Why buy a house in the Dordogne, Lot or Lot-et-Garonne?
France is a large country – five times the size of England – and with a really varied range of climates, environments, house styles and region specific food and wine. There's a lot to choose from. Given all it offers, it's no surprise that France is also one of the most visited countries in the world, both as a tourist destination and as a location for a second or principal home.
And the department of the Dordogne is one of the most sought after, in part because of a combination of beautiful weather and wonderful scenery, but also now accessibility. The Dordogne is in the southwest corner of France in the region known as Aquitaine, about 2 hours inland from Bordeaux and it has a lot to offer.
Quality of houses
There are a huge range of types and styles of houses here – from chateaux, chatreuses, manoirs and maisons de maitre to farmhouses, longéres, village houses and converted barns – and each is different from the next. Many are very old and are built of beautiful golden sandstone and, given their age, some require upgrading or modernisation. There are many, however, which have been restored to a high standard, providing very comfortable contemporary homes. So you'll find a wide choice of properties suitable as holiday houses or permanent homes.
Because the Dordogne is well known – by overseas visitors and French alike – it is a sought after location for property. Prices are not as expensive as along the south and west coasts or in Paris, but in fact are average for France as a whole. And because they often compare well versus property prices in, say, the south of England, you can often buy a relatively larger property here than in northern Europe – and certainly a lot more garden space! Also because of the rigorous purchasing system and the stability of the French housing market, your investment is safe.
Bergerac airport brings in hundreds of thousands of passengers a year, with arrivals from 11 airports in the UK alone, as well as from Ireland , Holland, Belgium and Paris.
You can drive here from Calais in 8 hours, from St Malo in 6 hours, from Belgium in 10 hours or Holland in 11 hours.
Or you can take the TGV – from London, Paris and Lille.
The Dordogne has a very pleasant climate, with long, balmy summers and warm springs and autumns. You'll spend a lot less on your heating bill and enjoy the outside life for a large part of the year. A lot of people have swimming pools and once you become used to having one, it'll seem like a necessity rather than a luxury during the summer. And although we do enjoy a lot of sunshine throughout the year, the weather is not as extreme as the south coast and the countryside stays verdent.
The Dordogne is a lovely mixture of small valleys, rivers, vineyards, sunflower fields and forests. It's very green, but with four real seasons, the spring and summer rich with wild flowers and their scent – and with deer, boar and indigenous birds of prey all around. It feels like a baize blanket, dotted with small picturesque villages. And inbetween, the winding roads are often empty of traffic – a treat for visitors from the north!
The area is full of small pretty villages, some of them old 'bastides' built by Edward 1st in the 13th century . They often have squares with covered markets, surrounded by old stone buildings and surprisingly large churches, and in the summer are full of flowers, cafés and local markets. Lascaux caves have the world's finest example of pre-historic cave paintings. And there are dozens of magnificent chateaux, many of which you can visit.
Food and Wine
And of course, there's the Dordogne's reputation for fine Périgord food and wine. Lots of local produce – duck, foie gras, truffles, cêpes, vegetables and wild boar – all make eating in this region a delight. And you have to give it time – lunch is serious here. There are some great wines cultivated in the region, including many from the vineyards around Bergerac, including the well known Perchamont and Monbazillac varieties.
The Dordogne is a wonderful place for outdoor pursuits. The huge network of small lanes and pathways - 'chemins rurals' - make for superb walking. And there's canoeing on the river. Cycling is a very popular sport for the French and here you'll find miles of quiet roads to enjoy. Horse riding is also excellent here, with many equestrian centres offering courses and trekking, and again the spider's web of bridleways make for safe and enjoyable hacking out. You can even play good golf here now, with a wide range of quality courses. And as the sun shines most of the time, you can play in shorts and T-shirts for 6 months of the year – a major bonus if you've grown up playing your golf in northern Europe!
For the less active, there are many cultural and historical sites to visit – chateaux, churches and abbeys, formal gardens, historic villages, riverboat trips and vineyards.