For a good many years, travellers from around the World have been fascinated by, ‘the Dordogne« , an area of France that conjures up an image of a return to rural life at a slow pace; it has even been said that the Dordogne is imagined not really as an area of modern France – which it is – but more as an imaginary reproduction of a bygone rural England – which of course it is not – rather like a warmer and sunnier version of the old Cotswolds, where the houses are built of honey-coloured stone, the meadows are green and rich, the locals all friendly and obliging country folk, and bemused French visitors can actually watch people playing cricket on the green – which indeed they can! Like Tuscany, the word Dordogne has become laden with bucolic symbolism and imagery to such an extent that it is useful to dig well below the surface and clarify what, exactly, the word « Dordogne » really means, and what this area really is.
In fact, the word « Dordogne » has two different meanings. In the oldest sense of the word, it is a long river, a tributary of the Gironde, that rises in the Massif du Sancy in the Auvergne and meets the Gironde near Bordeaux.
The second meaning of the word is a French department (county), the « Département de la Dordogne », surrounding a long stretch of the lower Dordogne between hills and plain.
Virtually the whole area is attractive hill country, full of old villages, castles, small country towns and plenty of scope for relaxing and enjoyable holidays. While the department of the Dordogne itself is increasingly geared to tourism, much of the area, particularly further into the hills, is very much « off the beaten track », and just waiting to be discovered.