Cycling along quiet, winding, rural roads, while taking in the spectacular countryside can be just one of the many delights of being on holiday in France. An hour can easily pass without sight of any other vehicles, making this a relatively safe option for a family activity. Throughout France cycling seems to be becoming more and more popular for the casual cyclist (as opposed to the cycling clubs and such events as the Tour de France for which France is justly famous) as centres spring up where bikes can be hired – unless you have your own of course.
The Dordogne area is no exception with lots of opportunities for cycling on the backroads as well as the completely car-free ‘Piste Cyclable’ which runs south-east from Sarlat to the river Dordogne and then has several off-shoots, depending on how far you wish to go. The Piste Cyclable is a disused railway line that has been converted into a smooth tarmacadam cycle way. Much of the route is through wooded areas and so is shaded making it especially pleasant on a hot summer’s day. There is a convenient stopping point halfway at the pretty village of Carsac-Aillac. Here, it is easy to leave the cycle path and head down into the village (keep an eye on younger children as a fairly busy road passes through the village) where the Bar/Tabac must do a roaring trade in season from thirsty cyclists. There are also a few shops as well as a glass factory (www.souffleur-de-verre.com) – worth the slight detour to watch some glass blowing. Just beyond the glassworks look out for an ancient ‘lavoir’ (see photo) and park area where everyone can let off steam! Your onward journey carries on to the Dordogne River (for some paddling/swimming) and then once over the river the Piste Cyclable gives way to country lanes that continue on to the Base de Loisir at Grolejac. This would make an ideal spot for a picnic. In high season various water activities are available as well as somewhere to buy snacks.
We recommend a small but excellent British run company called Bike Bus, based in the heart of the Dordogne, who offer a first class bike hire service. In fact all our arrangements were pre-booked over the internet, and on the appointed day our bikes (including a tag-a-long for our youngest) arrived as planned. Bikes can be hired either from Bike Bus’ base in Castelnaud or else delivered (for a small fee and within a set radius) to the place of your choice.