Just keep your eyes peeled for a bargain.
K – Kayaking and Canoeing
You can hire canoes or kayaks at several places along the Lot, Garonne and Dordogne rivers. These include Agen (on the Canal du Midi), Villeneave Sur Lot, Puy l’Eveque, Montayral, Casseneuil, Fumel and Castelsarrassin to name a few.
L – Lauzerte
Lauzerte is a superb historic fortified village which watched over the surrounding area until the late 18th century. It is on the way on the pilgrim trail of Saint Jacques de Compostela and many travellers and walkers still follow this trail today. It has been named as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
M – Musee du Foie Gras
47140 Frespech (nr Penne de Agenais)
Tel; 05 53 41 23 24
Musee du Foie Gras is where you can see how this traditional French speciality comes about and after you have had the tour, you have a chance to sample some For yourself. You can also buy some to take home in memory of your trip.
M – Monflanquin
This beautiful bastide town is 30 km north of Villeneuve-sur-Lot and has a stunning, elevated location between the Lot and Dordogne. Take a stroll down the narrow streets and marvel at the ancient architecture and Gothic houses. You can dine here in one of the many traditional restaurants in the Places des Arcades or visit the Musee des Bastides where you can discover more about these Medieval fortified towns and villages.
M – Moissac
Like Lauzerte, Moissac is also a stop-off on the pilgrim trail of Saint Jacques de Compostela. You can see the Abbey of Saint Peter with its fascinating cloister, said to be the most superb example of its kind in the world. The abbey miraculously remained unscathed after the 1930 flood which destroyed most of the town. After a stroll round the abbey, look around the shops or stop for a drink at the open square near the entrance to the abbey.
Check back next month for part 2 of our A-Z guide!
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