Impressive, majestic and imposing medieval castles fill the Dordogne Valley and each one has an intriguing history with stories of high drama.



Built atop a cliff, the 12th century castle of Beynac boasts panoramic views over the Dordogne Valley and river below it. At the heart of the “on again off again” 100 Years War between France and England it remains one of the best preserved fortified castles of the region. Richard the Lionheart, King of England, once occupied this château and its thick defensive walls bore witness to attacking armies crossing the Dordogne River below it. From the vantage point of the castle, the river divided the English forces from the opposing French armies which stood against them in the distance, directly opposite in the Château de Castelnaud. Open throughout the year (except January), visits take place from 10am to 7pm daily. Audio guides available in English give unique insights into the architecture of medieval warfare and this magnificent fortress with its 12th century keep, guard’s room and fortified towers, opulent private quarters and banquet room.

Famous French film director Luc Besson shot Joan of Arc here and it has been used as the set of a multitude of other TV and film productions since, including Ridley Scott’s latest medieval epic. Visits begin from the equally pretty village of Beynac-et-Cazenac, directly underneath the castle at the river’s edge.



Nestled in beautiful oak forests and surrounded by deep gorges, the Tours de Merle overlook the river Maronne, a tributary of the Dordogne River. Named after the blackbirds that live in the area (merle in French), this majestic medieval ruin stands testimony to the ravages of war.

At the height of the 14th century this feudal castle was once at the heart of a thriving kingdom owned by seven noblemen. Coming under attack both during the 100 Years War and thereafter in the Wars of Religion it suffered significant damage and was eventually abandoned.Open from April until October, visitors can still climb the medieval steps right to the top of the towers and admire the views. In the summer months there is also a special programme of medieval themed shows and demonstrations full of colourful period costumes.



A château that exudes exquisite French charm, this 16th century castle is a key example of Renaissance architecture in the Dordogne Valley. Unusually, the Château de Montal was designed and built to the specification of a woman, the Lady of Montal - Jeanne de Balsac. Scattered throughout the castle, in sculptures and ornamental motifs are tributes to Jeanne Balsac’s lost son, Robert de Montal, killed during the Renaissance Wars of Italy in the 1500s. Her project was never fully realised before her death and the castle subsequently fell into disrepair. Falling into ruin it was eventually purchased in the 19th century by the avid art collector and rich industrialist Maurice Fenaille. Due to Fenaille’s wealth and extensive contacts in the art world, he set about reacquiring the contents of the château which had been stripped and sold off. He later gifted it to the French State upon his death. The château was famously used to hide Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and other Louvre treasures from the Nazis during the Second World War.



Beginning life as a medieval fortress in the 12th century it was at one time captured by Richard the Lionheart in 1183. Subsequently, this medieval castle was radically transformed during the 17th century into a luxurious residential château under the Marquis de Hautefort. Today, this castle stands testament to the lavish beauty of this bygone age with 19th century boxwood French gardens, meticulously manicured and maintained, serving to enhance the glorious views. Special night tours during the summer months see actors in full medieval costume bring back to life the history of the Château.