A leisurely 60km circular bike ride from Sarlat in the Dordogne that takes in a mind-boggling 10 chateaux. Thanks to local cyclist Jason Hargreaves for mapping it for us.
This route is just under 60km and takes in some of the best that the Dordogne Valley and the Perigord Noir have to offer.
At an easy pace it's 3 to 4 hours in the saddle, so if a full day out is planned, it should leave plenty of time for stops to see the sites, enjoy the local gourmet food or sample a pichet of local wine.
The route starts at the car park for the 'voie verte' cycle path located at the medieval town of Sarlat-La-Canéda. Sarlat is a perfect hub/base from which to enjoy the area, being located centrally to a lot of the Dordogne and also giving access to the Vezere Valley's attractions.
The car park is located facing the Stade de Madrazes rugby stadium – on the opposite of the roundabout. This is on the way out of Sarlat in the direction of Cahors, on the D704.
As the route returns along the 'voie verte', cycle out of the car park and join the D704 heading west, back towards Sarlat. Continue straight over the next three roundabouts, and then turn left onto the D57 at the fourth roundabout, heading in the direction of Bergerac. This section is the least attractive part of the ride (unless you decide to pop into Sarlat to start, an early morning trip into the town for the fabulous Wednesday or Saturday market will beat the crowds!)
Continue on the D57 until you reach the large roundabout and take the second exit (bearing left) to Vitrac along the D46. This is a nice long sweeping road descending to the Dordogne river itself. Early on you will pass beneath the Chateau de la Boetie on the right. After reaching Vitrac, take the first exit from the roundabout, ignoring the bridge, heading towards La Roque-Gageac.
The bastide town of Domme will appear majestically atop the hill on the other side of the river. Just before the bridge into Cenac, turn right onto the D703 heading for La Roque Gageac. The village of La Roque Gageac was inhabited by 'troglodytes' or cave-dwellers up until the 1970s. The riverside village is very picturesque and has several cafes, boutiques and restaurants. Leaving the village you will pass the Chateau de Malartrie on your right.
Continuing along the D703, on the right you will pass the turning for the Chateau de Marqueyssac and its fabulous gardens. Continue to the junction and take a left under the railway bridge. Following the road the imposing Chateau de Beynac towers above the valley and village.
The route continues on the D703 'Route De La Noix' (so named for the walnut plantations evident along it) passing the Chateau de Monrecours hotel on the right.
After about 4km take the left turning signposted 'Allas-les-Mines'. This brings you to a bridge across the Dordogne. Follow signposts for Envaux and Chateau Les Milandes from the village, passing through walnut plantations and the Chateau de Goudou on the right hand side.
At the riverside hamlet of Envaux, ignore the right hand turn and continue along the riverside. This will bring you to Les Milandes, with Chateau des Milandes, the historic residence of Josephine Baker, famous exotic dancer, singer and secret agent.
Leave Les Milandes in the direction of the Chateau de Castelnaud. In about 2.5km, the elegant private Chateau de Fayrac can be found on the right. A picturesque roll along the bank of the Dordogne then brings you to the village of Castelnaud, with its medieval chateau and exhibition of authentic middle-age weapons of mass destruction.
At the south of the large carpark at Castelnaud you will find the start of La Véloroute de la Vallée du Céou, which runs for 25km from Castelnaud through to L’Abbaye. It takes you through some stunning countryside and campsites and past some sparklingly clear swimming spots in the river Céou.
In the village of Saint Cybranet, the cycle path joins the D50 main road for a short distance, however do not rejoin the cycle path and stay on this road to go up and over the hill into Cenac. This is probably the hardest climb of the day, so you may want to refresh and re-hydrate at one of the bars after the descent into Cenac!
At the crossroads as you reach Cenac (with one of the aforementioned cafe bars on the corner!) go straight across and take the left hand fork, keeping the Dordogne on your left. If you're still feeling energetic, the right fork and its category 4 climb takes you into the amazing bastide town of Domme with its spectacular views of the valley and your cycle route. It is well worth the slight diversion for more regular cyclists.
Continue along the bank of the river for about 3.5km until you reach the turning on the left for Vitrac. Follow this to cross the bridge over the river and turn right back in the direction of Sarlat. However, turn right immediately back towards the Dordogne to follow one of my favourite roads, in the region, the D55, with the river on your right and the steep cliffs of Vitrac Bourg on your left. A short climb brings you past the Domaine de Rochebois golf/country club and then a further short climb brings you to the view of Montfort village with its glorious chateau.
Follow the winding riverside route to the exciting descent into Carsac. The pretty village has a nice Tabac bar (our local!) with views across the valley to Montfort where we often relax before the leisurely return to Sarlat along the cycle path.
Follow directions for Cahors, but immediately turn left after going under the railway bridge (which is actually the railway that has been converted to the 'voie verte' cycle path) to join the cycle path. Follow this route through the forest and back to the car park outside Sarlat.
For another day out, a very relaxed and highly recommended ride is to do the 'voie verte' in its entirety, through Carsac and Aillac, on to St Julien de Lampon and then finishing at Cazoules, just a few kilometres from Souillac in the Lot department. This is a great route for leisure cyclists as it is a flat route all the way.
The 10 chateaux on this ride
1. Chateau de la Boetie
2. Chateau de Malartrie
3. Chateau de Marqueyssac
4. Chateau de Beynac
5. Chateau de Monrecours
6. Chateau de Goudou
7. Chateau des Milandes
8. Chateau de Fayrac
9.Chateau de Castelnaud
10. Château de Montfort
When he's not out on his bike, Jason Hargreaves helps runs La Blaquette B&B, Gites and Glamping, his family business near Sarlat. He's managed to make cycling part of the business plan with bike hire and local route information available on site.
Bike hire in the Dordogne
Cycle tourists to the Dordogne are spolit for choice when it comes to bike hire. See our Aquitaine bike hire listings, and also the bike delivery services page – a number of firms will deliver to your door.
Organised cycling holidays in the Dordogne
For a range of cycling holidays that include accommodation, maps and bike hire, see our Dordogne and Bordeaux cycling holidays page.
Cycling accommodation in the Dordogne
See our Dordogne and Bordeaux bike-friendly accommodation listings of browse the pop-up map below for links.
More information on cycling in the Dordogne
We have a full regional overview of cycling in the Dordogne, plus this summary of the Vezere Valley. If you're thinking of heading further north in the Dordogne, see here. We also have more information and a map of the Sarlat to Cazoules voie verte.