We Share our Favourite Dordogne Castles!
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When we first visited the Dordogne we were blown away by the natural beauty, the rivers, the stunning villages, the bastide towns, the scenic landscape and of course, the castles! The Dordogne isn’t called the land of 1001 chateaux for nothing. There literally is a chateau at every turn. We have visited quite a few and here’s a round-up of our favourites.
If you’re interested in canons, catapults and some interesting history, then this is the chateau for you! It’s one of the best known and most visited chateaux in the region, if not in France. It stands proudly above the village of Castelnaud and the Dordogne river with a view to match. It was at the heart of much conflict with its neighbour, the Chateau of Beynac, and was involved in a tug-of-war between the English and the French during the 100 year war. The French eventually regained control in 1442 following a 3 week siege. You can either park up close to the castle or alternatively, there is a free public car park at the bottom of the village.
Pick this chateau if you’re interested in views, history and visiting film sets. This commandeering 12th century fortress perches high on the rocky promontory above the Dordogne river. Apparently Richard Lionheart scaled the steep cliff from below and (briefly) conquered the chateau! On the opposite bank of the Dordogne river, you can see the Chateau de Castelnaud, its arch rival during the Middle Ages. The chateau went into private hands when it was bought and restored by Lucien Grosso in 1962. It also featured in a number of films including The Joan of Arc Film and the hilarious The Visitors 2. The exhibits are less extensive than the likes of Castelnaud, however, it’s worth the visit for the view alone.
This is such a great fairytale castle to visit with children – the gardens, the grounds, the bird of prey show. It’s of a really manageable size (can be visited in under an hour) and is very child-friendly with no heart-in-your mouth cliffside drops. The history is more recent and you may find it more relatable. Josephine Baker fell in love with the castle and bought it in 1947. She lived there with her 12 strong rainbow tribe of adopted children for several years before she went bankrupt and sadly lost her beloved home. We were amazed to learn of Josephine Baker’s role during the French Resistance and loved seeing her fabulous stage outfits. It is known both as the Josephine Baker Castle and the Chateau des Milandes (the name of the local town). It was built by Lord Francois de Caumont around 1489 for his wife who disliked the austere fortress that is the Chateau de Castelnaud. Find out more about this lady’s remarkable story. There is also a lovely Brasserie on site if you fancy a bite to eat.
Admittedly this chateau isn’t nearly as well-known as the likes of Beynac, Castelnaud or the Josephine Baker Castle, however, we feel this fairytale castle should definitely feature in your Dordogne castles itinerary! Although you’re unable to visit the inside of the castle (apart from a few weeks in the summer), the grounds are where its at – they have been beautifully restored and were only opened to the public in 2015. There is a small stream where we have been known to spot some frogs, a pond, a vegetable garden showcasing some ancient varieties and a small maze (not fully grown yet so don’t get too excited!). You can park closeby and have a beer, an icecream or some lunch in the traditional Bistrot du Chateau which is situated directly opposite the entrance to the Chateau. Six generations of the same family have been running this restaurant so it doesn’t come more local than this! For something more upmarket, indulge yourself with one of the fantastic set lunch menus at the Restaurant Couleurs Café in Campagne. They do a super lunch menu (week days) and our kids particularly love their duck burger. Bon appétit!
This chateau will delight young and old – our two particularly love this one. It stands on a rocky outcrop and is mostly in ruins which adds to its charm. This chateau which sits atop prehistoric cave dwellings offers both a taste of prehistory as well as life in the middle ages. The current owner, Jean de Commarque, has worked relentlessly during the last 40 years to bring the castle back to life after it was left to ruin, neglect and abandon. There is a lovely 10-15 minute walk to reach the castle from the carpark – it follows a shaded wooded trail. There is a great mix of outdoor ruined areas and inside restored rooms including a fantastic medieval games room. There is ample picnic areas within the grounds so be sure to bring a picnic along as well as some water and a hat if it’s a hot day. It’s worth noting that access to this castle is not ideal for people with mobility issues. The car park is a 600 m walk away (unless you use the disabled car park) and the castle itself comprises a total of 258 steps, many of which are uneven.
This particular chateau is like no other we’ve visited before – there are games *everywhere*! Inside the chateau, in the grounds, in the dungeon, in the attic… You name it, they’ve got some kind of good old fashioned game to entertain young and old. To say that our kids loved this place would be an understatement. The chateau is located about 10 kms from the town of Bergerac and can be reached from the airport in under 15 minutes making it a great spot to kill some time before or after a flight. You will be warmly welcomed at the entrance and rumour has it that it’s often the owners who are at the ticket booth.
So there you have it, a round-up of our favourites Dordogne Castles. Do let us know which ones are your favourites in the comments section! And if you fancy a change from visiting chateaux, why not try a family cookery course here in the Dordogne?