In one of the most beautiful places in the Dordogne it is possible to take a boat trip in a Gabarre. There are boarding places at the places Beynac et Cazenac and Roque Gageac. You sail for a bit upstream or downstream, after which the boat returns to the boarding point.
Boat trip during your holiday in France
View the area from the water. After every bend there is a different landscape with castles, fortresses and beautiful villages. You arrive at places that you cannot reach by car. About 50 people are allowed to go on the boat and a guide will tell you about the area in various languages. It is very busy in the summer months. It is recommended to book in advance. The costs are approx. € 8 - € 10 for adults and approx. € 5 - € 6 for children.
The Gabarre, an ancient history
The Gabarre is a type of boat that is characteristic for the Dordogne region. In the past, people were mainly dependent on the rivers for transportation of goods and people. The Dordogne starts as a small stream near Clermont-Ferrand. It winds westward and at Argentat, northeast of Souillac, it is possible to sail with boats.
At the time the navigable part of the Dordogne was split into three parts:
- The upper Dordogne: this is the part from Argentat to Souillac. It is often a thin stream with slopes. Boating is only possible in spring and winter when the water is high enough, on average about 30 days a year. In the summer the water is too low (with a draft of only about thirty centimetres) and in the winter the current is too strong.
- The middle Dordogne: the part from Souillac to Castillon (between Bergerac and Bordeaux) is deeper. There you can sail for a longer period, about 6 to 8 months.
- The lower Dordogne: from Castillon towards the Atlantic coast. This part is navigable all year round.
Shipping around Argentat started to flourish from the 18th century. Boats are made to be able to transport goods to the west. These boats are long and have flat bottoms so they can sail in shallow water. These ‘argentats’ are only made for sailing down the river. On arrival they are cut into pieces and the boards are sold as firewood. The skipper then walks back to Argentat to go down the river with the next boat. If the current is not too strong, the ships are sometimes towed back with ropes to the starting point, but usually they were used only once.
There are different types of "argentats". One of them is the Gaberot where the name Gabarre comes from. All kinds of goods are transported in it: oak and chestnut wood for the coopers in the wine-growing region of southern Dordogne, cheese from Auvergne, chestnuts from Limousin and wine from Domme and Bergerac.
Dams were later built in the Dordogne, leaving much more water in the Dordogne than before. Nowadays boats with tourists sail on the whole Dordogne, from Argentat to the Atlantic coast.
"Nice boat trip on the Dordogne. You immediately hear a piece of history. The audio phone is also in Dutch. It is an hour by boat and during the trip you have a beautiful view of the gorges, the castles and the river. Tip: come early in the morning when it is still fairly quiet."
"We and the children enjoyed. The explanation was easy to follow. It was warm but the sunscreen provided the necessary shade. It was beautiful and we saw a lot. Recommended!"
"Beautiful boat trip on the river. Beautiful view of the villages, rocks and cliffs. Very pleasant."