There are some beautiful, leafy walks near La Vieille Grange and in summer the local roads and tracks are popular with walkers. Several major pilgrim routes pass nearby and many of the local tracks are marked with signs. You can buy local walking maps in the local tourist offices. There should also be some in the house. In general, unless there is a sign warning it is private property, you can follow any of the tracks that wind off the roads into the woods. Take care if walking in the hunting season; the season begins in October and continues through much of the winter. Wear bright clothing and avoid walking in dense woods.
Walks starting from the house include:
1 to Château Fénelon: from La Vieille Grange, take the sealed road that climbs the hill to the castle and either return the same way or follow the path to the right of the main gates that runs beside the boundary wall before descending through fields to the St Julien–Gourdon road. 60 to 90 mins.
2 the Loop: go down the hill towards Les Dounats. Stay on the sealed roads and keep taking right-hand turns until you are returned to Mercadiol. 50 mins.
3 into the woods: a walking track starting at the iron cross goes down the slope and on across the meadow below to join the ‘Loop’ road. It is sometimes hard to pick where the track enters the woods on the far side of the fields; look for yellow dashes on posts or painted at eye level on trees that border it.
Canoes and kayaks
The nearest place to hire canoes and kayaks is St Julien. You can set off from here and be picked up lower down the river – or you can opt to be driven upstream to Souillac and float and paddle back to St Julien. Cap Evasion 05 53 28 32 98 www.canoe-sur-dordogne.com
There are also many other places to start from in high season (Souillac, Grolejac, Vitrac, Calviac).
Cycling and cycle tracks
The old railway line along the river valley is now a ‘piste cyclable’ from Rouffilhac, just over the river from St Julien de Lampon. It runs in both directions, east towards Souillac and west towards Aillac, Grolejac and Sarlat. Since it’s an old train line the gradients are gentle and the scenery is spectacular. There are several places where the track crosses a road so care is required but it’s a great way to see the countryside and the river. You can hire a bike from Cap Evasion near the bridge at St Julien, 05 53 28 32 98 www.canoe-sur-dordogne.com). There is also bike hire at the Sarlat end (07 81 24 78 79 liberty-cycle.com). Pack a lunch and spent a half or full day on the cycle way.
There are racquets and balls in the house so why not play a game of tennis? There is a court in St Julien behind the Marie. You need book at the Marie.
The closest course to La Vieille Grange is the Souillac Country Club, Lachapelle-Auzac (18 km)
This 18-hole course is set in spectacular wooded country north of the Dordogne River about 7 km from Souillac. The course is part of a golf resort complex with a swimming pool, tennis courts etc. They have a restaurant and sometimes offer a special on golf fees and lunch. Open to the public and English is spoken.
05 65 27 56 00 souillaccountryclub.com
Many people swim in the Dordogne River at St Julien de Lampon in high season, but there is also swimming at artificial lakes at Gourdon and Grolejac (there is a small charge here), and public pools at Souillac: where ‘Quercyland’ has water slides etc; Sarlat and Gourdon. River currents can be very dangerous, especially near the bridge where eddies develop.
Lakes and ‘plan d’eau’ set up for swimming (beaches, pontoons)
Domaine ‘Ecoute si’l Pleut’ Gourdon
Surrounded by a park with picnic spaces and trees, this artificial lake at the bottom of the hill on the way into Gourdon has pontoons and an artificial sandy beach that is cleaned and replenished every year before the summer season.
The sandy beach and plan d’eau (12 km via) is attached to a campsite with a parking area with some tree shade and a small kiosk for drinks and ice creams. The water is warm in high summer and can be a bit muddy; lifeguard. Small entry fee.
Apart from these options there is always the river Dordogne itself. In summer, people swim from the riverbank either side of the bridge at St Julien de Lampon. However there are some dangerous eddies near the bridge and it is therefore not recommended for small children and those who are not strong swimmers. The river runs very fast especially after heavy rain. The riverbanks are pebbly in parts and those with delicate feet may need to invest in plastic sandals (available at the shop in St Julien). There are many swimming spots both up and downriver but none are patrolled.