For centuries Beynac and Cazenac, 3km to the west, were arch enemies; today, ironically, their names remain inextricably linked for administrative convenience.Beynac’s dramatic fortress, rising from the cliff face, was once one of the greatest Perigord strongholds, dominating a strategic bend in the Dordogne and rivalling the English-heldfortess of Castelnaud on the other bank of the river.
Today it is in full glare of the tourist traffic, while neighbouring Cazenac – still worth a visit for it’s Gothic church and exceptional views – is little more than a sleepy hamlet.
The tourist office (Tel / Fax; 0553294308. Email; email@example.com ) in the car park between the river and the busy D703 (which passes right through the lower village) is open 10am to 12.30pm and 2.15pm to 6pm daily ( to 5.45pm Saturday and Sunday; Closed Sunday during winter) It opens 9.30am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 7pm daily during July and August.
CHÂTEAU de BEYNAC
The heavily fortified chateau (Tel; 0553295040) has a wild and colourful past.During the Middle Ages it was the seat of one of Perigord’s four baronies. During the Albigensian Crusade it was seized and sacked by Simon de Montfort; and during the Hundred years War it was continually tussled over by the French and English. Not surprisingly it has been rebuilt many times and retains features from all ages as well as a timeless view over the river. The chateau opens 10am to noon and 2pm to 4.30pm daily in November; noon to 5pm daily, December to Feb.;10am to noon and 2pm to 6pm daily, March to
May, June and October; 10am to noon, and 2pm to 6.30pm daily, July to September. One hour guided tours (French only) take place every half-hour within the above opening hours from mid March to mid November. Behind the chateau is an open air Parc Archeaologique ( Tel;0553295128) containing a series of reconstructed Neolithic dwellings and tools.
CHÂTEAU de CASTELNAUD
This 12th to 16th- century chateau about 4km across the river from Beynac ( along the D57 ) has everything you’d expect from a cliff-top castle- walls up to 2m thick, a superb panorama of the meandering Dordogne; and fine view of the fortified chateau that dot the nearby hilltops. The interior rooms are occupied by a museum of medievel warfare, whose displays range from daggers and spiked halberds to huge catapults. The houses of the medievel village of Castelnaud cling to the steep slopes below the fortress. The chateau opens 10am to 6pm daily March, April and October to mid-November; 10am to 7pm daily May, June and September; 9am to 8pm daily July and August; 2pm to 5pm daily the rest of year. A comprehensive English language guidebook can be borrowed at the ticket counter.
Voyages Rey. (Tel. 0553072721.) run a once-daily Monday to Friday service via Beynac between Le Bugue (55min.)and Sarlat (30min.) but only in term time. Sarlat 11km north-east, is the nearest train and bus hub. For a taxi call 0553298789.
PLACES TO STAY :
B&B Ferme de Tayac is just 15 drive from the center of Beynac