Nearby places to visit
A must visit is Monpazier, this is the most beautiful and best preserved bastide village in the south west of France. If you visit on a Thursday there is a lovely market and many restaurants and cafes to enjoy. One of our favourites here is called Chez Minou, they do the best freshly made pizzas, a definite favourite with our children.
The pretty village of Beynac spreads along the northern bank of the Dordogne river, and up the hill behind, reaching the castle that stands poised above the village and river. The narrow lanes wind up through the traditional Dordogne white and yellow stone buildings – best seen around sunrise if you are up and about early!
On the river’s edge you get some lovely views with the river, often full of canoes, a long stretch of wonderful stone houses and rising above the village the imposing chateau of Beynac.
As you wind up its narrow streets every twist in the pavement seems to offer another splendid view and another photo opportunity. Even if you decide not to visit the chateau continue right on up to the top of the village as there is a great viewpoint at the top with views over the Dordogne river.
La Petite Tonnelle is a very charming, pretty restaurant in the centre of Beynac. A great choice for lunch after visiting the Chateau de Beynac, taking a tour on the Gabarres or even maybe taking a hot air balloon ride.
On a Sunday morning, there is a great market at St Cyprien, good for some fresh local produce or just a coffee and watching the world go by. Then maybe follow with lunch at a great nearby restaurant Le Bistrot D’Epicure which has a lovely terrace for dining and the food is fantastic, a little more expensive but well worth it.
If you don’t fancy going far today why not visit our nearest village Castelnaud la Chapelle, here you will find the most amazing boulangerie, perfect for buying some nice things to take down to the River Dordogne for a picnic, this is a great spot for children to paddle in the river as it is shallow, then maybe hopping in a canoe for an lazy afternoon on the river or if you feel more adventurous why not explore the chateau with its museum of warfare and see the magnificent trebuchet.
Caves and Chasms of the Dordogne
Just north of us on the River Vézère (a tributary of the Dordogne) you can find some great examples of the caves for which the area is famous. For prehistoric cave paintings, see the finest examples known of Cro-Magnon art at Lascaux. Although the original caves have been closed to the public to preserve the paintings, the replica is superb – you really would not know the cave and the painting is an exact copy.
If your taste is more for underground grottos, you are spoilt for choice. Ones to visit are Gouffre de Proumeyssac or Grotte du Grand Roc. These are caves full of stalactites and stalagmites – an incredible sight.
The lovely village of Rocamadour has a beautiful and dramatic setting climbing up the cliff side. It has been an important pilgrimage destination, for the last 1000 years. Built on the site of a shrine to a Madonna, the shrine became famous for its healing powers, and soon became a stop on the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Campostela.
The village is essentially just one paved street, lined with medieval houses, several of which are notable and many of which are impressive, and passing through stone fortified gateways.
The Grand Escalier (216 steps, once climbed by pilgrims on their knees) leads from the village to the sanctuaries above, and L’Hospitalet, with its views of the old town. If you don’t take the lift and can persuade your children to climb all the way up the Grand Escalier without complaining you are doing a fine job!
La Roque Gageac is one of France’s most beautiful villages. In a stunning position on the north bank of the Dordogne River, and backed by a steep hill / cliffs, with little to suggest that much has changed there in the last 300 years, La Roque-Gageac is truly the perfect picture postcard village.
The golden yellow houses with their traditional perigord roofs, line the river and spread up the hill behind. While some of the properties in La Roque Gageac are quite modest, there is also an impressive number of grand houses among them. One of the grandest of these is near the road as you enter from Beynac – the 19th century (although it appears older) Chateau de la Malartrie built in Renaissance style.
The troglodyte fort set in the cliffs 40 metres above La Roque Gageac is fascinating, and significant vestiges of the 12th century construction are still standing. The strong defensive position of La Roque Gageac and the fortress whose defences continued to be elaborated up to the 17th century meant that it held an important strategic and defensive position in the area.
Just below the troglodyte fort is one of La Roque-Gageac’s most impressive buildings – the Renaissance Manoir de Tarde with its round tower and mullion windows.
The whole village, but especially the bit near the church, is an interesting ‘tropical style’ exotic garden that you can wander through as you walk up the hill. The variety of plants is made possible because the cliff behind the village protects it from the cold weather from the north, while the open view to the south ensures it catches plenty of sunshine.