About The Lot and Upper Dordogne
Frequently misrepresented as part of a ‘Greater Dordogne’ by its many British visitors and residents, the département of Lot, lying mainly south of the Dordogne river, all but occupies the ancient province of Quercy. The modern departmental name is derived from Quercy’s major river, though confusingly the Dordogne actually flows through the northern part of the territory.
There is, however, little to differentiate Lot or Dordogne in these parts. The upper Lot is essentially rural, pleasantly rolling, both fertile and forested, though head south up into the Causse de Gramat and the scenery changes dramatically: scrub oak and sheep scratch an existence from the poor soil, and the causse’s limestone foundations are riddled with underground caves and rivers. The River Alzou cuts a dramatic gorge below the region’s chief tourist attraction, Rocamadour. A pilgrim village, ‘Amadour’s Rock’ grew from a shaky legend involving a mummified body discovered in the 10thC, which was first identified as St Silvanus, and later as the biblical publican Zaccheus, said to have ended his days as a hermit named Amadour.
Down on the banks of the Lot, and its tributary the pretty River Célé, some hamlets and villages take on a distinctly southern cast. To avoid the tourist hordes, you could arrange to stay overnight in the tiny ville perchée of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. Cabrerets is the access point for the famous Pech-Merle pre-historic caves; and just up the road at Cuzals there is an interesting regional museum, the outdoor Ecomusée du Quercy (5 km north-east of Cabrerets).
The roads marked on the simplified map make a convenient way to cover the best places to visit in a circuit from Brive-la-Gaillarde, but of course you can just as well explore in your own way. Head to Souillac, well provided with hotels and campsites and you get easy access to Sarlat and the Vézère valley. Then consider meandering cross-country to Rocamadour before rejoining the N20 south for Cahors.
Now you are on the Lot and one of the great days out hereabouts is a kayak trip. The Célé is a more peaceful option; if the water is not flowing fast, it is safe for young children. East of Cahors, the D662 wriggles along the Lot valley towards Figeac, a pleasant enough town, but nothing special. The even smaller D41 follows the Célé.
Train services operate between Brive, Souillac and Cahors, but that is about it. Trains stop a 5-km hike away from Rocamadour, or there are pricy tour buses from Brive, Souillac and Sarlat. Buses from Cahors stop within 2 km of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.