5 Cheeses to try while discovering the Dordogne
By Stewart Creasey
23 April 2015
For many, France is synonymous with fromage. Don’t miss these five regional cheeses when travelling on your holidays to France by train.Read more
Bordering the Dordogne department of France, the small town of Souillac is situated on the north-western edge of the Lot department to the south of the country's centre. An historic and picturesque base from which to explore the many attractions of the beautiful Dordogne Valley and black Périgord regions, Souillac has its own share of highlights to offer.
In the tenth century Benedictine monks chose a patch of marshland upon which to found a monastery and settlement, working hard to dry out the land; souilh, from which the town takes its name, means 'marshland where boars wallow'. The current abbey and church of Sainte-Marie de Souillac is one of the town's architectural highlights and dates back to the twelfth century, although damage sustained during religious wars, the Hundred Years War between England and France and a subsequent fire led to extensive rebuilding in the seventeenth century.
Today Souillac is a delightful town, easily explored on foot, which retains facets of its medieval heritage including its surrounding defensive wall featuring five separate gateways. The Municipal Library is housed in a beautifully-preserved fourteenth century building, whilst the Rue de la Halle contains many further examples of fine historic architecture. There are also quaint cafes, an open air market and shops which sell products for which the region is renowned including paté de foie gras and fine wines.
For five generations the Roque family has maintained a reputation for producing fine plum brandy. The Souillac distillery was established in 1905. The distillery's museum provides a fascinating insight into the equipment and expertise behind the production of this iconic liqueur, whilst the shop sells not only plum brandy but also exquisite glass carafes, chocolates, preserved fruits and many gift items.
Souillac's Museum of Automatons contains a fascinating collection of more than three hundred clockwork and mechanically operated automatons. These entertaining children's toys were collected by the Roullet-Descamps family between 1862 and 1960.
Held each Friday in Place St Martin and Place Doussot, Souillac's friendly outdoor market is a colourful attraction, abundant with fresh produce including lemons, carrots, raspberries, strawberries and green vegetables. Local specialities include locally made walnut oil, mature cheeses, paté de Campaigne and excellent smoked meats and sausages.
Souillac is located close to a number of unmissable destinations in the Dordogne Valley region with both Martel and Rocamadour just eleven kilometres away. Martel is a beautifully-preserved medieval village renowned for its seven distinctive towers, whilst Rocamadour is a spectacular village and pilgrimage site built against a vertical cliff face.