Barn1

A holiday cottage in the Périgord Vert area of the Dordogne, on the edge of the small village of Saint-Julien-de-Bourdeilles. St Julien is set in the hills above the Dronne valley in the north of the Dordogne department, about 18 miles north of Périgueux. The Dordogne is part of the south-west region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. 

 

St Julien, with a population of around 100, is about 3 miles from Bourdeilles and 5 miles from Brantôme. Brantôme is a delightful small town set on an island in the river Dronne and is described in at least one guide book as ‘one of the most attractive small towns in France’.  Because of its rivers and bridges it is also known as “the Venice of the Périgord”. Bourdeilles features prominently in guide books as well and has a very fine château.

from kitchen may 08 (2017_03_30 13_49_38 UTC)
new kitchen (2017_03_30 19_37_57 UTC)
barn forest (2017_03_30 13_49_38 UTC)

The house is a converted barn on the southern edge of the village and is built of stone under a canal (or Roman) tile roof;. We found the date of 17 septembre 1756 carved on a rafter. We bought the redundant barn in 1989, and have tried to convert it sympathetically, with the emphasis on comfort and practicality rather than luxury. The building is about 30 ft by 45 ft and we have used half of it for accommodation, leaving the rest for canoes, bicycles, etc.  Downstairs is a large, simply but comfortably-furnished room that serves as kitchen, dining and sitting room. There is also a shower room with toilet and washbasin. Upstairs are four bedrooms (one with a 5ft double, two with twin beds and a small room with bunk beds) and a bathroom with toilet and bidet. The thick stone walls and double glazing mean that the house stays comfortably cool in the hottest weather (keep the shutters closed). Outside, we have a terrace along the front of the sitting room (which is ideal for playing boules) with a pergola over one end to give shade. There is a selection of outdoor furniture and a permanent barbecue.

 

For heating in the winter, there is a very efficient woodburning stove with a supply of dry hardwood, as well as full gas central heating. There is a gas cooker, a coffee-maker, a fridge with freezer compartment, a television with both UK and French satellite digiboxes for TV and radio and an audio amplifier and speakers. We also have a dishwasher, an automatic washing machine and an iron. The wireless broadband network has recently been upgraded (but is still not very fast).. There are duvets as well as plenty of blankets and pillows but we do not provide bed linen or towels. There should be plenty of the normal crockery, cutlery, etc., a kettle and a teapot and a supply of basic foodstuffs. We use the house for several months a year ourselves and there is everything we need. 

Brantome2
Brantome abbey

The first thing people seem to notice when they arrive is the peace and quiet. The house faces south-west and looks out over a meadow and then woods. Depending on the season there are masses of wild flowers (literally hundreds of orchids in the spring), animals and butterflies. Lizards scamper up the outside walls and we have seen deer in the garden and wild boar in the woods. We have a bit more than an acre of land, which we keep under control with our neighbour’s help. A public footpath runs beside our land and goes on through the woods to join the vast network of footpaths and lanes. One of the long distance routes (GR36, which runs from the Channel to the Pyrenees) passes just outside the village. Some of the local paths are organised into circular walks (details in the house). The local roads are very quiet and ideal for cycling (if you don’t mind the hills).                   

 

    The local economy is based on small-scale farming and timber, with a very attractive  landscape of woods, limestone outcrops (and lots of dry stone walls) with rivers in the valley bottoms.

Brantôme
bourdeilles

Although some travelling shops call in Saint Julien, the nearest shops are in Bourdeilles (5km/3 miles), where there is a post office but no bank. Local produce market on Sunday mornings.

Brantôme (8km/5 miles) has a full range of shops including a couple of supermarkets, a market on Friday mornings and an ever-growing number of restaurants. There are two banks with cash dispensers.

Périgueux (about 30km/18 miles) has everything you would expect in a city, including a choice of hypermarkets, a cathedral, a selection of museums and a very attractive old quarter.

 

The area is a favourite with French as well as foreign tourists and there is plenty to do, especially in the summer. Once you have explored Bourdeilles with its magnificent château (well worth a visit) and Brantôme (the ‘Venice of the Périgord’) you are still spoilt for choice. In the immediate vicinity, apart from the wonderful scenery and delightful towns and villages, there are several châteaux that can be visited and some caves, including the “Grotte de Villars” with its prehistoric cave paintings; there is a very good visitors’ centre and guides. 

If you don’t fancy canoeing you can take a boat trip on the Dronne from Brantôme and get a different perspective of the town. 

Slightly further afield, but within easy reach for day trips are the Dordogne river itself with spectacular views from places like Domme and wonderful towns such as Sarlat. This is the area that most people think of as “The Dordogne”, and it can get very crowded in the summer. The famous caves at Lascaux (or at least the “copies” – they’ve had to close the originals – are only some of a great number of truly spectacular caves not too far away. 

Although you’ll see lots of small vineyards around us, these are all for private consumption and you have to go down towards Bergerac or Saint Emilion (about an hour away) to find serious wine country. Cognac is a similar distance to the north east. 

    You can swim in the public pool in Bourdeilles or in the river at Lisle (about 8 miles) where there is an organised “beach” in July and August with a lifeguard and a roped-off area for toddlers. There are also fairly local lakes for swimming, boating, etc.

    There are tennis courts in Bourdeilles and Brantôme and horse riding and rock climbing nearby.

   The Dronne is ideal for canoeing, with several weirs to make life more interesting. You can hire canoes in Brantôme or Bourdeilles or use ours at your own risk if you can sort the logistics out (ie how to get back to where you started!). It is also full of fish and you can buy a licence to try your luck.

    We have a range of bicycles, including a tandem, which you are also welcome to use at your own risk. Please look after them and leave them in working order.

 

There is a bewildering variety of routes and means of transport for getting to France and we have tried most of them. St Julien is about 500 miles from Calais/Dunkerque and about 350 from Caen. Realistic journey times are around 8 to 9 hours hours from Calais and 6 hours from Caen. I can supply routes that seem to work, including how to get round Paris avoiding the dreaded Boulevard Périphérique and a route from Calais via Rouen  (the route we normally use).

There is intense competition, particularly on Dover/Calais. Eurotunnel, DFDS (ex Norfolk Line) and P&O are all based in Dover / Folkestone and cross to Dunkerque or Calais. Further west you can cross from Newhaven, Portsmouth, Weymouth, Poole and Plymouth to ports such as Dieppe, Le Havre, Caen, Cherbourg, St Malo and Roscoff. Try Brittany Ferries, Condor Ferries or LD Lines. 

There are also comparison sites such as directferries or ferryon line.

Whichever way you go, it is a long way and you may consider an overnight stop. There are several chains of cheap hotels.

You can also fly with Ryanair, City Jet or Flybe from Stansted, Gatwick, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Southampton, Bristol, East Midlands, and Exeter to Poitiers, Limoges, Brive or Bergerac (all about 1.5 to 2 hours from the house). Or take the train to Angoulême in about 6 hours from London. There is a bus from Angoulême to Brantôme that meets an evening train from Paris 4 days a week. Car hire is easy at airports and Angoulême station. 

You can even arrive by bike – several people have! I took 6 days from Caen, but others have done it more quickly.

 

Please ask if you have any queries. I have an information sheet which may be useful if you don’t know France very well.

 

We let the house on an informal basis, simply hoping to cover some of the running costs so that we can enjoy it ourselves. There is certainly no maid service, the plates don’t match and you have to take your own bed linen and towels. We trust that visitors will leave the house at least as clean and tidy as they find it, replacing any everyday things they lose, break or finish.

 

Availability and prices:

  Rates for 2020

                                                                         £ per week

July and August                                                  540

May, June and September                                525

April, October, Christmas and New Year        425

Other                                                                     395

Contact

Chris Collins – chris@chriscollins.co.uk

Telephone: +44 (0)1986 784534

                     +44 (0)7495 088454