Cycling the Bastides of the Dordogne

One of the most interesting routes on our Classic Dordogne Cycling Tour is the Bastide loop. Taking in 4 medieval villages, the roads in this area of the Perigord are always quiet, passing through fields and forests – sightings of deer & wild boar are frequent.
The point to point routes of our other self guided Dordogne bike tours : the Wild Boar Tour,  and 4 Day Tours also follow these quiet country roads linking the villages & bastides.

Bastides were the new fortified towns of the 13th & 14th centuries, economic units used for markets & trade, and defendable in times of war. Most bastides are layed out in grid form, with a central market square, thick stone walls surrounding the towns with fortified gates.

Cadouin

this charming village, nestled in the Bessede forest, grew around the Abbey of Cadouin which was founded in 1115 by Geraud de Salles, and affiliated to the Cistercian order in 1119. The Abbey is a Unseco World Heritage site, on the pilgrim route to St.Jacques de Compostelle, a masterpiece of Perigord religious architecture, the cloisters feature 3 different architectural periods. In 1154 the Norman church was built with three naves each with four pointed barrel vaults and austere, Saintongeais fronts. Between 1201 and 1214 the abbey came into the possession of the “Shroud of Christ”. Thanks to this remarkable relic, the abbey became a major place of pilgrimage and thus a lavishly decorated cloister was built in the XVth and XVIth centuries: sculpted columns, complex vaults, flamboyant gothic and renaissance style doors. This exceptional destiny came to an end in 1934 when a historian proved the inauthenticity of the shroud due to the presence of decorative trimmings with an Islamic profession of faith in Kufic, a style of Arabic writing… and so the pilgrimages came to an end.
The village of Cadouin has 2 cafés, 2 restaurants, and a few local shops.

The cloisters are open for visits from Tuesday to Sunday : 10:30 – 12:30, 14:00 – 17:00.

Molières – an English Bastide founded in 1284 by Jean DE GRAILLY, seneschal of the King of England. It remained unfinished due to the preference of the expansion of Monpazier. In 1316, Guilhem de Toulouse, seneschal of Périgord for Edward II of England, chose Molières as his power base and decided to build a castle – also unfinished. The city was ravaged by the Hundred Years War, rebuilt and then ruined again by the ferocious battles of the Wars of Religion.

Monpazier – founded in 1284 by King Edward 1st of England, this is the best preserved bastide in the region, with much of the original construction still intact around the central covered market. Considered the “model” Bastide with a perfect orthogonal layout, Monpazier is the most typical of the 300 bastides in South West France.
The village is a member of the ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ association, and Grand Site National with no less than 32 buildings listed as Historic Monuments.
There’s a good choice of cafés, restaurants, and local shops in the village.

Belvès – Perched on its spur above the valley of the Nauze, this medieval town is also a member of  the ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ association. Because of its strategic position, Belvès has had a turbulent history. Several times besieged during the War of 100 years and wars of Religion, the village is full of many miraculously preserved remains, witnesses of its tumultuous past: troglodyte dwellings occupied until the eighteenth century, ramparts, 15th century covered market, 7 medieval bell towers, turreted houses & mansions, and a magnificent church whose master restoration experts are currently unveiling long-hidden secrets. The village also has a good choice of cafès, restaurants, hotels & shops.