The first place of any size east of Sarlat is SOUILLAC, at the confluence of the Borrèze and Dordogne rivers and on a major road junction. Virginia Woolf stayed here in 1937, and was pleased to meet "no tourists England seems like a chocolate box bursting with trippers afterward". There are still few tourists, since Souillac's only real point of interest is the twelfth-century church of Ste-Marie, west of the main road. Roofed with massive domes like the cathedrals of Périgueux and Cahors, its spacious interior creates just the atmosphere for cool reflection on a summer's day. On the inside of the west door are some of the most wonderful Romanesque sculptures, including a seething mass of beasts devouring each other. The greatest piece of craftsmanship, though, is a bas-relief of Isaiah, fluid and supple, thought to be by one of the artists who worked at Moissac. Next to the church, the Musée de l'Automate (April, May & Oct Tues– Sun 10am– noon & 3–6pm; June & Sept daily 10am– noon & 3–6pm; July & Aug daily 10am–7pm; Nov– March Wed– Sun 2.30–5.30pm; 5.50) contains an impressive collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century mechanical dolls and animals, which dance, sing and perform magical tricks; look out for the irresistible laughing man.
The tourist office (July & Aug Mon– Sat 9.30am–12.30pm & 2–7pm, Sun 10am– noon & 3–6pm; Sept– June Mon– Sat 10am– noon & 2–6pm; Tel:05.65.37.81.56, Web: www.tourisme-souillac.com ) is on the main boulevard Louis-Jean-Malvy. For accommodation, head to the old quarter, where you'll find beautifully renovated and not expensive rooms in the 16th-century Pavillon St-Martin, on place St-Martin in the shadow of the old belfry (Tel:05.65.32.63.45, Web: hotel-saint-martin-souillac.com ; Price: 41–65). If they're full, try La Vieille Auberge, 1 rue de la Recège (Tel:05.65.32.79.43, Web: www.la-vieille-auberge.com ; Price: 66-80; closed mid-Nov to mid-Dec), where guests have access to a pool and its best known for its excellent restaurant (menus 25–65; closed Sun evening & Mon). For simpler meals, head to Le Beffroi on place St-Martin (menus from 12; closed Sun evening & Mon), with its lovely, wisteria-shaded terrace. There's also a large riverside campsite, Les Ondines (Tel:05.65.37.86.44, Web: www.souillac.fr ; May– Sept). You can rent bicycles and canoes from Copeyre Canoë (Tel:05.65.32.72.61, Web: www.copeyre.com ), next to the campsite.