The name Dordogne has
evolved from the Celtic words Du unna meaning fast water. During the Roman
Empire, the river was known as the Duranius, which during the Middle Ages gradually
evolved to Duranna, Durunia, Durdunia, Dordoigne and finally Dordogne.
The river, whose source is high on the Puy de Sancy (1,886m/6,186ft), in the Auvergne, crosses five departments (Puy de Dôme, Corrèze, Lot, Dordogne and Gironde) before joining the Garonne to form the Gironde estuary.
Mankind has existed on the banks of the river since ancient times. Remains from the Celtic period (2,500 BP) have been found in the middle section of the valley, while amphorae once used for wine have been uncovered in the region of Bergerac; these amphorae date from the 1C-2C BCE and bear witness to a wine trade with Ancient Rome before vines were planted along the banks of the river.
The upper section of the river, upstream of Souillac, is little more than a narrow strip of water flanked by steep cliffs, and navigable only for about 30 days of the year, in spring and autumn when the water level was high. The middle section of the river was navigable for 6 to 8 months of the year. Boats from this part of the river would transport oak, chestnut, cheese and wine from Domme and would return with salt, wheat and salted fish. The lower section of the river was permanently navigable.
The top of these cliffs along the Dordogne are reach by a Belvedere walk from
Les Jardins suspendus de Marqueyssac
One of the finest ways to familiarise oneself with the river is by taking a 55-minute trip on one of the traditional flat-bottomed boats, known as gabares that were used for transporting goods between the Massif Central and Bergerac, Librouen and Bordeaux. The gabares were originally built to transport wood from the forests, in particular Oak used to produce vats and barrels, and Chestnut used to make the stakes to support vines.
24250 LA ROQUE GAGEAC
Tel: o5 53 29 40 44
Open Daily between 10am and 6pm from La Roque-Gageac
April to October
Audio guides included