One recent sunny afternoon, we drive a short distance to explore some towns we’ve never heard of. The Lidoire is a tributary of the Dordogne river. The most famous city on its banks is Castillon-la-Bataille where the final battle of the Hundred Years’ War took place. Our destination is about 15 km north of Castillon, where we find the villages of Villefrance-de-Lonchat, Montpeyroux, and Saint-Méard-du-Gurçon.
The canton of Villefranche-de-Lonchat has not been discovered by tourists and is even relatively unknown to many Périgourdins, according to the pays-de-Bergerac tourism website. Located in the Dordogne (24) and bordering the Gironde (33), the canton is 38 km northwest of Bergerac and 25 km northeast of Saint Emilion. The town itself is set high on a ridge between the Isle and Dordogne rivers.
This area was devastated during the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion, and most signs of the original village are long gone. We park in the main square in front of the mairie that houses a museum, which unfortunately is closed on the day of our visit. (To arrange a visit to the museum, call 05.53.80.77.25.) A Gothic church from the 14th century, Chapelle Sainte-Anne, also is impressive.
Our stroll through Villefranche-de-Lonchat takes us pass a plaza that appears to have recently been redesigned with convenient parking. The war memorial here is particularly attractive.
From the edge of Villefranche-de-Lonchat one can see la Tour de Michel de Montaigne 10 km away. I wrote about a visit to this home of the great French philosopher several years ago, and you can find it here. Montaigne’s younger brother, Bertrand, made his home in Montpeyroux — our next stop.
Bertrand’s château is privately owned, but we are able to admire it from the outside. After taking a few photographs, we turn our attention to the graveyard of the 12th-century church across the road. The graves here are surrounded by lawn, unlike many cimetières here in France. Also unusual are the iron crosses that mark many of the graves.
Another notable building in Montpeyroux is la grange dîmière, built in 1306 to store the portion of the local farmers’ harvest that was tithed to the bishops of Bordeaux — a practice that was eliminated after the French Revolution.
Our last stop before heading home is the tiny village of Saint-Méard-du-Gurçon. The two stand-out attractions here are a wooden covered-market and a Gothic church with a square-shaped belfry and intricate carvings over the door. We also spy a pretty lavoir — an ancient communal wash house — a site that reminds me how much I appreciate my laundry room at home.