A Frenchman's home is his chateau

27 March 2015

There are estimated to be over 1000 castles in Dordogne. Chateau des Milandes (our closest neighbour) was owned by Josephine Baker and is one of the most famous in the region.

While the name ‘chateau’ may make a building sound grand, it’s worth remembering that in France this term can be applied to any house which has been a centre of wine production. That aside, the Dordogne has some of the finest castles in the whole of France.

The appeal is often in the location of these buildings. Many of the castles date from the 12th to 14th century when the French and English were at loggerheads, so the views from these hillside or cliff top fortifications are often spectacular.

Josephine Baker and her friendly tribe

If you stay at Les Milandes (and can summon up the energy to rise from your poolside sun lounger) just a short stroll away you’ll find Chateau des Milandes (which opens for the season in April). Josephine Baker was its most famous owner – an amazing lady who rose from poverty in St Louis to become a music hall star. Josephine Baker packed so much into her life; singer, dancer, French Resistance member and civil rights activist. Josephine restored Chateau des Milandes in the 1930s and today you will still find the Chateau decorated in this style. Exhibitions and displays commemorate her life and you can even hear Josephine sing as you walk around some of the rooms.

During her time at Chateau des Milandes, Josephine raised 12 adopted children. A vociferous civil rights campaigner, Josephine believed in equality for all and she certainly practised what she preached. The diverse backgrounds of her adopted children prove testament to this. Her so called, ‘Rainbow Tribe’ came from Canada, Colombia, Finland, France, the Ivory Coast, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, Morocco and Venezuela! A heroine in France, but little known in England, a visit to this pretty chateau is well worthwhile.

Let battle commence

If a ‘defensive’ chateau is more your thing, then you should enjoy Chateau de Castelnaud. This 12th century building is situated just along the valley from Chateau des Milandes, between the pretty towns of Beynac and Domme. This chateau changed hands many times in the battles between the French and the English. Perhaps in recognition of this, the Chateau has the most amazing selection of weaponry on display, which includes full size models of those used in medieval times!

Chateau de Castelnaud

Chateau de Castelnaud

Across on the other side of the Dordogne river is the equally impressive Chateau de Beynac. Another designed for warfare, the building played an important part in the Hundred Years’ War. Probably the most famous conqueror was Richard the Lionheart, who managed to scale the cliff face.

Chateau de Beynac

Chateau de Beynac

Now a peaceful place, visitors can see how the chateau has changed over the centuries and enjoy breathtaking views from its vantage point high above the Dordogne river.

Come and soak up the history and culture of France. Only a short journey from the UK by plane or car it shouldn’t be much of a battle to get to the Dordogne…

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