What’s a road trip around a European country if it doesn’t involve a castle? Chateau de Beynac can now be added to the long list of castles I’ve visited. The castle overlooks the Dordogne river, and its prime position has made it a popular castle to attack. The British declared it as British territory at one point, and Richard the Lionheart was rumoured to have climbed through the toilet holes to take the castle by storm. Most recently, the castle, in ruins, was (from memory) bought in the Seventies by a French man for around €30,000 (again, from memory). He was told he was crazy for buying a ruined castle and that land it sat on was more valuable. He started restoring it without commercialising it with tourist traps like gift shops: all entry fees went — and still go — towards the restoration of the castle.
Although the French man passed away in July 2008, the castle, now in great shape, is still being restored. Guided tours given by volunteers are free and a great way to see the castle. All the usual topics are covered: life in a castle, toilets in a castle, how to heat and light a castle, a kitchen in a castle, and defense mechanisms of a castle. One thing that I had not seen before was a table in the kitchen with a long hole at one end for the men to put their swords (see photo below). This was the only place where they could relax without fear of attack, and one of the few times they removed their swords from their bodies during the day.
If you visit this castle, remember these important bits of information:
- They do charge for public parking on Sundays, despite what French travel partners say.
- If you don’t want to do the fifteen-minute heart-starting (or stopping) walk to the castle from the road below, you can drive to the car park right outside it the castle entrance.
We discovered both these things the hard way.