Ten Things to Do Around Pensol

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Though it sits in the middle of the Périgord-Limousin Natural Regional Park , there are a surprising number of things to do around the little village of Pensol. Picturesque towns, bustling markets, restaurants, ancient châteaux and miles of walking trails all wait to be discovered.

1. Piégut-Pluviers Market

The small town of Piégut-Pluviers lies a pleasant 20 min drive from Pensol. It has a wonderful weekly market held on a Wednesday morning, that has been held here since the seventeenth century. This is one of the largest markets in the South West of France and is not to be missed. You will find everything here from artisan foods, arts and crafts, clothes and shoes to household goods right down to livestock. For parking, head into the village until to see the "deviation" sign. Turn right and then first left. It can be very busy in July and August so best to get there early. Stallholders pack up at lunchtime.

The town also has a ruined tower which can be climbed for a fantastic views.

A visit to Piegut Pluviers can be combined with a stop off for a swim at the Lac Saint Estèphe on the way home, to make a full day trip.

2. St Saud Swimming Lake

Saint Saud (pronounced San Sow) is our closest swimming lake and is a must for anyone looking for an open water swim or paddle. Only 10 minutes away, it is a beautiful lake with an artificial sandy beach and associated facilities that the French do so well. There is a shallow roped off area that is fantastic for younger children. Adults can swim beyond this section. There is a small cafe that sells ice creams but not much else so take a picnic or visit the pizza restaurant next door.

3. Les Grottes de Villars (limestone caves)

Les Grottes de Villars are a spectacular network of limestone caves. The excellent guided tour takes you through the caves to view the weird and wonderful calcite formations which have made stalactites, stalagmites, pools and translucent, sparkling curtains of rock. There are also original prehistoric paintings and the walls still display the scratches of cave bears.

In typical French style they have invested in this site to make a really great tourist attraction with large shady car park, interpretation video, gift shop and restaurant. The guided tour lasts about an hour. At 30 minutes from Pensol, this makes a good day trip when combined with popping in to see St Jean de Cole on the way back.

Note for the claustrophobic – the caves are large and well lit with a flat surface underfoot at all times. There are no squeezy bits or low roofs. We are sure you will be fine.

4. St Jean de Cole

Just a 30 minute drive away, St Jean-de-Cole is one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is part of a network of similar places linked by a scheme called “les plus beaux villages de France”.

The buildings are beautifully preserved and date back to the 11th century. The lovely tiled roofs once won the “finest roofs in France” competition. The church is utterly lovely.

The River Cole runs through the village, and the view of the main square from one of the pretty stone bridges makes this really worth a visit.

5. Espace Hermeline

Espace Hermeline is an outdoor activities park and is a great day out for guests with children or adolescents who have tired of looking at nice old churches and watching their parents drink wine in the sun. It is situated near Bussière-Galant, about a half hour drive from Pensol. There is a large swimming lake and beach, a "Go-Ape" style tree top course with lots of zip wires and a velo-rail. This is a 12km circuit on an old railway line where you power the stripped-down carriages yourself using bicycles. Apparently groups of four are best so you can all have a go and swap over. There is a cafe.

6. Walking, and Cycling

Heidi and Bell the donkey from Le Moulin de Pensol on the Sentier de Bandiat

Le Moulin do Pensol is situated on a network of circular trails. On foot, by bike or on a horse, you have on your doorstep a figure-of-eight circuit of 16 km in total, with many shorter permutations possible. The route is called the Sentier du Bandiat, after the River Bandiat which flows through the site. This river used to power the watermill which gives “Le Moulin” its name. Click on the Sentier du Bandiat website to find out more. If you're staying at Le Moulin de Pensol, you could even take a donkey along with you to carry your sunscreen.

As I explained in the last blog, Cycling in the Limousin, the roads around Pensol are perfect for cycling. They are well maintained, pass through beautiful scenery and are virtually traffic free. Bring your own bike or hire one from our partners DispoVelo.

7. Oradour-Sur-Glane Martyr Village

Oradour-Sur-Glane is the site of an appalling atrocity which happened just before the end of WW2. The Nazis massacred some 634 people (almost the whole village) in retribution for the killing of a Nazi guard which actually took place in the nearby village of Oradour-sur-Vayres. They rounded the men up into the market square and machine-gunned them. The women and children were packed into the church, where they were shot in the legs to disable them before burning them alive. The village was then burned and trashed before SS left. At the end of the war, Charles de Gaulle declared that the village should be left as a “martyr village” to stand as a memorial to the people who had died. This has now had a visitor and interpretation centre on one side, and you can walk around the ruined village. Rusty cars stand abandoned in the street. It's not fun, but it is the most powerful and moving memorial you will ever see and it helps to understand the war that shaped so much of modern France.

8. Walk to Le Ferme du Lac

One of our favourite things to do when we are not busy, is to walk through the woods from Le Moulin de Pensol to the restaurant called Le Ferme du Lac. The walk is beautiful and is just under 2km. It takes you over the little river Bandiat and through some stunning chestnut woods before you see the lake itself on your right. Follow the small signs. The restaurant is run by friendly English people and they do fish and chip nights, curry nights and Sunday lunches. The also screen major sporting events. Give Jackie and Liston a ring before you leave to book a table 05 55 78 70 57.

9. Visit Rochechouart

The charming town of Rochechouart lies 30Km to the north of Pensol. It is dominated by its classic French château which hosts the museum of contemporary art as well as staging various gallery events. The town lies on the lip of a meteor crater, the impact of which was thought for many years to be the one which wiped out the dinosaurs. Subsequent research showed the dates did not coincide but it was however a major global event followed by significant climatic disruption. The buildings of the town are made of a unique rock which is a fusion of the local sandstone and the meteor rock. There are museums and further information in the town about this fascinating geological area. It also has a nice range of restaurants, bars, cafes and boulangerie.

10. Lac Saint Estèphe

Just a 20 minute drive from Pensol lies the beautiful swimming lake of Saint Estèphe. It has an artificial beach of golden sand, restaurants and cafe's and a trim trail. It is possible to walk all the way round the lake which takes about an hour and makes use of the hand operated chain ferry to cross part of the lake. There are several cafes and restaurants dotted around the edge of the lake. Le Moulin de Grand Etang has a particularly good reputation.