I have been a property search agent in the southern Dordogne for four years now and have visited countless properties on behalf of clients searching for their dream home. It never ceases to amaze me how very similar most people’s idea of a holiday bolt hole or permanent home in this sought after part of France is, no matter what their budget. Almost all my clients dream of lots of outside space and an idyllic location with views. Having lived in the UK for many years in a smallish box with a tiny garden, I understand where they’re coming from!
Of course, what a house looks like is just as important and stone, character, space all tend to be on the agenda, together with proximity to facilities. Clients who only know the area from one holiday often ask me for the up and coming areas to buy in the Dordogne. Others are convinced that they only want to buy in the best-known areas of the southern Dordogne such as Sarlat, Bergerac, and Eymet. I live near Bergerac and know the region like the back of my hand. My clients don’t all end up buying in this golden triangle and I recommend that you explore other towns and villages as well.
Sarlat-la-Caneda is known simply as “Sarlat” and is the capital of the Perigord noir. It was built around a Benedictine abbey during the Middle Ages and was restored in the Renaissance. The town escaped destruction in the region’s various wars and its historical centre is considered one of the best preserved and most beautiful in France. The town and its surroundings offer gastronomy, events such as fairs and markets throughout the year, pre-historic caves, beautiful gardens such as the Jardins de Marqueyssac and an abundance of stunning historical villages such as Beynac-et-Cazenac, Domme and La Roque Gageac. The countryside consists of green-oak covered gentle hills and the landscape is punctuated by small medieval villages with gorgeous stone houses full of history. The Dordogne River with its canoeing and kayaking beaches is never far away. In terms of access Sarlat is however not as conveniently situated as the larger town of Bergerac.
The beautiful medieval town of Bergerac has grown into a modern town with convenient shops and facilities. Due to its international airport and the sheer number of cheap flights landing from and taking off to the UK and other European countries, it is very popular with the British and others looking for the French dream. Since the construction of a new bridge the motorway is now only a few miles away, allowing fast travel to the rest of France. The train station links Bordeaux to Sarlat and around 12 600 hectares of vineyards cover both the northern and southern side of the Dordogne valley producing wonderful wines such as Bergerac (red, rose and white), Pecharmant, Monbazillac, Montravel and Saussignac.
The multitude of gorgeous chateaux, farmhouses and fruit orchards complete the scenery with an explosion of fresh green and flowers in the spring. Like Sarlat, Bergerac is surrounded by superb villages – all steeped in history.
Eymet – one of the historical bastide villages near Bergerac – must be one of the most famous places in Dordogne as it is home to a relatively big community of British expats. They fell in love with the area because it is so similar to the best of the English countryside and its excellent climate allows them to enjoy outdoor pursuits many months of the year. The fact that it is situated near the vineyards of the Bergeracois with a huge variety of affordable good wine might contribute to its popularity! The village is a pleasure to visit and has a high proportion of lovingly restored stone properties.
These three most sought-after locations naturally command high prices. The southern Dordogne has been well-known for too long to have truly “undiscovered” corners, but there are plenty of less well-known villages here where you can find attractive properties at more reasonable prices.
One less well-known area that offers good value for money is the area around Sainte-Foy-La-Grande to the west of Bergerac, in the Gironde department. Here there are still plenty of properties ripe for development and restoration. Property prices are slightly lower and Bergerac airport is only about 30 minutes away.
Sainte-Foy-la-Grande is an attractive 13th century bastide town with half-timbered houses. As a bastide town it of course has a central square where stone facades face the Dordogne River, which runs through it and even has a beach to enjoy in the summer. Like Bergerac, it is a working town and offers plenty of cafes, restaurants, all facilities and its own train station. From there you can explore the Dropt valley, which has remained largely unchanged over the centuries. Sainte Foy is close to St Emilion and the vineyards surrounding it adjoin those of the Bordeaux region.
Whichever area you chose to settle in here in my part of the world – you will be sure to find a lovely climate, excellent gastronomy and a pleasing and relaxing lifestyle.
French-born Jacqueline Hanks is the Southern Dordogne property search agent within THE FRENCH PROPERTY FINDERS network. You can reach via email or on | +33 (0)6 06 47 80 87 | +33 (0)5 53 73 06 45