Situated midway between Villars and Thiviers, St-Jean-de-Cole is one of the loveliest villages in the Dordogne. Its main square is surrounded by half-timbered houses, a covered marketplace, a 12th-century church and the Chateau de la Marthonie.
ST JEAN DE COLE
Out of Thiviers follow the direction for Nontron and Brantome, the D707. Just 6 kms along this road the D707 makes a right turn through the lovely village of St Jean de Cole. Classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, St Jean de Cole is justly proud of its 11th Century Byzantine church, the Chateau de la Marthonie, the cloisters, stone bridges and picturesque houses and roofs. In May it hosts a renowned flower show and during the summer months there are musical concerts and recitals held in the church. It's a lovely place to browse around with craft and gift shops and some good restaurants.
Web site: www.perigord.tm.fr/servtourisme/otsi/stjeandecole/
The annual flower festival held in early May is well worth a visit.
Grotte de Villars
Continue out of St Jean de Cole on the D98 and follow the signs for Grotte de Villars. The caves here at Villars are a maze of some 13 kms of tunnel and form the largest underground network in the Périgord. Inhabited since prehistory, there are fine examples of Aurignacian painting, bison, antelope and witches and the famous Magdalenian white horse. The spectacular stalactites and stalagmites will fascinate children, not yet that interested in cave art.
Just 4 kms south from the caves on the D82 stands the early Renaissance Chateau of Puygulhem. This Chateau was built in the 16th Century in the same style of those Chateaux found along the Loire Valley. Open to the public, practically year round, closing on Mondays out of season.
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