The Fortress of Beynac

Beynac is a small village on the Dordogne River, 8 km south-west of Sarlat (with it’s famous Sarlat market) in the Dordogne department.  Beynac is more correctly called ‘Beynac-et-Cazenac’, Cazenac being its close neighbour, although the full name is not used very often.

This very attractive village is spread along the northern bank of the river, and then continues up the hill to the chateau perched above.  Beynac is listed as one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France‘.

Beynac has a character of its own: more defensive than La Roque Gageac though more open than Domme, each step rewinds the time machine and offers a glimpse of a true simple medieval village life.

The village is unmissable if you are in the Dordogne region, and one of the most impressive sights in France. Of course the current tranquility of Beynac standing in stark contrast to the turbulent battles it has known during the course of the last few centuries…

Nested between cliff and river, the walk up on tiny paved streets to the Château’s doors is steep but truly rewarding.

Exploring Beynac

Start your visit with a stroll along the riverside to appreciate the setting.  Walk a little way to the east of the village for a stunning view across the village with the castle perched on the cliff above.

Back in the village centre take the main street that climbs the hill – this steep street up the hill is called the basket-makers path (Carnival del Panieraires).  Exploring Beynac is easy as you simply follow this narrow lane as it winds its way up through the lovely traditional Dordogne honey-coloured buildings, taking occasional detours into narrow alleys and side-streets.

Along the way up the hill you will pass the Church of Sainte-Marie, once the chapel for the castle.

Eventually you reach the highlight in Beynac, the castle set on top of a high cliff looking down on a bend in the Dordogne River and high above much of the little village of Beynac itself.

Beynac Château was a French stronghold, while the English had to make do with the equally magnificent Chateau de Castelnaud on the other side of the river. The castle has a suitably colourful history, dating from the Hundred Years War and the Albigensian Crusade, and is a very interesting chateau to visit.

Even if you have no interest in the magnificent views across miles of beautiful countryside you will surely want to stand in the same spot as Richard the Lionheart, and admire the surrounding scenery!

There is also an interesting ‘archaeology park’ in Beynac, where typical ‘neolithic France’ buildings have been constructed.  Find time as well to visit neighbouring Cazenac, to see its little church and yet more magnificent views.