Chateaux, Caves, Abbeys and Museums

The Dordogne area is rich in medieval heritage and offers a wide variety of historical sites to discover.

Magnificent chateaux

Not many parts of France can boast as many castles or ‘chateaux’ as the Dordogne Périgord. The first chateaux in the Dordogne were constructed in the 10th Century and were more like small fortresses, useful as vantage points. From the 14th Century these buildings had the addition of courtyards and turrets and became the traditional style of chateaux we see today.

At Beynac-et-Cazenac, the Chateau de Beynac dominates the landscape, situated high above the Dordogne and is accessible by a steep footpath or via a detour through the pretty little village.  Beynac was a French bastion during the Hundred Years’ War and glowering opposite it on the south bank is the fortress of Castelnaud, intermittently an English stronghold.  Both castles provide superb views.

Close by is the fairytale Château des Milandes which has an intriguing history. Originally built by the Lord of Castelnaud as a gift for his wife, it was converted after World War II into a home to the many adopted children of the American twenties jazz singer and cabaret artiste Josephine Baker.

Monbazillac, famous for its romantic château, and even more so for its sweet white wine that is the classic accompaniment to foie gras, is now the home to the most important wine cooperative of the area and is a perfect setting in which to taste the different wines of the region.  Château de Biron, south of Monpazier was built as a fortress in 11th Century but rebuilt in several different styles over time, and had remained in the same family for no fewer that 24 generations until just before World War II.  It boasts a 24 metre long kitchen and a torture chamber!  It has splendid views including over Monpazier which belonged to the Lords of Biron.

The Chateau de Lanquais is a fully furnished chateau, part medieval but with a magnificent renaissance palace which was later added by the same craftsmen who built the Louvre.  Sumptuous apartments, enormous fireplaces and kitchens are all to be seen.

UNESCO Abbeys

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the abbey and cloisters at Cadouin just 2km away and then continue onto the abbey at St Avit Senieur following the pilgrim Route to Compostelle.

Caves

Wonder at the 20,000 year old cave paintings at Lascaux, the ‘Cathedral of Crystal’ at Proumeyssac, the ice-age cave art at Bara-Bahau and the rare crystalline formations at Grottes de Maxange nearby in Le Buisson de Cadouin.

Museums

The region’s museums preserve proud memories where you can discover the history of rivers and waterways, wine growing, walnuts, tobacco and chestnuts.  Discover the history of mankind itself at the National Prehistory Museum at Les Eyzies de Tayac.  Demonstrations and classes are held at the Filature at Belves where you can learn about all sorts of woollen skills, including felt making and buy hand made items in the boutique.  At the Paper Mill at la Rouzique à Couze Saint Front you can even make your own paper!