Guide to accessibility in the Dordogne for our guests
TOURIST SITES - CHATEAUX, GARDENS & CAVES
CHATEAUX The general assumption here is that accessibility will at the very least be limited in the châteaux themselves and impossible on the guided tours that include upper storeys. If you wish to visit any of the following and their websites don’t give you enough information, we will try to answer any questions you may have. I’ve shown the number of minutes each château is from us by car.
Jumilhac http://www.jumilhac.net/ 10 mins. The hillside location of our nearest château means that even the gardens are on different levels, with quite a few steps. The tour of the château itself takes in many levels, so won’t be possible for anyone with even limited mobility. However, one of the bars or the restaurant in the square in front of the château is the perfect place to relax and wait for those who are on their tour.
Hautefort http://www.chateau-hautefort.com/ 40 mins. The ground floor of the château, its formal and landscape gardens are all accessible, within reason and I would suggest, with assistance. The village of Hautefort is below the château and is also worth a visit, but the descent into it is very steep and the streets quite narrow.
Puyguilhem http://puyguilhem.monuments-nationaux.fr/fr/ 30 mins. This is one of the smaller châteaux, built in the style of the much bigger Loire versions, beautiful château and setting. It is very close to the Grottes de Villars, maybe worth doing the two on the same day? The château is reached along a woodland walk, from a “rustic” woodland car park so all in all, it is not an easy place to visit if you have any accessibility issues.
Pompadour http://www.pompadour.net/ 40 mins. This small town is in the Corrèze, and is the home to one of the “Haras Nationaux”, the National Studs. It is difficult to imagine a more stunning setting for a racecourse, which is overlooked by the château.
JARDINS Apart from the well-kept and impressive gardens at the châteaux above, there are others worth seeing. The following gardens are advertised as accessible and generally they are, but there are steps at some parts of the gardens and some of the paths are gravelled. Considering their topography, they do seem to have made every effort to aid accessibility.
Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac http://www.eyrignac.com/ Formal gardens in various styles, but with an informal atmosphere. The family still live in Le Manoir, they were sat outside having lunch as we walked by and despite what felt like our intrusion, welcomed us to the gardens. There is a restaurant and gift shop on site. The staff as well as the family were also extremely courteous and helpful. There are steps and some difficult gravel paths but enough of the gardens are accessible to make this a pleasant trip, maybe combining it with Sarlat, which is only about 10 minutes away.
Marqueyssac, les Jardins Suspendus http://www.marqueyssac.com/ More a woodland walk than formal gardens and so not easily accessible but well worth a visit, especially for the views over the Dordogne valley. The gardens sit on a promontory with views of the Dordogne and the village of La Roque-Gageac on one side and on the other, the châteaux of Castelnaud, Beynac and Fayrac. There is the customary gift shop and elegant tea rooms with beautiful views. As in Eyrignac above, it is close to Sarlat and if you want to combine it with a visit to the town or maybe a nearby château, such as Beynac or Castelnaud. We went on a sunny, clear day, the views were stunning and we watched a family of black kites from above at first, riding the thermals up to and then beyond our altitude. Hard to put into words!
Terrasson-Lavilledieu, les Jardins de l’Imaginaire http://www.lesjardinsdelimaginaire.com/ “Accès handicapés” is shown on the website and there are provisions, the website states ; « Précision : Afin d'effectuer une visite dans les meilleures conditions, le public à mobilité réduite est invité à contacter la billetterie avant sa venue ». In other words, contact them before you go. We have now visited the gardens and not all areas are accessible, as we expected as the gardens are on the side of a steep hill. There is a separate entrance for wheelchair users.
CAVES The caves are generally not accessible to wheelchair users and difficult enough for those with reduced mobility. However, their visitor areas are accessible. We haven’t yet visited most of them so if you are interested in a visit, it would be advisable to ask us or check their website or Office de Tourisme for further details.
Grottes de Villars http://www.grotte-villars.com/ The caves themselves are not accessible to wheelchair users and so it has been decided not to award them the “physical handicap label”. However, the car park, café, toilets and preview video are, so it is only the 45-minute guided cave visit itself that is not.
Lascaux II http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/ All public access to the original caves was prohibited in 1963 due to the damage caused by its visitors and a replica built and opened in 1983. The replica cave itself is not accessible.
Grotte de Rouffignac http://www.grottederouffignac.fr/ The guided tour is by a small electric “train”. Accessibility is therefore limited to those people who would be able to transfer to the train, but even though assistance will be given, I have been told that it is not an easy process.
Gouffre de Padirac http://www.gouffre-de-padirac.com/ Access is “difficult” but possible, according to the website. It would therefore be sensible to contact them beforehand. It is fairly close to Rocamadour (mentioned above), some 2 hours from us.
Les Eyzies-de-Tayac http://www.musee-prehistoire-eyzies.fr/ Not a cave like those above, it is the “National Museum of Prehistory” and is accessible. Ancient cave dwellings were found nearby, hence the site of the museum.