Explore the historic castles of the Dordogne

Friday, 20 April 2012 7:54 AM

Explore the historic castles of the Dordogne

Explore the historic castles of the Dordogne

If you're a fan of history looking for ideas for the perfect getaway this year, booking a holiday house in the Dordogne is an excellent option. The region of France is famous for its abundance of castles, which range from stone fortresses to fairytale palaces.

Indeed, there are more than 1,000 castles in total scattered across the region, so it's worth making a list of which ones you particularly want to see before setting off on your getaway. Here are a few that we think are worthy of particular consideration.

Chateau de Beynac

This is one of the best preserved castles in the whole region, so it's definitely worth a visit during your time staying in a local holiday home. One of its major draws is its seemingly precarious position perched high on a limestone cliff, from where it overlooks the Dordogne River.

A pristine example of medieval military architecture, the building dates back to the 12th century and played an integral role in France's Hundred Years War with the English. While Chateau de Beynac was French, Chateau de Castelnaud, which stands on the opposite side of the river, was owned by the English. The two offer a real glimpse of just how closely this battle was fought.

Chateau de Castelnaud

Also standing on the banks of the Dordogne River, Chateau de Castelnaud has had an eventful history that saw it regularly passed between the English and French throughout the Hundred Years War. However, it ultimately fell into a state of disrepair and by the time the French Revolution was at its height, it was in ruins.

Today it has been restored to its former glory and as an added incentive to visit, there is a museum inside where you can browse displays of arms and other tools of war used during medieval conflicts.

Chateau de Losse

This is a beautiful example of a fairytale castle and a magnificent place to spend the day exploring. Not only is the Renaissance chateau itself stunning, but it is also surrounded by manicured gardens that are perfect for strolling around in the sunshine.

Situated in Perigord, the castle may look pretty but it is also strong, having been built to act as a fortress during the 11th century. You can certainly see how well defended it was, as you enter it via a bridge that crosses a moat and walk through one of the largest gatehouses in Europe.

Chateau de Commarque

A 12th century castle, Chateau de Commarque started out as a wooden tower but extended rapidly under the ownership of the Beynac family, who were later overthrown by the English during the Hundred Years War.

Despite standing through such turbulence, it survived - that is until the French Wars of Religion, when it was held by the Catholics. This conflict left it in a state of ruin and both it and the village it protected were abandoned for two centuries, until they were cleared of the vegetation that had grown around them and reopened to the public just a few decades ago.

Chateau de Puyguilhem

This chateau is younger than many of the others on this list, having been built in the 16th century. As a result, it is a great example of Renaissance era architecture. It also shares more attributes with the castles of the Loire Valley than it does with its neighbours in the Dordogne, so it makes for an interesting change.