Marqueyssac – The Dordogne’s Hanging Gardens

Marqueyssac – The Dordogne’s Hanging Gardens

This is a truly lovely garden, the views and setting are outstanding and it’s very child friendly. Listed as a National Historical Monument, 6 kms of immaculate paths edged with hand-pruned topiary sit on top of cliffs with one of the best views in the Dordogne.

Around the garden, hand pruned box hedges edge the paths Near the Chateâu the hedges are artfully clipped into elaborate swirling designs and include paths of clipped rosemary and santolina. Moving into the woodland there is less sculptured walk, running nearly 150 metres above the river. The views from the belvedere might just be the best in the Dordogne.

 

 

The paths are organised into three well laid out circuits – each a little different. Do all three or pick the one that suits you best. They are all beautifully presented with resting points, interesting little features and the views are stunning – it’s easy to understand why this garden is one of the most visited in South-West France.

The visit can be done guided or unguided. I prefer the unguided option unless you are an avid gardener and want details. You can set your pace and linger where you like and there is a guide book in English to help you along. There are also signs along the paths explaining the planting and the park’s setting. Along the way there are two play areas with cute wooden play houses and a children’s circuit designed just for them.

If you have adventurous children older than 6 years old they might like to try the Rock-Climbing school. You would struggle to find a prettier spot to give it a go. The free school is available every morning from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm through July and August excluding Saturdays. The cliffs have been specially fitted out for introductory rock climbing and the staff are fully qualified. If you want to give it a go the children will need to be wearing sensible shoes.

Climbers on the cliff top walkway above the Dordogne

If you are feeling as adventurous as the children then give La “Via Ferrata de Marqueyssac” a try. It’s a 200 metre long aerial walk way in the cliff side approx 100 metres above the Dordogne. Open mornings and afternoon, throughout the summer, it’s open to adults and children over the age of 8 and at least 1.30 metres tall. It’s not too physically challenging but I would recommend you wear trainers and have strong nerves.

 

Looking for something a little less physical then try the Art & crafts workshop “Curious of nature”. Open throughout the summer months and on bank holidays, the children make small projects like masks, mobiles, dolls, origami, and take them home as a souvenir. Another freebie and perfect for smaller children.

The gardens at dusk with the paths lit by candles

 

Every Thursday evening throughout the summer the gardens are lit by candlelight. The setting is gorgeous and musicians play in different parts of the garden to add to the whole experience. The park looks positively magical and it’s a fabulous place for an evening picnic.

 

There are good facilities on site and there is a very nice Cafe serving light meals and drinks. It wouldn’t be my choice to feed a starving family but they do serve fabulous ice creams and you can sit in the shade and enjoy the views.

Who is this attraction suitable for ?

The gardens are stunning and would be a winner with any keen gardener but honestly, the setting is so perfect, it’s a winner even if you aren’t a keen gardener. The child friendly activities make it perfect for families – you really can’t go wrong.

The garden might not be my first choice for anyone with mobility issues but you can still see quite a lot without walking too far and during the summer there is a little shuttle to the Belvedere which would cut down the amount of walking so I wouldn’t rule it out totally.

If you are visiting during July and August remember that this is a very popular attraction and there are likely to be lots of visitors, so visit early or go expecting it to be busy.

Make a day of it:

Depending on the time of year and the ages of your party I would leave two hours for your visit – longer if it’s the summer or you want to do any of the rock climbing or children’s workshops.

The garden is close to Sarlat so it would pair very well with a trip to the town. Alternatively you could visit the neighbouring Chateau des Milandes or Château de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. Castelnaud and Marqueyssac have a twin ticket option so you can visit the two at a reduced price and you don’t have to do the two visits on the same day. The twin ticket doesn’t work for the Thursday evening at Marqueyssac unfortunately.

You can come back from Marqueyssac via La Roque Gageac and take a river trip on the Gabarres – suitable for all the family. Alternatively plan your trip for a Thursday, visit one of the other local attractions during the afternoon and then onto Marqueyssac for the Candlelight Tour.

You can check the garden’s own website for pricing and events information in English at marqueyssac.com