The Marqueyssac gardens are just a few kilometres from Les Milandes (3 kms east of Beynac in the Perigord Noir). While Chateau de Marqueyssac (reputedly built on the eve of the French revolution) is enchanting in its own right, it is principally known for its amazing gardens. These Dordogne gardens are right up there with the very best.
The Marqueyssac gardens are one of France’s listed ‘Jardins Remarquable’. Perched high above the Dordogne river they provide stunning views with sweeping vistas of the beautiful countryside.
The gardens were designed by a student of André Le Notre – famous designer of the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles – and first laid out in the 1600s. Two hundred years later many of the features that visitors today most enjoy were added. These include the incredible Grande Allée.
Walk up the slope below the pretty Chateau, (a few of the rooms are open to the public) through the extensive gift/bookshop and enter into a fabulously surreal setting; hundreds of hummocky, green mounds of boxwood which create a kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ style of garden!
Although laid out in traditional French style as a ‘walking garden’, in that there is much use made of clipped box, (150,000 boxwood and cypress trees) and long gravel paths with far-reaching views, these gardens have been given a dramatic twist. By clipping the box hedges into a mass of swirls, whorls and rounds the space is given a dynamism not often seen in this type of gardening.
Wander along the sinuous paths that lead away from Chateau de Marqueyssac, and you reach the Belvedere which was also added to the gardens in the 18th century. This viewing balcony is 130m above the River Dordogne and offers the most spectacular panoramic views of the valley. From here you can see Beynac, Fayrac and our very close neighbour, Castelnaud.
The gravel paths that lead around the Marqueyssac gardens are bordered with immaculately manicured, clipped rosemary and santolina. Stroll a bit further under the canopy of tall trees and discover clearings, picnic areas and swings with quiet areas to sit and contemplate the views.
The gardens are great for kids. Under 10s get in for free! (Adults pay €9,80 and 10-17 year olds are charged €4,90.) There is a good play area in the woods and a maze for little ones. Altogether there are 6 km of walks and some parts are easily accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Dogs are also welcome here.
Special events are held throughout the year. Some, such as the children’s Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday and Monday, do need to be booked in advance.
Marqueyssac restaurant & tea room
After your wanderings in the sunshine, stop and enjoy a snack at the restaurant and tea room on the terrace overlooking the stunning valley. The food here is pretty good but the views are even better. In the summer it can get busy, so be prepared to wait for a table or get here early! Opening times vary throughout the year. The restaurant and tea room is open from Easter to mid November.
Marqueyssac by candleight
Visit on Thursday evenings throughout the summer and be dazzled by the sight of the Marqueyssac gardens lit by thousands of candles and fairylights…truly a romantic experience in this most romantic of French gardens.
Alongside this visual extravaganza you can also enjoy different musical shows. Candles are lit at dusk and the gardens are usually open until midnight (with last admittance at 11pm).
Whatever time of day you visit the Marqueyssac gardens the experience is sure to live long in your memory.
If romantic gardens are your thing, Les Jardins de la Chartreuse du Colombier in Paunat are well worth a visit. These are less well known, be sure to check opening times.