The most pleasant way to discover the region at its deepest is unquestionably by
bicycle. The network of by-roads (“chemins vicinaux”) is in a good state of
repair and the automobile traffic is very scarce. There are many hills, some
steep ; but there are as many restful downhill slopes as tiring uphill slopes…
Lovers of a
physical contact with nature will follow the marked pedestrian hiking
itineraries ; all the Tourist Information Offices offer a good choice of routes.
The “Grande Randonnée” path GR 636 crosses the region.
visit of the “bastides” and castles, which spread along about
100 kilometres, requires a car (unless really has a lot of time to spare).
Automobile traffic is very light, even in high season, and there are never any
parking difficulties, parking is always free !
option is to follow the “Circuit des Châteaux et Bastides en Guyenne”, a
marked route ; details of the itinerary are available in Tourist Information
The Blue Guide “Aquitaine” (Hachette), 1998 edition, and the
Gallimard guide “Lot-et-Garonne” (first edition, may 2000) are a good help
to organize a visit of the region. Top
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The "bastides" : (see
the tourist guides provide abundant documentation about the Dropt valley
“bastides”. The Blue Guide “Aquitaine” (Hachette), 1998 edition, is the
most interesting and well-researched.
Several websites with many iconographic
documents provide all the necessary information for a stay.
The Monpazier “bastide”, Great
National Site, is the perfect “bastide” ; its central square was used as
a natural scene to several cloak and dagger films. Villeréal has a magnificent
marketplace built on wooden pillars (XIVth century).
The field of visits can be extended to the beautiful “bastides” of
Beaumont-du-Périgord (North of Villeréal), Villefranche-du-Périgord (East of
Biron) and Monflanquin (South of Villeréal). Top
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The castles : (see general map)
Biron ** (guided tours) : family property of the Gontaud-Biron family until
the end of the XXth century ; at present taken over by the Dordogne “Conseil Général”
(regional council), who is undertaking restoration.
Duras ** (guided tours) : the castle dominates the
Dropt valley ; the actual buildings date from the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries.
Lauzun * (private property) : Lauzun, Gascon
gentleman, courtier of Louis XIV, Duke of Lauzun by the king’s grace, is
mainly remembered as the lover of the “great damsel”, niece of the king. Top
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A "sauveté" among
the "bastides" : Issigeac
Issigeac, main town in the
district, presents an original characteristic in this region : it is not a
“bastide” but a “sauveté” !.
It is typical of the image one has of a medieval village :
winding alleys, half-timbered houses and corbelled constructions. Top
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interesting seights :
houses (“maisons à empilage” – Castillonnès / Villeréal area ; origin :
Middle Ages) :
The walls of these houses were originally made of horizontal pilings of
tree trunks (generally oaks), squared off and assembled “à mi-bois” in the
angles. The openings were reduced to a strict minimum : a low and narrow door,
two or three little openings for light. These small “forts” were probably
designed to protect the people from the gangs of pillagers who ransacked the
Later on, the “pile-up” houses were turned into dwellings by the
extension of the openings and the addition of a half-timbered storey.
Pigeon houses ("
or attached to buildings, entirely built or mounted on pillars, of circular or
rectangular or hexagonal section, the pigeon houses are an omnipresent element
of the scenery in the whole region.
that the pigeons fed on crops, pigeon house were a sign of the owner's wealth :
enough land owned to avoid conflicts with neighbours and sufficiently well-off
to be able to afford to lose part of the crop.
Pigeon droppings constituted a remarkable fertilizer, named
“colombine”, which was sometimes shared in an inheritance or could be part
of a dowry ! Top
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What about the Dropt ?
Dropt, for centuries, was used as a swimming pool, a washing place and a
fishpond by the locals. Nobody today would bathe with pleasure or wash their
linen in the Dropt. Its waters, muddy in winter and dull in summertime, are not
attractive. Its level can rapidly fall by more than one metre, revealing muddy
banks, mined by coypus (“ragondins”,
The locals don’t look after
the river and public authorities have abandoned it. The deforestation, the
regrouping of lands, the suppression of hedges make the drainage of storm rain
easier. Walks along the Dropt banks are rarely easy, due to the lack of
maintenance. The clearing and reinforcement of the banks , the cleaning of the
bed, would be preferable to a widening of the bed with a planing of the
Remains fishing. Fishing Societies regularly stock with alevins ; it is
possible to catch white fish (bleaks, roaches, “rotengles”, carps, …),
their predators (pikes, catfish…) and mud fish (tenches, eels, …). The Monségur
area (mill reservoirs) is a good fishing spot (roaches, carps, pikeperches).