One of the earliest cradles of civilisation, the Dordogne is a collage of prehistoric caves adorned with ancient paintings and medieval fortresses watching over a landscape of languid rivers, soft grassy plains and oak forests. Sheltering mankind since the Palaeolithic era, it cannot help but invoke a sense of timelessness and wonder in the curious visitor.
The Font de Gaume cave is the ultimate place to experience this awareness of our enduring history. The carefully executed cave paintings are mostly of animals, portrayed in rich colour and expressing a lifelike energy. To protect them, the number of visitors are limited per day, so booking is essential. Close by is Sarlat, an attractive town that sprang up around a 9th century Benedictine abbey. The streets of its old town are lined with sandstone buildings that lend the place a pleasant warmth when the sun shines on them.
Walking and cycling holidays in the Dordogne are best in the spring when the flowers are blooming and the town markets are well stocked, or in autumn when the heat subsides and the grape harvest begins.