This area has been occupied by humans since prehistoric times and nowhere is this more evident that at the troglodyte dwellings at La Roque Saint Christophe.
The road to La Roque Saint Christophe winds through the forest, valleys and along the rivers of the Vezere area. Arriving at the car park nestled in the woods there is a cafe for refreshments, perfect for a hot summer day and probably necessary before you begin your expedition into the heart of prehistoric dwellings that became a small village in the Middle ages.
Climbing the rather steep stairs to the main entrance (don't worry there is a more sedate route to the right where you can take a pushchair), in the heat of the day was a bit of a challenge, but luckily the route is short and you arrive at the air conditioned welcome desk and boutique pretty quickly. Once inside pushchairs and wheelchairs are not advisable as the surface is uneven and there are several sets of stairs to climb along the route.
This is one of the places included in the 'Pass Decouverte'. A multipass that allows you discounts when you visit more than two of the sights in the list. Certainly worth it on this stretch of road through the Dordogne as you pass the majority of them on the main road as you drive from Montignac down to Les Eyzies.
There are regular free guided tours scheduled throughout the day and the staff at the ticket desk will give you information on this as you enter. However, I found that there was actually plenty of information available on the boards as you walk through the old stone dwellings and I was happy to do this on my own and soak up all the information, and the stunning views.
It really is amazing to discover that entire villages of people could live here virtually self-sufficient and with their own church, abattoir, blacksmith, a prison and even a bank all perched high up on this cliffside. Each area is described in great detail allowing you to imagine what life may have been like. There are also a selection of tools and instruments that were found in the area and explanations of how these were used.
The best bit for kids is no doubt the reconstructions of scaffolding, hoists and machinery used to bring stone, water and other materials up to the cave dwellings. They would fish and hunt deer to survive and it is here that we can see the first signs of farming and livery being used for sustenance.
Once you have travelled along the length of the village, around 1km, the route brings you back through the Fort area. This is where we find some of the most interesting features, such as the armory, the prison and the Grand Escalier; this is the largest staircase formed from a single block of stone in Europe. It allowed access to the upper terrace area where they would defend the fortress by catapulting rocks and other projectiles onto attackers.
As with all sights and attractions in the Dordogne, and indeed a across the world...there is always one slightly dodgy model of a human being that is in there to scare you, and La Roque Saint Christophe is no different. this poor chap looks like he has been in prison for some time!
Depending on the time of day of your visit the cool rock surface and shade that the cliff offers can be a welcome respite to the strong summer sunshine. This is also an activity that can be enjoyed on a slightly drizzly day as much of the route is covered either by overhanging rock or by trees.
A trip to La Roque Saint Christophe is a must when you are in the Dordogne region and a great family activity. If you are travelling with children then is will be a fun activity for them. There are safety railings along the length of the village, however, you should still be aware of young children straying too far as there are some holes and old staircases that can be accessed.