La Roque-Gageac Dordogne © French Moments
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Last Updated: 9 September 2020


La Roque-Gageac is arguably one the most beautiful places in Périgord Noir, or at least one of the most photographed in south-western France. Listed as one of France’s most beautiful villages, the riverside town is built along the right bank of the Dordogne River against a towering limestone cliff. This unique setting of narrow, peaceful streets and cliff-dwellings also enjoys a subtropical microclimate.

The Village of La Roque-Gageac

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
The quay along the river © French Moments

It is believed that the site of La Roque-Gageac has been inhabited since Prehistoric times, and developed particularly during the Gallo-Roman period. Confronted with the threat of Viking invasions and numerous wars, the protection of La Roque-Gageac was greatly enhanced by the development of a new sort of fortification. Being nestled into the high, south-oriented cliff face means the fortress is naturally impregnable.

The fort built into the rock

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
The fort built into the rock © French Moments

The construction of this amazing, carved building began in the 12th century and continued to be improved throughout the 17th century, before being dismantled in the 18th century. To access it, one must be courageous enough to climb the 140 steps (including 32 carved in the same stone). On the 7th January 2010, a serious rockfall occurred, destroying sections of the fortress. This event follows those which happened in 1920, 1957 (3 deaths) and 1994. Following the 2010 rocksfall, the site was closed to the public and it was uncertain whether it would re-open in the near future.

However, 10 years later, there were some good news. In June 2020, the Fort reopened, much to the delight of the visitors. Check out here for more info.

A bustling river port

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
The quay along the river © French Moments

During the Middle-Ages, La Roque-Gageac was a bustling river port with 1 500 inhabitants, (compared to only 415 today). The Dordogne River was a major trading passageway and the activity of many fishermen and river sailors benefited from it. It is not surprising that the bishops of Sarlat (10 km away) made La Roque-Gageac the site of their summer residence.

The medieval village is a mix of humble cottages and the dwellings of the former gentry, its houses squeezed between the Dordogne River and the towering cliff.

The Manor of Tarde

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
The Manor of Tarde © French Moments

The stepped narrow streets lead up to the Manor of Tarde (Manoir de Tarde), which dominates the village. The manor is linked to the memory of Jean Tarde (1562-1636), who was an historian, as well as a cartographer, mathematician, astronomer, theologian, philosopher, and a friend of Galileo. This Renaissance manor consists of two main sections, with pointed gables and enchanting mullioned windows.

The parish church

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
The parish church © French Moments

Halfway up the cliff stands the little Romanesque church. The present-day parish church of the village was built in 1330 and enlarged in 1709. It served as a chapel for a hospital. The sanctuary became a parish church for La Roque around 1365.

The exotic garden

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
The exotic garden © French Moments

Next to the church is a surprisingly exotic garden grows extravagant Mediterranean vegetation: more than 20 species of palm trees, banana trees, lemon trees, olive trees, fig trees etc…

The micro-climate that La Roque-Gageac benefits from can be explained by its southern orientation and the absence of wind. From the church, marvel at the superb view of the Dordogne River often dotted with canoes and barges.

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
Beautiful sun light at the end of the day © French Moments

The village is at its best in the late afternoon when the crowds have left and stone walls glow honey-coloured in light of the setting sun.

The castle of La Malartrie

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
The Malartrie castle © French Moments

To the direction of Beynac, the Château de la Malartrie is a pastiche of a 15th century castle, built in the 19th century on the site of a former leprosy colony: “la maladrerie”. It was built according to the local architectural trends for the Count de Saint-Aulaire, a French ambassador to England and member of the Cincinnati Franco-American society. Nowadays, it is possible to rent the chateau for a short stay in Périgord Noir.

The gabares of the Dordogne

Gabare © French Moments
A gabare near La Roque-Gageac © French Moments

The relaxing boat rides on board the “gabares” along the Dordogne River simply add to the charm of this place. The “gabares” or “gabarres” (scows) were once a familiar sight on the river when they were used for the transport of goods (ores, wood, wine, and salt). Wood was transported from Auvergne to Bordeaux for the barrel-making industry, while salt from the Atlantic moved upstream to supply Auvergne and the North of Quercy. Nowadays, a number of “gabares” have been rebuilt for sightseeing purposes.

More photos of La Roque-Gageac

Photos taken during our last visit to the village!

How to get to La Roque-Gageac

La Roque-Gageac © French Moments
Arriving at La Roque-Gageac by road © French Moments

The Dordogne Valley is easily accessible by car from Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse, via the A20 and A89 autoroutes (French for motorways). La Roque-Gageac is situated not far from Sarlat-la-Canéda (13 kms) via the D46 road.

For UK visitors, the closest airport from La Roque-Gageac is Brive-Souillac Airport (52 kms / 1hr trip by car) with direct flights to London-Stansted.

If you travel from Australia or America, you could take a flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle, and travel by TGV from the airport station straight to Bordeaux and rent a car from there.

The TGV from Paris-Gare de Montparnasse takes 3 hours to Bordeaux. A SNCF coach links Sarlat to the train station of Libourne which has direct trains to Bordeaux.

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Discover the village of La Roque-Gageac © French Moments

Discover the village of La Roque-Gageac © French Moments













Find out more on the Tourist Office for the Black Perigord area.


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About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

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  1. Hi there, just to point out that since you wrote your fabulous article, we have re-opened the Fort to the public. Despite this year being one of great uncertainty with the horrors of Covid 19, we have had a huge amount of happy visitors to the Fort. And we hope you will come and see us the next time you are in the area.
    Kind regards,
    Kati (member of The Fort team)

    1. Thank you Kati for the message. That is such great news! (and yes I’d love to see it by myself!!). I’ve just modified the article with the info and a link to the Fort’s website. ?

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