If you?re planning a family holiday at the ?covall?e yurt camp in the Dordogne, this sample itinerary should give you a few ideas. (Pause for SEO applause.) It?s what we would do if we were here for one week in peak season, with two children aged over five, and a car.
Obviously one itinerary doesn?t fit every family (it would be hard pushed to fit even one), but you have to start somewhere ? and I?d start with?
Arrive late afternoon, get shown to your beautiful yurt, leave the kids to run around exploring, rifling through the Play Yurt, bouncing on the trampoline and meeting other children as they arrive. Unpack the car and enjoy the Welcome Picnic, relieved you won?t need to find the nearest supermarket straight away. Watch the bats diving around in front of the outdoor kitchen after dusk, then gaze at the stars, spotting satellites ? or was that the space station?
Have a cup of that organic coffee, then pop into Lalinde to pick up croissants, pain au chocolat, baguettes or whatever else takes your fancy (?covall?e tip: at the boulangerie on the square they do a ?poche? with a selection of the previous day?s croissants etc. ? it?s cheaper and still pretty fresh ? on top of the short counter in clear plastic bags).
Drive to Issigeac, about 25 mins away, for the Sunday market. Walk slowly around this medieval town that feels like you?re walking through a Shakespearean film set. Buy supplies for a couple of days, then head back to ?covall?e. Make lunch and spend a few hours relaxing in a hammock. Then go to Lanquais for a swim in the lake. Resolve to return at least once during the week. Pick up some croissants for breakfast on the way home, grab a cold drink from the fridge-freezer behind Reception, then barbecue while trying to be the first to see a bat, then a shooting star.
Drive West, following the Dordogne river, aiming for the spectacular gardens at Marqueyssac, about 40 minutes away. Buy a twin ticket that lets you into Castelnaud later, then be blown away by the awesome brain-like hedges. Amble round the large plateau, stopping in the play areas and being grateful that the whole two-hour (buggy friendly) walk is shaded by trees. Stand on the viewing platform hundreds of feet above the river and stare at La Roque-Gageac, a beautiful village built into the cliffs. After lunch with a view, drive to nearby Castelnaud and the museum of medieval warfare. There?s armour, weaponry, actors in period costume fighting, actual-size siege-engine demonstrations and a whole lot more, though steep circular staircases make it hostile to buggies. After an ice cream in the village, grab some supplies on the way back to ?covall?e, arriving before the bats come out.
A lazy day, today, starting with a morning at Lanquais swimming lake. It?s only ten minutes in the car, and a sandy beach overlooked by a beautiful chateau, with a snack bar, life guard and blue sky is not to be missed (many a guest has spent half their holiday here ? and it?s easy to see why). After lunch in the square at Lalinde, head back to ?covall?e for an afternoon of nature trails, hammock dozing, chicken watching, trampoline bouncing, reading ? reading! a book! ? solar shower taking and whatever else springs to mind. Order takeaway pizza, because you?re on holiday and it?s beginning to feel like it.
Another adventurous day starts with a trip to the cave at Proumeyssac. It?s only 30 mins away, above-averagely spectacular, with a good-sized woodland play next to the car park. It?s also very close to the aqua park near Le Bugue. Here, there?s a swimming pool, slide, play area and bouncy thing for everyone, and plenty of space to lie around on the grass. The lake, with its huge inflatables (which aren?t that easy to haul yourself up on) is a must-do. There is a real danger of face ache though, and you realise that you need to spend more of your life grinning from ear to ear.
With the end of the week looming, it?s another day trip, heading for Sarlat but unable to resist stopping at Beynac on the way. This jaw-dropping castle overlooking the river was home to Richard I for 10 years. Its massive walls are built on top of sheer cliffs by people who must have redefined bravery. After lunch in Sarlat and a wander round old town, it?s an afternoon in one of the nearby tree parks. First timers will want to go round the easiest run to get used to the equipment, before getting as scared as they dare on the higher runs. Afterwards, looking at the tree park across the road, it?s tempting to wonder if those runs would have been even more fun ? but could that be possible? Will you ever know? Although a planned return trip to Marqueyssac for the candlelit, music-filled Thursday evening sounds great, it?s been a long day and?the barbecue?s waiting back in ?covall?e.
Wake up hoping the stiffness from the tree park will be cured by a morning canoeing down the river. Head to Le Buisson, about 15 mins away, hire a canoe and be driven upriver in a minibus to Siorac, then paddle back to the starting point and spend some time relaxing on the river (pebble) beach, occasionally getting dragged into its roped off swimming area. Then drive to nearby Limeuil and have a drink overlooking the river where the Dordogne and Vezere meet. Walk up through the village to the panoramic gardens at the top, then take a different route back down and discover a shop where a glassblower fashions amazing objects. It?s hot work, which reminds you to start planning what and where you?re going to eat.
It?s time to move on, pack the car, and plan a return to ?covall?e so you can do all the things there weren?t time to do this week. Like: have lunch in Bergerac old town, spend an afternoon in Domme, visit the Maison Forte at Reignac, and Roc St Christophe, and the village of Monpazier and Cadouin, then there?s the caves, chateaux, markets, more canoeing, restaurants?
We?ve lived here six years in August and we?ve seen and experienced only a tiny fraction of what this area has to offer. We?ve done everything on this itinerary at least once and will do it all again (at least once). On our list for this year are a canoe trip down the Vezere from Les Eyzies, that other tree park near Sarlat, and some caves with drawings instead of rock formations. But that?s us. What about you?
PS Previous guests, if you?re reading this, please use the comment section to say what?s on your must-see-must-do list for in and around ?covall?e.