Camping in France – A Visit to Souillac in the Dordogne

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Our home for the week.

Souillac: A Great Location in the Dordogne

Having never really explored France before, even though we are only a short drive away, the decision was made that 2013 would be the year of discovery. Before visiting this area of France we had only ever travelled to Normandy and Paris but knew that we wanted to explore areas further south as well.  But did Souillac live up to our expectations?

A Flashback to my Younger Years

I vividly remember my first camping experience in France with my parents at the age of 13. We were driving to Italy and therefore my father thought it would be a good idea to have a couple of stop overs along the way.

Excitable as ever I helped to pack the car, loading the roof rack with our sleeping bags and anything else soft and bulky so we gained the most from the space left. As we crossed the channel my naive self was about to get a shock. Along the way we had pit stops at services and all toilet blocks were very modern and ‘English’ in approach so I never questioned what our first campsite would be like; after all review sites like TripAdvisor did not exist.

Travelling to Saint Die des Vosoges, Corcieux, near Colmar and 297 miles from Calais seemed like a reasonable first leg to our journey and we were there mid-afternoon which gave us time to explore before it got dark. Running off to the facilities both myself and my sister were oblivious to what awaited us. When we reach the ablutions block we believed we had made a mistake so headed back to the tent to explain to our father, in complete despair, that the toilet was a hole in the ground. We had not made a mistake and over the course of many years now touring around Europe we have become accustomed to using the famous hole in the ground.

Why do I tell you this?

Well, when we started travelling abroad many of the toilets we stumbled across were holes, however, nowadays, it would seem that the majority of countries have a ‘English’ toilet so it is not such a worry. Thanks to this first experience I do now look at photos of every campsite I intend to book, at the facilities on offer, to the point where it is a bit of a joke I have with my husband.

How do you find a campsite that suits your needs in France?

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A few years ago, more by chance that anything else, I stumbled across a company that promotes ‘luxury campsites’ in France. Les Castels signpost 4 and 5* sites across all areas – each one has been personally inspected by one of their team, having to meet certain standards in order to appear in their recommendations. At this point I would like to stress, these campsites must all retain the charm of rural France. Therefore, you will find that the activities offered include horse back riding, hiking, fishing, canoeing or pure relaxation. Alongside this, most have swimming pools, a restaurant and a bar. Many have been working farms in a previous life so are rural in their nature and therefore transport is highly recommended. With this though you do receive unencumbered views of the beautiful country.

For this trip we decided upon Domaine de la Paille Basse near Souillac. Located ideally in between Sarlat and Rocamadour this site boasts wonderful views, especially from the swimming pool, of the surroundings hills and valley. All Castel pitches have to be 100 square metres and therefore even the largest of tents fit comfortably. Ours was surrounded by trees so in the height of the day you were not fighting for shade.  However, make sure if you head to this particular site near Souillac, that you book a grassy pitch.  We unfortunately were not aware of this and were therefore given a rocky pitch, which for those in a tent, is not ideal.  This small detail is something that would have made our stay at this site even more enjoyable.

However, relaxing by the pool some days, looking out over the hills was a great way to spend time recharging the batteries after the 600 mile drive and the restaurant on site was first class. We enjoyed a fantastic meal one evening here.; the duck was that good my husband ordered it a second time.

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The swimming pool during an amazing sunset.

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One tasty duck dinner wasn’t enough (second helpings!)

One top tip I do have if you are travelling to more remote areas of France – English is not a natural second language and therefore basic French is advisable. By the time we departed I could converse quite comfortable with the staff around the site; the gentleman who ran the shop was more than happy to help me with my pronunciation when I went to collect the fresh croissants each morning.

This site also allowed BBQ’s meaning that you could relax around the tent in the evening after a day of sightseeing without having to worry too much about cooking a heavy meal. If you wanted more in the evenings, the site provided nightly entertainment including live music, quiz nights and a local market.

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Campsite reception to the left and restaurant straight ahead.

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The campsite restaurant with outdoor seating.

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The onsite shop which stocked all the basics.

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Part of the bar area inside the restaurant. Watch out for the cobwebs!

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Bar outside seating and entertainment area.

Whether you want to go sightseeing or relax by the pool this site could be the one for you.

For further details on Les Castels sites visit their site directly.

Should you wish to experience camping abroad but don’t have your own tent or would prefer a mobile home I would suggest looking at one of the following: Eurocamp, Canvas Holidays or Venue Holidays.  These are all companies I have used in the past and have a wide selection of campsites to choose from.

Have you visited the Dordogne?  Perhaps you too have stayed at this campsite in Souillac.  Where else in France would you suggest we visit.

 

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