Dordogne - relaxed spring wildlife (by train)

A relaxed week enjoying the wildlife of the causses, woodlands and river valleys of the Dordogne in the heart of south-west France.
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Wildlife Travel leaflet Dordogne 2020

17 – 24 May 2020


Laurie Jackson and Kelly Thomas



Single Room Supplement – £185


Return train travel from London St Pancras to Bordeaux. Local transport as specified in the itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation, full board basis.

Not included

Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

Group size

Minimum 6, maximum 11.

Our travels will take us through the wide valleys of the Dordogne and Vézère Rivers with opportunities to explore their diverse woodlands, wetlands, and of course the flower-rich limestone plateaux of the causses.

Their dry stony soils and warm climate gives the causses an interesting Mediterranean feel and we can expect to find a fantastic range of plants including a good selection of orchids. The causses support an abundance of butterflies, providing plenty of opportunity to get to grips with various blues, fritillaries and skippers, along with other interesting species such as the Ocellated Lizard.

Passing through the river valleys clad in oak woodland we will see outcrops of high, sculpted limestone cliffs, providing dramatic views along with opportunities to spot birds such as Alpine Swifts, Crag Martins and Ravens.

As well as time on the causses, we will visit the wetlands at Tourbières de Vendoire, an important area of damp meadow and peat bog, with a rich dragonfly community. We will also spend a day in the Forêt de la Bessède, which is largely on acidic sandy soils providing a different habitat with an interesting mix of sweet chestnut, pine and oak including Pyrenean Oak.

Our trip will also give us the opportunity to enjoy some of the region’s beautiful villages, along with an opportunity to visit the bustling Le Bugue farmers’ market.

This holiday will appeal to anyone who wishes to enjoy pleasant walks filled with wildlife, plus there is the bonus of travelling by train rather than having to fly.

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

Contact us to reserve your place

Day 1 After travelling to Bordeaux by train, our coach takes us to the market town of Le Bugue (~2.5 hrs) on the Vézère River where we will arrive in time for a late dinner.

Day 2 We set off northwards through the valley of the Vézère River for our first introduction to the region’s limestone grasslands at Causse de Terrasson. We should find a good range of wild flowers such as the delicate Campanula erinusTeucrium montanum and a nice selection of orchids. The warm grassland here is also fantastic for butterfly spotting.

Day 3 There will be time to visit the vibrant Le Bugue market before we head to the nearby village of Campagne. Walking through the gardens of the chateau we will look out for dragonflies and damselflies before taking a walk through the nearby woodland. Short-toed Treecreepers may be spotted along with woodpeckers, and we can hope to find a range of orchids. During the afternoon we will visit Les Eyzies.

Day 4 We visit the interesting wetlands at Tourbières de Vendoire, to explore the damp meadows and ponds home to a wide range of dragonflies such as the distinctive Orange-spotted Emerald and impressive Pronged Clubtail. We spend our afternoon exploring the Plateau d’Argentine, which is rich in wild flowers with the diminutive Carthamus mitissimus and an array of orchids. We should also see plenty of butterflies here.

Day 5 We visit Forêt de la Bessède in an area of sandstone. Among many possibilities we hope to find Tongue Orchid, Marsh Helleborine, Fragrant Orchid and more within the open woodland here. Dartford Warblers sing their scratchy song in forest clearings, and we will listen out for the calls of Middle Spotted Woodpecker and the gentle purr of Turtle Doves as we walk.

Day 6 We take a longer walk through the woodland and meadows of Cingle de Trémolat, enjoying superb views over the Dordogne. In amongst the wooded areas we will listen for the calls of Crested Tits, while a variety of fritillaries and blues join Berger’s Clouded Yellow and Swallowtail over the flowery grassland.

Day 7 We travel south to the grasslands and oak woodlands of Causse de Daglan and la Vallée du Céou. Walking through scrubby grassland we will listen our for the scratchy song of Western Subalpine Warlber as we enjoy more rich limestone flora.

Day 8 After breakfast we set off back to Bordeaux and our train home.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

We stay at Le Cygne in the attractive market town of Le Bugue. The hotel is comfortable and all rooms have en-suite facilities. We will have breakfast and evening meals at the hotel, with picnic lunches provided by the hotel and lunch in a restaurant on Day 7.

For our daily excursions, we will travel by minibus.

We will travel by train on this holiday. Timings for May 2020 are not yet released, but are likely to be similar to 2019:

17 May depart London St Pancras 10.24, arrive Paris Gare du Nord 13.47,
depart Paris Montparnasse 14.47, arrive Bordeaux St Jean 16.56
24 May depart Bordeaux St Jean 12.04, arrive Paris Montparnasse 14.13.
Depart Paris Gare du Nord 16.13, arrive London St Pancras 17.39

France is one hour ahead of the UK

If you prefer to make your own travel arrangements, you can book the holiday without the travel. You would need to meet the group at Bordeaux St Jean or at the hotel in Le Bugue. There are flights available with Easyjet from several UK airports.

If you hold a UK passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to France. If you do not have a UK passport, please check with your local consulate.

The weather in the Dordogne should be pleasantly warm at this time of year, although rain is always a possibility, as is cooler weather.

On several days we are walking for much of the day albeit at a relatively slow pace. The walks are between 2 and 5 miles with some rougher ground and some slopes, both up and down. Walking boots are essential and walking poles may be useful. The pace will be relaxed, with plenty of time to enjoy the surrounding and take photos, as well as stopping to enjoy the wildlife along the way. If you are a slower walker, please contact us to discuss whether any of the walks will be a problem for you. You must be able to lift your own luggage on and off of the trains.