Beynac relief road halted...a relief to environmental campaigners

2 February 2020

The village of Beynac is one of the most charming in the Dordogne.  It is classified as one of the ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ translating to one of the most beautiful villages of France. Paved streets dotted with houses meander up a hill on which sits the magnificent Chateau de Beynac, once occupied by Richard the Lionheart. The Chateau commands a prominent position overlooking the valley and Dordogne River with breathtaking views and we have visited Beynac many times for the picturesque scenery, local restaurants and obviously its Chateau.

We have therefore watched with interest (and bemusement more recently) at the ongoing saga of the Beynac bypass.

The width of the road leading though the village is constrained by the Dordogne River on one side and buildings nestled into the cliff face on the other. Together with the influx in tourists, particularly in the peak summer months it becomes a ‘Bouchon.’  This also used to be the case at Roque Gageac, another of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ a few miles down the road. Here the road was successfully widened into the river which has been a major success in reducing traffic congestion and also made it easier for pedestrians. Strangely in Beynac, the local Government approved a bypass scheme which caused much local uproar as not only had the road been previously widened to allow for a pavement (but did not increase the width of the road) but it was going to incur significant costs and impact on the beauty of the valley and protected species to which it is home to. Both nearby Chateau de Castelnaud and Les Jardins de Marqueyssac organised protests to the €32 million euro project which incorporated two large bridges across the river and new roads.

However, in a dramatic turnaround, in 2019 a French court ordered that the works be halted even though €15 million had already been spent. The Court ruled that the works underway must be demolished and the site restored to its original state. Dordogne’s Department Council have stated their intention to appeal claiming that it would cost €13 million to restore! Bewilderingly, no altnernatvive scheme has been proposed that we are aware of but widening of the river would seem to be the obvious soluction in our minds!

On our last visit we were presently surprised that the works to date have not actually impacted too much visually and the area still retains its beauty.  We await the next developments with baited breath!