in France - clickable map
Driving times for this area: from Calais or Lille: 6 to 12 hours under normal driving conditions, depending on destination.
Main airports: Toulouse, Clermont Ferrand, La Rochelle, Bergerac, Bordeaux, Rodez, Limoges
Airlines serving this region: Flybe Jet2 Easyjet
Dordogne, or Dordogneshire?
The word "Dordogne", to the French, means one of three things. Most commonly, perhaps, the word refers to a long river that rises in the Auvergne, near Clermont Ferrand, and flows down to join the Gironde, near Bordeaux. Secondly, and in particular for people living there, it means a French administrative department, whose capital is Perigueux, and number is 24. And thirdly, it is a part of France that, for some reason, has seen a huge influx of "les Anglais", who for the almost forty years have been recolonising this northern part of Aquitaine, a region of France from from which some of their distant ancestors may have come six centuries ago, at the time of the 100 years' war.
It was in the late 1960s that the first enterprising estate agents discovered that they could sell old rundown farmhouses in the Dordogne at ten times the price that locals were willing to pay, by selling them off to wealthy British Francophiles. Since then, thousands more have moved in, to the point that the area round the town of Eymet now has some 5,000 to 10,000 British residents, and the "department" of the Dordogne now has some 800 businesses registered by British owwners !! In the 2008 Municipal elections, a number of British residents stood for election to local town and village councils, and several were elected.
Unlike the earliest residents, most of whom were of retirement age, many of the modern British immigrants to the Dordogne are in their forties, and have families. 8% of the 300 pupils at Eymet's middle school are British. The existence of easy air links with several UK airports has done much to stimulate the flow of British expats, or would-be expats, to this part of France; but the flow was also largely helped by an extremely attractive balance of costs that prevailed in the early part of the century. Not only was the Euro very weak compared to Sterling, but the French economy was depressed, pushing down prices throughout France; it was a golden opportunity for Brits who were willing to make the move, and risk a jump into the unknown.
Today the situation has changed, and although a large number of people in Britain say that they would love to move and live abroad, and although Dordogne remains a favoured destination, the flow is likely to slow down. Moving to the Dordogne is now far more expensive than it used to be; Sterling has lost 25% of its value compared to the Euro since 2000, house prices have risen sharply in areas like the Dordogne, and travel costs have gone up sharply too, with the explosion in the cost of oil.
Nonetheless, in the new Europe, migrations are the norm, and the movement of people from Britain to the Dordogne, and to other parts of France is unlikely to stop. The Dordogne's reputation as "England as it was fifty years ago" - however imaginary it may be - is not going to disappear overnight, and the attraction of an area where the pace of life is slower, and crime is lower, and the climate drier and warmer, is not going to fade away. Even if there are really plenty of other parts of France that are just as attractive as this little England in Aquitaine, and also considerably cheaper, Dordogne's image is now firmly established, and is unlikely to fade away.