Departmental capital: Périgueux
Main cities/towns: Bergerac, Nontron, Sarlat, Ribérac
Dordogne has been the department of choice for generations of British (and French, Dutch and American) buyers, and its 24 number plates have a certain cachet.
Reasons for its popularity include a lovely climate (hotter than the UK but not unbearably so), space, friendly people, and, even today, some bargain properties on the market.
For a rural department, there is also a surprisingly active artistic and cultural scene.
History buffs are also spoilt as Dordogne has probably more chateaux per square kilometre than any other department. It also boasts plenty of prehistoric sites, dating back some 40,000 years.
Dordogne is one of France’s largest departments – driving across can easily take two hours or more – and has four distinct regions. These are usually divided by colour (black, white, purple and green), and prefaced by the department’s old name of Périgord. Each area has its own character. Some, like Eymet or Ribérac, have clusters of English speakers, but expats who do not want to mix with their compatriots will still find enough space to avoid them.
Transport links are reasonable, with an international airport at Bergerac and easy access via the A89 Bordeaux/Lyon autoroute to Bordeaux with its airport and TGV station.
Prices of rural properties in Dordogne were hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, with some areas seeing prices fall by 25%. They have not fully recovered, so there are still bargains out there. Cheap barn conversions are harder to come by these days, but it is still possible to purchase a decent house for an average price of €1,481 per m².