La Roque Gageac | Things to See and Do in La Roque Gageac
La Roque Gageac
La Roque Gageac is a picturesque village that is wedged between the Dordogne River and towering limestone cliffs about 10 km from Sarlat in the Dordogne region of France. The village is designated as one of France Le Plus Beaux Villages de France and is simply a delight. Cobbled paths wind their way between yellow stone houses that nestle below the cliff face, while gabarres, reminiscent of the old trading barges that once plied the river, cruise past.
Historic sights at La Roque are the Manoir de Tarde home of the famous Jean Tarde, the stunning Romanesque church with views across the valley and the nearby Chateau de la Malartrie. La Roque Gageac also boasts a sub-tropical garden filled with banana, lemon and palms.
History of La Roque Gageac
Historians believe that the village has been occupied since pre-historic times and have found many flit axe-heads and other stone tools in the fields. A troglodyte fort set in the cliffs 40 metres above the town gives evidence to its earliest settlers.
To defend against invaders including Viking armies in long boats in the 12th century fortifications were built high in the cliffs, these fortifications continued to be built right through until the 17th century making the town impregnable. The Hundred Years War, and then France’s bitter “Wars of Religion”, turned La Roque Gageac into a key stronghold, impregnable and densely populated
In the Middle Ages the Dordogne river was an important trading route with wood being transported downstream by ganarres to Bordeaux and salt being transported upsteam from the Atlantic. La Rocque Gageac became an important trading town and port during this time and boasted a population of 1500 people. Today you can take a sightseeing tour along the river in a gabarre that has been sympathetically reproduced.
In 2010 disaster struck the town in the shape of a major rock fall, part of the old fortifications were destroyed along with several houses. The site has been closed to the public since this event and it is unsure if or when it will re-open.
La Roque sits between Chateau Castelnaud and Chateau Beynac and is close to the bastide town of Domme.
Sightseeing Gabarres (boats) leave from the docks in front of the carpark, tickets can be purchased from the kiosk nearby.
When in La Roque you will see many canoes floating down the river, this is a fantastic way to see this lovely village as well as a beautiful stretch of the river that includes both Chateau Castelnaud and Chateau Beync.
Things to See at La Roque Gageac
Manoir de Tarde
This Renaissance grand manoir was built for the Tarde family notibly Jean Tarde (1562-1636), who was an historian, as well as a cartographer, mathematician, astronomer, theologian, philosopher, and a friend of Galileo. This building consists of two main sections, with pointed gables and enchanting mullioned windows.
Halfway up the cliff sits the pretty Romanesque Church, the views down the vally and along the river from the courtyard of the church are stunning.
Sub Tropical Garden
Planted in the 1970’s the exotic gardens are alongside the church, halfway up the cliff, and boast luxuriant sub-tropical and Mediterranean plants including lemon trees, banana trees and many species of palm. It is thought that these plants do well here due to an unique micro-climate produced by the protection of the cliff and little of no wind.
Chateau de la Malartrie
The site of La Malartrie dates back to the 12th century when it was a leper hospital The building has been since transformed several times. By the end of the XIX century the Count de Saint Aulaire, Ambassador of France in the UK and a member of the French/US Cincinnati society, an institution whose objective is to promote friendship between the French and American people, transformed the château as it stands today in its Renaissance style.