Commarque Castle is slightly off the beaten path , near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil. I wouldn’t have even known about it had I not received a large picture book of France as a gift, which had a picture of the castle at sunset. It is not listed in the guidebooks I have on France, probably because it isn’t accessible without a car. We drove to the Castle from Sarlat, which is only 15 kilometers away. From the parking lot it’s another 600 meter walk to the castle on a trail through the forest.
As the view of the Valley of the Beune opens up, it’s a beautiful sight. On the left hillside sits the castle and the village ruins, on the right side of the valley are niches carved in the rock wall, probably used as storage or possibly dwellings 700 years ago? In the distance, nearly straight ahead, is another small castle, privately owned by an English person. The Dordogne is a favorite spot of the English, and many have bought residences in the area.
The castle’s early history is a bit uncertain. It’s believed to have been founded in the 12th century, and to have been rebuilt in stone in the 14th century, with later additions continuing until the 18th century, when the castle and village appear to have been totally abandoned. The English captured it during the Hundred Years’ War (1350’s – 1450’s) for several years. This location was strategic—near the crossing of two main roads in medieval France and the site of a spring—essential for the village and castle life. Check out the castle’s website, http://www.commarque.com/htmfr/infos.php for more information.
Commarque Castle is interesting for a several reasons. First, it’s a quiet and peaceful setting in a secluded valley—we were there early in the morning, and had the castle to ourselves. The sun was out, and the dew was just drying off the grass, with birds chirping and the sounds of a babbling brook nearby. Second, there are several other buildings which made up the 13thcentury village that have been excavated fairly recently (1980’s), and add to the wonder of the site. Third, in the cliff directly underneath the castle there are living quarters carved out of the rock which can be visited. Some of these dwellings are prehistoric, part of many which dot the Dordogne region. Fourth, it is possible to climb to the top of the castle keep (or donjon in French) for a great view of the village, and the private castle across the valley.
If you love castles and sites that are less visited, take the drive out to Commarque, you won’t be disappointed.