One of France's most celebrated rivers: wide, peaceful, calm, flat
Excellent for families, easy for beginners, and lots of swimming opportunities
Friendly hotels, all with pools; superb cuisine
Excellent views all along the river: picturesque perched villages and troglodyte cave dwellings
At a glance...
8 nights, hotel-to-hotel
Departs Every two days from 2 Jun '15 to 24 Sep '15
Continental breakfast and all evening meals
Managed locally by Headwater employed representative
Sustainability rating: 84%
Option to hire electric bikes for the 'rest days'
Luggage transfers between hotels
Canadian canoes or kayaks included
Holidays with gastronomic meals.
Holidays with wine-tasting opportunities.
Varied routes for nature lovers and botanists.
Discover stunning historic sites en-route.
Lots of swimming opportunities.
Perfect for couples.
Good choice for families.
Beautiful lakes and rivers.
Canoeing on the Dordogne
This canoeing holiday offers a leisurely way to explore one of France's most interesting waterways. The Dordogne River runs alongside glorious golden-pink limestone cliffs and passes the walnut groves and truffle woods of the Perigord, an area rich in history and striking views.
The canoeing is safe, not demanding, and we give you a lesson on handling your canoe before you set off. There are no major weirs to carry your canoe round, and the flow of the water does much of the work for you giving you plenty of opportunities for sightseeing as you travel downstream past both imposing and magnificent chateaux, mediaeval villages, and prehistoric sites including the Grotte de Lacave. There are plenty of diversions away from the river too; from Carennac visit the Gouffre de Padirac, or, from Meyronne, get to Rocamadour, a spectacular cliff-clinging town. The local gourmet markets at Sarlat are also a great way to experience Dordogne culture and taste amazing produce such as duck, walnuts, goose and cheeses.
We have chosen lovely, friendly hotels throughout, all with their own swimming pools. These include a C11 chateau and a country house overlooking two valleys. You'll also savour delicious evening meals, taking in the best of the region's delights.
NB: All customers must be able to swim at least 50m fully clothed. We provide 2/3 person canoes (minimum age 8 years). Single-person kayaks are also available if specified when you book. Only suitable for children over 12 unless experienced. Should the river, at any point, be deemed too high to safely canoe, we will provide Headwater bikes at no extra charge for all days affected.
For people wanting to have bikes available for all 'rest days' these can be pre-booked for you (£80 per adult and £40 per child per week) and will be waiting at each hotel for you.
Our 3-star hotel is a lovely country house, set in three acres of private pine woods, overlooking the Sarlat valley.
Day 2 - Sarlat / Carennac 15km/9.5mi/4hr
After breakfast, we take you upstream to near the pretty riverside town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne for the briefing and canoeing lesson. Then it's an easy paddle down to Carennac. This is one of the Dordogne's most picturesque villages, with lovely C16 houses. Our hotel, with outdoor pool, is right in the heart of the village, overlooking the river.
Day 3 - At Carennac
A fairytale village with a jumble of cottages and C16 turreted manor houses along with the remains of the ramparts and the once-magnificent priory. Fenelon, still celebrated as the village's most famous son, was the very popular bishop here in 1681, and a local aperitif is named after him! It's fun exploring the narrow streets and alleyways and walks around the village, and on the causse provide some of the very best views of the Dordogne. To explore further afield, you might like to hire a bike and visit the Gouffre de Padirac (9km away), one of the region's important spectacles where you'll find amazing caverns, huge galleries, and a boat trip on the underwater lake.
Day 4 - Carennac / Meyronne 20km/12.5mi/4hr
On the first part of the journey you pass below massive cliffs, paddling past four impressive riverside chateaux before arriving at Meyronne and our spectacular C11 chateau hotel.
Day 5 - At Meyronne
Why not relax at the hotel's pool, or take a pleasant walk to the south of the river, by the Rochers Ste Marie and the Grotte de Lacave? Rocamadour (only a 15km taxi ride away), together with the Mont St Michel, is France's most venerated religious site. Kings once climbed the steps to the basilica on their knees, sailors prayed to the Black Madonna when in peril and the bell of her chapel rang each time she rescued another ship. The chapel is full of little model ships presented in gratitude.
Day 6 - Meyronne / Souillac 16km/10mi/4hr
Today is an easy paddle, with lots of interesting things to see along the river. You'll pass, and can visit, the Grotte de Lacave (over a mile of caverns with curious stalactites reflecting in the water) and some beautiful riverside chateaux (look out for Belcastel and the impressive Chateau de la Treyne in particular).
Day 7 - At Souillac
The prosperous farming country around Souillac was created from marshland by industrious C12-13 Benedictine monks. Of the powerful abbey they built, just the abbey church remains, with outstanding bas-relief sculpture. Today Souillac is a bustling town, with good shops and a weekly local market. Visit the Musee de l'automate, the largest collection of mechanical toys and dolls in France.
Day 8 - Souillac / Sarlat 12km/7.5mi/3hr
Relaxed canoeing down to Grolejac via St Julien (lovely village, good lunch stop) through the heart of peaceful and prosperous Perigord countryside, with lots of time for swimming or lazing by the river. We pick you up from here and take you to Sarlat in time to explore the old regional capital before dinner. The Vieux Quartier is an astonishingly beautiful jumble of varying architectural styles, virtually all pre-C17.
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
Hotel de Meysset, Sarlat (3 star)
This 3* traditional Périgord hotel, set in 3 acres of pine woods and gardens, enjoys an elevated position just 3kms above Sarlat. It offers complete tranquillity, wonderful food and fantastic views from its terrace over the surrounding valley. All 26 rooms have en-suite facilities with bath/shower, hairdryer, TV and direct telephone.
The cooking here is based on the wonderfully rich and gastronomic cuisine for which this region is famous. Expect to be offered house specialities such as magret de canard, foie gras, pommes de terre sarladaises - slices of potato sauteed in goose fat, with garlic, parsley and wild mushrooms: don't come here if you're counting the calories!
This pleasant, traditionally Quercynois hotel is on the edge of Carennac - officially one of France's 'plus beaux villages' - next to the river Dordogne. The hotel's pool and dining terrace both overlook this mighty river.
The hotel's 15 rooms are all ensuite with either shower or bath. All are also equipped with direct telephone lines, television and hair dryers.
The Hotel La Terrasse, ideally situated overlooking the Dordogne, is a converted C11 château, which has survived in spite of the turbulent history of the region. It was converted into a hotel in the 1920s by the Liebus family - who still own the hotel - but it still retains many of its original features - wooden beams, exposed stone walls, stone fire places and stone spiral stairwell. Period furniture completes the impressive, yet comfortable, interior.
Your evening meal is taken in the hotel's restaurant, where the menu reflects the local specialities. If you eat on the hotel's terrace, you'll also get to savour views over the river!
If you'd like to extend your trip with extra nights at the start or end, or if you'd like to arrange a stop off point en-route, then we recommend the following hotels.
Hotel Le Senat , Paris (4 star)
The 4* Le Senat is simply stunning! There are just 41 rooms, all stylishly furnished and a couple of suites with terraces, if you really fancy splashing out! All have satellite television, mini bar, air-conditioning, safe and hairdryer, plus Internet access.
The hotel has its own small bar - adorned with photographs of eminent artists, being in the heart of the artists' quarter - plus a reading room with complimentary internet access.
Breakfast is taken in the basement, where you'll find a copious buffet of viennoiseries, cereals, fruit salad, ham, cheese, bread, yoghurt, bacon, eggs, sausage, fruit juices, tea or coffee. If you prefer, you can have a continental breakfast served to your room at no extra charge.
Le Senat is perfectly located on a quiet side street just a stone's throw away from the Luxembourg Gardens and metro, and a 5 minute walk from the vibrant Latin quarter, where you'll find a plethora of restaurants to suit all budgets.
The Hôtel Père Léon is ideally situated just a short walk from the historic centre of Toulouse, with the main sights just a short walk away. Just 50 metres from the metro there is easy access to the rest of the city. The hotel is in Place Esquirol, a bustling, lively square and in close proximity to many bars and restaurants.
The hotel itself has a modern contemporary feel, which has been recently renovated. The ensuite rooms have soundproof windows and all mod cons. Breakfast is a buffet affair with a good choice of French staples, and a hot section.
The hotel has its own bistro restaurant with seats outside where you can enjoy a drink or dinner.
Transfers included from Souillac train station at 16:57 Mon-Thurs & Sat, 15:27 Fri and 15:26 Sun and back to Souillac train station at 12:30 Mon-Fri, 11:30 Sun and back to Brive at 10:45 Sat. Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange connecting flights.
Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
Reviewed by Mr Burgess on 23/09/2014
This canoeing/ cycling holiday on the Dordogne rates as one of our best ever. In mid September, we had the river to ourselves, the weather fortunately was superb, the accommodation, locations and food were excellent and the logistics from Headwater and the support and advice from Keith our rep were outstanding. We plan to come again, especially in the quieter season.
Reviewed by Mrs McQuillan on 23/09/2014
I am usually full of praise for your holidays but this one was not so enjoyable. I felt I needed much more help with the canoe, practising on the water first, and with the routes. Photographs of the stopping places would have been helpful as would a more accurate map with scale. I felt rather stressed at times not knowing what to expect and perhaps in retrospect, this was not the best holiday for me. The bike I tried had far too strong brakes, I came off at the hotel and was in pain all the holiday with a very bruised rib. I did not get on the bike again and paddling was painful. I would have so much have preferred to have had bike rides on our days off. We also had to walk in the heat with our equipment to the hotel in Soulliac, this was quite an ordeal. Without the other couple on the holiday, who were very helpful, I really would not have had the confidence to carry on with the canoeing. I have already paid a deposit for another holiday in February , if I hadn't done this, I think I might well have cancelled.
Reviewed by Mis Bunbury on 21/09/2014
Generally an enjoyable holiday with well chosen hotels. However, the guidance notes were not always clear and in some cases out of date. We realise that conditions on the river fluctuate, but felt that Keith could have done more to update both himself and us on current conditions. As it was we spent time looking for landmarks which were no longer visible (e.g. pebble beach intended to warn us that we were approaching rough water halfway between Souillac and Sarlat). Rep must surely have been warned of the changes by other travellers and could have passed these warnings on to us. The laminated notes and maps would have been easier to handle if they had been bound into a folder in their logical order.
Reviewed by Mr Kilby on 21/07/2014
A wonderful holiday, alternating canoeing with walking. The hotels were all in good positions and the meals were gourmet standard - a real treat. We were very well looked after - our bags always waiting for us at each destination. Thank you for a great experience.
Reviewed by Mr Chaplin on 14/07/2014
This holiday was exactly what was described and expected. All accommodation, activities and equipment were excellent.The company reps were very friendly and helpful. It was a great experience which we will doubtlessly repeat in the next few years. Thanks.
Reviewed by Mr Flower on 17/09/2013
The right blend of activatity and relaxation in stunning scenery and beautiful locations.
Reviewed by Mr Shannon on 31/08/2013
The canoeing days were excellent. However the days in between we less satisfactory. The bikes supplied were not of a high quality so hills were difficult, particularly for the weaker members and those who were experienced found them frustrating (front suspension is not helpful with hills). The other holidays we have been on with you have had excellent food and hotels with character and we were slightly disappointed by these ones - it may be because the choice was limited by having to be near the river. The food for meat eaters got very repetitive (foie gras and duck) and most people didn't know how to cater for vegetarians. You did warn us in advance about the vegetarian issue and we took the risk in the knowledge that it could be an issue. However, most hotels had not thought what to do at all, despite being told in advance and the standard response was an omelette. Also all but one hotel offered the same standard menu on both nights so meat eaters felt the choice was limited - the exception to this being Hotel Grangier.
Reviewed by Ms Martin on 22/08/2013
The combination of activity (kayaking, cycling), and moving somewhere new without the problem of carrying heavy baggage, yet also having time to explore local towns and villages was perfect for us. Wish there were more kayaking options in southern france that you offered.
Reviewed by Mr Plant on 31/07/2013
Overall we had a great time but felt certain issues took the sheen off the experience which is a disappointment.
Reviewed by Ms Dixon on 16/07/2013
Friendly Dordogne, repa and hoteliers alike. Helpful at all times. Good food if a little rich and large at times. Canoeing was excellent and good safety equipment and instructions. River is variable so guide lines only approximate. Very hot in July but trees provide shade as does starting out earlier than 10.00 a.m. On the four day canoeing( out of 8 days ) important on days 1 and 2 to wear a helmet. A hazard on each of those days and helmet was useful to one person ! Lovely hotel in Sarlat on first and last day with warm pool. Market exceptional in Sarlat. Trip out by air left us in Toulouse for over 3 houirs with luggage and heat of day waiting for train to Souillac. Very hard day travelling. Advise breaking it up or take euro star and train.
Reviewed by Mrs O'Rourke on 08/07/2013
Disappointed with holiday overall given the cost. Hotels were not the standard we'd expected based on previous experience. Details in the holiday information were not up dated. It felt that this holiday, hotels and route were established a number of years ago and not revised to ensure they were of the best current standard. It often felt that we were given the poorer quality or less favoured room locations. Generally the food was a good standard. We would not recommend this holiday at price paid. Canoeing element was fine although not personally challenging for us. Obviously the river conditions and weather vary and are difficult to predict for individual customer expectations.
Reviewed by Mr Haggis on 04/07/2013
Overall we enjoyed the holiday very much despite weather that was less than kind, especially for the time of year. The upside of going in June was that we had the river almost entirely to ourselves, and the faster-than-usual current made for some good entertainment and less strenuous paddling. We would certainly recommend it to people who - like us - have never canoed before. A couple of problems before we left: we were incorrectly invoiced (£500 was added for flights we weren't taking) and both our surnames were misspelt. Once we got there Keith did an excellent job, including sorting out rooms with a bath to soothe our aching bodies at each hotel. He also lent me his own waterproof bag for the week, and picked us up early as requested on the final day - he couldn't have been more helpful. As far as the hotels were concerned, the weak link is St Sozy (although it's worth going there just for Bernard, who is a hoot). I suppose you have limited options around there, but it's quite a walk from the river and it's a pain that it doesn't open till 1730. Also to be told that we are only allowed one croissant each for breakfast is not really acceptable. On the other hand Bernard sorted us out an excellent taxi driver who took us by various scenic routes to Rocamadour on our rest day. One general comment we would make - especially in view of the cost of the holiday - is that Headwater might consider putting its guests in slightly better rooms - we seemed often to be in the cheapest - and preferably ones with a bath. Overall, though, an excellent holiday, though we'd be grateful if another time you could sort out the weather...
Reviewed by Mr Sharman on 01/10/2012
Excellent fun and loved the activity side of the holiday
Reviewed by Mr Lenane on 10/09/2012
A really good adventure.
Wonderful reps who were obviously passionate about their jobs, and who always "walked the extra mile" when any request was made.
I expected the dinners to be ok/good, but in fact they were all exceptional, which cheered us up enormously when the weather let us down.
Thank you headwater.
Reviewed by Mrs Hebden on 01/09/2012
We had an excellent holiday. The organisation in terms of transfers, provision of instructions and the moving of luggage from hotel to hotel was all exceptional, and the staff in all hotels were very helpful and friendly. The weather was perfect for the canoeing, and the fact that each hotel en route had a lovely pool waiting for us at the end of the day, was a great bonus. We will definitely be looking at booking with Headwater again.
Reviewed by Mr Edwards on 29/08/2012
Very good trip. Main problem was weather too hot for me and several other members of the party so we didn't sleep too well - hardly Headwater's fault. Airconditionng would have been wonderful.
Agents were great.
Reviewed by Mr Wilson on 07/08/2012
Well organised holiday with canoeing that was fine for beginners. The hotels are mixed - beds are not great in a couple, and the rooms can be small; our rep helped us change from the room we were given that was in a basement and smelled damp. We enjoyed most of the meals, and the welcome / service was generally very good in all the hotels. Highest praise for the local Headwater representatives who were extremely responsive and good at sorting things out. They even acted as taxi for me when my back gave up after two days in the canoe.
Reviewed by Mr Allan on 23/07/2012
Reviewed by Mr Hall on 07/07/2012
Except for a canoeing accident in the last hour of the last day of the holiday when my wife broke her wrist when we capsized, it was great and Keith and Clare looked after us very well.
Reviewed by Mr Quine on 24/09/2011
Great fun, excellent food, hotels generally too noisy, with rooms overlooking busy roads.
Reviewed by Mrs Young on 14/09/2011
very relaxing, excellent locations. Holiday a bit pricy for grades of hotels
Reviewed by Mrs Richardson on 14/09/2011
A really enjoyable way to spend a week.
Reviewed by Mr Maw on 06/08/2011
very enjoyable despite the poor weather
Reviewed by Mrs Boulton-Jones on 02/08/2011
The hotel you didnt mention is the Quercy in Souilliac. My favourite. The weather was awful which colours things slightly.
Reviewed by Mis Jordan on 26/07/2011
We normally cycle with you, so fancied a change. Overall we really enjoyed the canoeing.
Reviewed by Mr Appleyard on 09/07/2011
Very very good
Reviewed by Mrs Williams on 09/07/2011
Very good overall. very tranquil. good exercise. excellent food.
Independent canoeing, hotel-to-hotel. Managed locally by Headwater employed rep.
Every two days from 2 Jun '15 to 24 Sep '15, for 9 days (8 nights). This holiday departs every 2 days, however non-standard arrivals and altered itineraries may be possible - please call for prices. If extra nights are required during the holiday, it is recommended to have 2 nights at a time. This will ensure Headwater's reps can transfer luggage.