The British are willing to put hundreds of years of Gallic rivalry to one side when it comes to realising their dream of owning a home overseas – France is the most popular destination for intrepid property buyers from these shores. While we are spread far and wide in this diverse country, from Paris in the north and the Alps in the east to the beaches of the Mediterranean coast, there is one pocket of south-west France that is synonymous with our penchant for a French farmhouse or château.
The Dordogne – or “Dordogneshire” as it is sometimes referred with tongue firmly in cheek – is a rural French idyll that has attracted more expats and holiday home owners than anywhere else in France. So what has drawn this thriving British community to this landlocked region?
It appears that sea and sand are not the be-all and end-all for property buyers. What the Dordogne lacks in terms of beaches – although the coast is less than a two hour drive away – it more than makes up for in rustic charm. Visitors of a certain age often compare the Dordogne to the unspoilt countryside found back home some 50 years ago; a reproduction of a bygone rural Britain.
This is perfectly summed up by the towns and villages that pepper the region’s verdant land. Along with Bergerac in the south-west and Perigueux further north – both attractive medieval settlements – Sarlat in the south-east is one of three principle towns. Undoubtedly the jewel in the Dordogne crown, Sarlat is an enchanting tangle of honey-coloured buildings, alleyways and secret squares. Here you can pick up anything from a one-bedroom central apartment for around £94,000, to a 19-bedroom château for just over £1,180,000 – with that much space you’ll struggle to make excuses when people want to come and stay.
When it comes to finding a pretty village or hamlet containing reasonably-priced period properties, you’ll be spoilt for choice round here. A prime example of a picturesque location is St-Jean-de-Cole to the north; a bonafide member of the “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” association – The Most Beautiful Villages of France. For less than £300,000 you could be seigneur (lord) of the manor in your very own four-bedroom 19th century manor house, complete with 4000 square metres of land, swimming pool and outbuildings.
If you’ve worked up a hunger exploring the Dordogne’s unspoiled, rolling countryside on your viewing trip, you’re in the right place. You’ll struggle to find another part of France that’s so impassioned by its culinary heritage – and that’s saying something in this fiercely proud food nation. Indulge yourself in the seasonal fruits of the land, duck, goose, truffles and of course a glass of Monbazillac. Once fully refuelled why not take a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site caverns and rock shelters of the Vézère Valley, to view some of France’s finest prehistoric art.
It’s easy to see why the English fought the French over Dordogne until the end of the Hundred Years War (1453). Our modern and considerably more peaceful invasion of the area is no surprise given its untouched château-studded countryside awash with vineyards, forests, rivers, valleys and limestone hills. The sooner you buy in the Dordogne the sooner you could find yourself relaxing on the local village green watching a game of cricket, Pimm’s in hand.
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