Gourdon lies between Sarlat and Cahors, conveniently served by the Brive–Toulouse train line, and makes a quiet, agreeable base for visiting some of the major places in this part of the Dordogne and Lot. It’s 17km south of the River Dordogne and pretty much at the eastern limit of the luxuriant woods and valleys of Périgord, which give way quite suddenly, at the line of the N20, to the arid limestone landscape of the Causse de Gramat.
It is a striking town, its medieval centre of yellow-stone houses attached like a swarm of bees to a prominent hilltop, neatly ringed by modern boulevards containing all the commerce. The main street through the old town, with a fortified gateway at one end, is rue du Majou. It’s lined all the way up with splendid stone houses, some, like the Maison du Sénechal at no. 17, dating back to the fourteenth century and extended during the sixteenth. At the top you emerge into a lovely, intimate square in front of the massive but not particularly interesting fourteenth-century church of St-Pierre. From the square, steps climb to the top of the hill, where the castle once stood and from where there is a superb view stretching for miles.