Rural accommodation in the Dordogne

“We started this business almost by accident,” laughs Diane Kirkwood of our rural accommodation provider Covertcabin. “We bought a house and some land here on a whim, for a holiday home. And then after a while we just couldn’t face leaving.”

Once you’ve spent a few days in their neck of the woods yourself, it’s not hard to understand why Diane and husband Bob decided to stick around. Idyllic barely does it justice – a handful of wooden cabins, all set on their own lakes a few kilometres away from each other, and surrounded by woodland, out of sight and earshot of anyone else. “You’re not all that remote,” says Diane, “but it certainly feels that way. It’s like having your own kingdom.”

Staying a little way outside the market town of Piégut-Pluviers, you’re off the beaten track, and off-grid too, in charming, hand-built cabins that run on renewable energy, situated by lakes where the resident carp are temptingly fat. “We renovated the first cabin just for ourselves,” says Diane, “with no intention of renting it as we didn’t anticipate the demand for off grid holidays. We did everything ourselves. The first cabin needed an extra storey, the others were built from scratch with wood from our own land.”
This is the type of place you come when you want to get back to nature, with just a handful of mod cons to make the transition a little easier. Among the trees are squirrels and pine martens, rare black woodpeckers and several species of owl. Deer sometimes come to drink from the lakes, while floating on a raft or snoozing on your private deck you can listen to the frog chorus as dragonflies and butterflies shimmer past. The amount of wildlife here is a clear indicator of how healthy the lakes are. Unused timber is scattered around to house beetles and hedgehogs, and bramble cleared to make habitat for bluebells and pignuts to thrive. You may be able to pick up a phone signal or 4G depending on the cabin you've hired, but expect to forget you’ve even got a phone half the time.
So far, so Walden. But your cabin, while rustic, will be spacious and comfortable, and equipped with everything you need for three days, a week, or the month you’ll inevitably consider coming back for next time. Size and layout will vary, but cabins are set just back from the water, arranged over two floors, with open plan seating areas and quirky, often vintage furnishings. The water for the showers is pumped from the lake using solar power and then filtered. Drinking water is bottled nearby. The cabins are kept toasty warm by wood-burning stoves that run on logs coppiced from the surrounding area. The toilet is a modern compost one, and the silence is... tangible.

Things to do

Honeymooners after romantic seclusion will need to be dragged home again. There are cabins sized for families too. It hardly needs saying but kids will absolutely love staying in a place like this. They can wander around safely with books to help them identify orchids, mushrooms or birds such as treecreepers, blue tits and nuthatches. They can paddle around the lake on a raft, read in the hammocks, and if it rains, disappear happily into the cabin’s eclectic collection of board games and art materials.
And for those wanting to push against the edges of this bucolic bubble, there are bikes to be hired and used to roam the many off-road tracks around – honeymooners can take the tandem. There are vineyards and historic chateaux to tour, local markets to sample fresh cheeses and meats, prehistoric caves and classic Dordogne villages and market towns. “There’s quite a hippy vibe in Piégut-Pluviers, a lot of organic growers,” says Diane. “You know what’s grown locally because there it will be seasonal. Someone might have a stall with just eight loaves of bread they’ve baked themselves to sell, each with a different topping.”
You can canoe on the river, go horse riding, or borrow some fishing tackle and try your luck by the lake. In the evenings you can prepare your meals on the gas cooker, on the wood stove, around the campfire-style barbecue, or go out to a nearby restaurant. Waste is kept to an absolute minimum, and leftover veg goes onto the compost heap, where the chickens are usually to be found rustling. Let your dinner settle, then contemplate a swim beneath a starry sky of amazing clarity.

Practicalities

Rural accommodation in the Dordogne means getting yourself to southwest France, accessible by train, air or ferry, being about eight hours drive from Calais or six from Normandy. You’ll be about five kilometres from the picturesque market town of Piégut-Pluviers, which is easily reachable by bike, but realistically you will want to have a car at your disposal as bus services are limited and airport transfers not feasible. If you take the Eurostar/TGV to Angouleme there is a limited bus service from there to the cabins – your hosts can advise on the schedule. Free transfers are also available from Piégut. The minimum stay is three nights, and it’s a week during the peak summer months of July and August, while pets are welcomed with advance notice.

Cabins are simply furnished, each having a view over its own lake. There will be a boat or a raft tied up at the deck for lazing on the water, and you may find a few hammocks strung up between the trees. Making it easy to self-cater, a box of provisions can be pre-ordered to keep you going until you can get to the market.

Our top Rural accommodation Holiday

Dordogne self catering cabin sleeping 4

Dordogne self catering cabin sleeping 4

Off-grid, off-beat self catering cabin

From €650 to €900 per week (sleeps 2-4)
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If you'd like to chat about Rural accommodation or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

When to go

Diane Kirkwood explains her favourite times of year in rural Dordogne: “Normally we’re closed between Christmas and Easter, purely as the water pipes sometimes freeze. The spring brings with it an amazing array of wildflowers, the woods are full of bluebells. It was May when we first arrived here and I was just amazed by the diversity. Everything comes to life in spring. Summer is probably my least favourite time of year as it gets quite busy in town, but it’s great for families with lots of activities. Autumn is lovely for leaf-watching, and there are heaps of mushrooms for foraging too. The national park organises guided walks to help with that, and some of the locals will often be happy to walk around with you for a while and share their knowledge on subjects such as herbal plants.”
Spring or autumn for a secluded getaway then, or summer for a sublime family holiday. But don’t be surprised if you fall under the same kind of spell as the Kirkwoods, and find yourself setting down roots.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Top box: Covertcabin] [Things to do: Stephane Mignon] [When to go: Jebulon]
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