“What would you say if I told you that you could see the very chamber which Richard the Lionheart, King of England, occupied in the Dordogne region of France?
That’s the amazing thing about this area: history becomes today’s reality!
Beynac Castle is built on the top of a rock, in fact an impregnable cliff edge, nearly 200 metres above the north bank of the Dordogne River.
This means 2 things that make it special: the view over the glorious Dordogne River valley, and its history, as it was built when the river was the only route open to traders and invaders.
It may seem surprising that an English king should be living there, but in 1194 his men gained access by scaling the undefended cliff face and taking the castle for England.
His lieutenant, Mercadier terrorised the regiont but in 1214 it was taken back by Simon de Montfort who dismantled it.
It was later rebuilt and during the Hundred Years War was the centre of hostilities against the English who by now occupied the castle of Castelnaud which you
can still see on the other side of the river.
It is the valley of castles: look as well for Marqueyssac and Fayrac, and also across to Domme a fortified town (bastide) on its own craggy point.
The castle has every possible kind of fortification which is fascinating to the visitor as an indication of how mediaeval castles were structured.
When you walk down to the village below it is astonishing to see the height of the double perimeter wall on the vulnerable low side.
Inside the restored castle itself it is a treat to see (above) the great Hall of State with its fine barrel vaulted roof. Here the four nobles of the baronies of Périgord assembled, and
were also able to pray in the tiny oratory leading from it. It is exciting to see a fresco of the Last Supper which might well pre-date Leonardo’s famous one in Milan.
Climbing the spiral stairs to the roof gives you the most amazing view down to the village far below, over the valley, and the thrill of being able to look into
Richard the Lionheart’s rebuilt chamber.
Adrian and Harry are good enough to drive you right up to Beynac castle, so that when you are ready to leave you can walk down the very steep, cobbled lanes to the village where they’ll be waiting.
This is a blessing as the descent is rough as well as steep, but well worth experiencing for the beauty you see in the buildings made of glowing ochre stone.
This castle offers so much to thrill and delight that it will rank as one of the highlights of time spent in the Dordogne area.