Vitrac-Castelnaud canoe course

Distance 12 km
Duration about 2h30

Here you are at the Canoe-Loisirs boarding area in VITRAC, before the bridge, on the left bank, at the wooden chalet.


The port of Vitrac, whose peyrat (harbour) can be imagined, reveals another history through its hotel activity: that of the Gabares. With the development of the wine trade for England during the war between the Capetians and the Plantagenets, the need for wood to make barrels continued to increase. Very quickly, boats transported this wood, creating an important commercial traffic between the high country, the Auvergne, and the low country, the Gironde.
In these "gabares" (barges) came down the "merrain" (chestnut planking to make barrels) and the "carrassonne" (chestnut stakes for vine growing). Depending on their origin, the barges had different destinies. Coming from the upper Dordogne, they were dismantled and sold like the wood they carried. Coming from the Souillac area, they were mainly loaded with salt and sailed up the river, pulled by oxen along a towpath. The return journey was punctuated by stops at various ports, where the gabariers negotiated and ate. Vitrac was one of these ports.


Pass under the left-hand arch of the bridge. You now walk along a small islet, a nature reserve for birds (disembarkation prohibited) before finding one of the arms of the Dordogne on your right. The river now begins a second curve to the left. On the right bank, you discover a cave, another point of surveillance of the river. This is a good time to talk about history: the river was an essential control point, and the strategic positions were very quickly fortified during the Hundred Years' War. In 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine, ex-wife of Louis VII, gave Aquitaine to Henry of Plantagenet (a very nice gift!). This was the beginning of two centuries of hostilities during which the Bastide of Domme played an important role (built in 1282 by order of Philippe le Bel).

You leave the Beau Rivage campsite on your right and take the left branch of the river which takes you quietly around a wide bend to the right, then the long straight line to the steep promontory of DOMME and its belvedere.


You are now at the level of CÉNAC. This is the old port of DOMME, which explains the presence of mooring rings fixed to the bridge. Just after the bridge, on the left bank, behind a small islet, you can see the embarkation beach of Cénac.

A little further on, the water accelerates over a hundred metres, this is the Pendoils passage. Several blocks of basalt emerge on the surface (don't worry, it's safe), it is very likely that these blocks are the remains of a passage point for Roman legions at low water levels.

You are now facing an imposing limestone cliff, a favourite place for buzzards, kites and peregrine falcons. If you look up, you can sometimes witness battles between birds of prey during the nesting period.

Now you go to the photographer who takes the sports photo of your holiday. You can see and buy the photo immediately on the beach 100 m downstream.

La Roque Gageac

You are approaching the village of La Roque Gageac, one of the most beautiful villages in France. A bit of history?... We were in the Hundred Years' War! Come on, let's go a little further, to prehistory... Flint knapping found here suggests that the occupation of La Roque Gageac dates back to one of the prehistoric periods. The staircase leaning against the cliff? It is simply the remains of the fortress of the Roque to protect itself from Viking invasions. Later, a wall with fortified houses was added and served as a refuge for the bishops of Sarlat, in order to protect themselves from successive raids.
The city was considered impregnable. It was an important port and a major commercial centre during the period of the inland waterways (gabares) before disappearing in favour of animal-drawn haulage from 1817. The village has all the services. You now leave La Roque Gageac and leave the Château de la Malartrie (maladerie in medieval Occitan) on your right, then the beach and the municipal campsite. Built between the 10th and 12th centuries as a hospital for contagious diseases, this castle was abandoned until it was bought by an industrialist in 1902. He wanted to restore it in a Renaissance style, a style that was not fully respected! Today, the castle is the home of a family of illustrious diplomats from Périgord.


At the CASTELNAUD bridge, if this is your arrival point, turn left to stop just after the bridge without being caught by the current continuing towards Beynac...

The castle of Castelnaud (12th century), which over the centuries was sometimes English, sometimes French, depending on the successive sieges, offers an incomparable view of the Dordogne and was the object of the covetousness of the lords of Beynac. It eventually belonged to François de Caumont, who, judging this residence too austere, had the château des Milandes built.