On this post I will highlight the places we visited and the best things to see and best things to do in Beynac-et-Cazenac and La Roque-Gageac.
After a well-slept night at our room at Château de Monrecour, we got ready to go downstairs for breakfast.
Breakfast could be taken inside the breakfast room or in the terrace. It was a buffet breakfast with a large variety of items to choose from, cold and hot. There were all kinds of pastries and breads, different flavours of yogurts, fruits, coffee, tea, juices, you name it.
We sat outside in the terrace and served ourselves with enough to fill us up well before going out.
After breakfast we drove to Beynac-et-Cazenac which is quite close about five minutes by car.
We parked in a free car park by the river front and started our explorations of the village (another of “The most beautiful Villages in France”). We walked up the hill in the direction of the castle, passing through winding streets and charming stone houses, finally getting to the ancient castle of Beynac-et-Cazenac at the very top.
Beynac dates from the Bronze Age and the castle was built in the 9th century, the construction of the houses around followed over the years. In the end of the 12th century the castle was conquered by King Richard I (The Lionheart) of England, but it went back to French’s hands in 1214. In 1827 Cazenac was added to Beynac and the village was renamed Beynac-et-Cazenac. The castle was sold in 1961 and today the owners live in the castle and are restoring it slowly.
Apart from the original keep and fortified towers, there are also several private rooms, a chapel, banquet room, and kitchen open for visitation. In my opinion the kitchen is one of the most interesting rooms, so well preserved as to seem like it was built only yesterday. The views from the terrace are also amazing, making the visit to Château de Beynac a must. Very recommended!
We stopped at a restaurant in front of the castle for some drinks after the visit and then started our descend to the main road next to the river. We took the car and drove to La Roque-Gageac, eight minutes’ drive away.
Interesting Fact: Have you ever wondered why many place names in this part of France end with the “-ac” suffix? We did, and we investigated it. The “-ac” comes from the old Celtic suffix “-āko(n)” (Latin “-acum”). The suffix “-ac”, like the other two suffixes, when added to a noun gives the meaning “place of/belonging to”.
La Roque-Gageac is yet another of “The most beautiful villages in France” (there are quite a few!). It is a small village, much smaller than Beynac-et-Cazenac, but with the same picturesque charm as its neighbour. It is one of the most visited villages in France and depending on the time of the year, it can be very crowded. When we visited, it was busy, but still manageable.
Most of the houses face the river and they are built in the traditional yellow stone of the area with stone roofs. Behind the front row of houses in front of the river there are others spreading against the hill and cliffs above. The area has been inhabited since Prehistoric times and particularly developed in the Roman times. However, what’s remarkable about the place is the 12th century fort, carved out of the rock face as a defence against Viking invasions.
On the way up to the fort, there is the Romanesque Church built in 1330; next to the church is the Exotic Garden, with various species of palm trees, banana trees, lemon trees, olive trees, fig trees and all sorts of Mediterranean vegetation.
We strolled through the narrow streets passing by the Manoir de Tarde (considered one of the nicest buildings in the village) with its rounded tower and beautiful gables. We walked to the left in the direction of the Château de la Malartrie, however it is not possible to visit this château as it is now a private residence.
We walked back down to the river front, as we had tickets for a ride along the Dordogne on one of the traditional “gabarre” boats. La Roque-Gageac was an important port in the region in Medieval times, and these boats were used for the transport of goods.
The boat tour lasted an hour, and the commentaries were all in French, but apparently English audio guides are available on request. The boat tour provides a different perspective of the village, highlighting attractions such as Château de Castelnaud, Château de Beynac and the Gardens of Marqueyssac. The day was very hot, with many people paddling canoes (available to hire) or simply drifting along the river. It was a very enjoyable river cruise, relaxing and informative, despite our so-so French.
For a private tour of Beynac and La Roque-Gageac book HERE.
With the tour completed, we decided to have something to eat at one of the bars/restaurants facing the river. We only had a salad each as we didn’t want to eat too much and spoil our appetite for dinner. The salad was quite large and enough to fill us up.
After lunch we headed to the Jardin de Marqueyssac, about six minutes away by car. This garden has a 19th century castle open for visitation and about six kilometres of pathways in the middle of 150.000 hand-pruned boxwood and a variety of vegetation. There is a viewpoint at the end of the garden with three walking routes to choose from to take you there. The three routes will take you to “The Belvedere”, a viewpoint providing panoramic views of the valley, the villages around, the castles, and the river. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking in the garden and visiting the castle before returning to our château, with plenty of time to enjoy the swimming pool.
This is a “Reel” I published on The Travelling Surveyor’s Instagram page, have a look to get a better idea how beautiful the views are:
Tonight, we had a table booked at “La Petite Tonnelle” in Beynac-et-Cazenac. This is a traditional restaurant serving typical food from the Périgord. I’m not a fan of duck, but I promised myself that I would give duck a try while in the Périgord , one of the most traditional dishes of the area. For the starters I chose the Prawn Risotto, and my husband chose the Fish Soup; for mains I chose the Homemade Preserved Duck leg with Mushrooms and my husband chose the Veal Fillet-Steak. We liked all dishes except for the duck, but at least I gave it a try. We had an enjoyable evening and went back to our château for a final drink before going to bed.
More exciting experiences were to come next day. We were going to Domme and Castelnaud-la-Chapelle.
Below you will find a list of what to visit, where to stay and where to eat in Beynac-et-Cazenac and La Roque-Gageac.. I classified each place as follows:
BOLD – Visited, tried and recommended
NOT BOLD – Not visited or tried, but planning to visit or try and heard very good reviews
*** – Excellent
** – Good
* – OK
£££ – Expensive
££ – Fair and affordable
£ – Cheap
WHAT TO VISIT IN BEYNAC-ET-CAZENAC AND LA ROQUE-GAGEAC
1 – The old Town – Beynac-et-Cazenac – ***
2 – Beynac-et-Cazenac Castle – ***
3 – Walk by the river in La Roque-Gageac
4 – Old Town – La Roque-Gageac – ***
5 – Romanesque Church – ***
6 – Exotic Gardens – ***
7 – “Gabarre” river cruise – ***
8 – Jardin de Marqueyssac – ***
WHERE TO STAY IN BEYNAC-ET-CAZENAC , LA ROQUE-GAGEAC AND AROUND
1 – Domaine du Château de Monrecour – Saint-Vincent-de-Cosse – 4* – *** – £££
2 – Les Clos Versailles Beynac – Beynac – 3* – ££
3 – La Source – Beynac – 3* – ££
4 – Hôtel Pontet – Beynac – 2* – £
WHERE TO EAT IN BEYNAC-ET-CAZENAC AND LA-ROQUE-GAGEAC
1 – La Table de Monrecour – *** – £££
2 – La Petite Tonnelle – ** – ££
3 – Le Fat Pig – ££
4 – O’Plaisir des Sens – £££
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