My Favorite French Rides (#7): The Beynac Loop … with Josephine Baker, Medieval Castles, Domme & Quiet Roads

The view as you approach Castelnaud

I often imagine living in the Dordogne. Sarlat would be nice, but no … let’s make it Beynac. I love this little town on the river; the imposing chateau way, way up on top of the cliffs with the amazing views. We’d have a small place made of stone, nothing too fancy, but definitely two bathrooms. You need two bathrooms. It’s the secret to a happy marriage. And a dishwasher. Can we afford two bathrooms? And a dishwasher?

It’s a beautiful spring morning. No pandemic, no lockdown. Let’s go for a ride.

Something quiet, away from the tourists. A few hills, past a castle or two and some walnut groves. And, maybe, if I’m feeling up for it, I’ll add the climb up to Domme at the end. I can decide later. Who am I kidding … of course I’ll climb up to Domme. This rode is a total of about 35 miles.

OK, here we go …

#1 is the start in Beynac; 2 is Castelnaud; 3 is Chateau Milandes; 4 is Domme

In the dance steps of Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975)

Head east, cross the river on the D 57 and there it is, our first castle of the day: the Chateau de Castelnaud. It dates back to the 12th Century and has a museum of medieval warfare inside. Something I’ll visit one day. But not today. I like museums, but, well, I love cycling. And, when I’m riding, I’d rather ride than visit a museum. Plus, I’ve seen medieval armor before. Lots of it. How different could this museum be?

Lots of people visit Castelnaud. Not too many continue north and then west on the D 53, along the river. I love this stretch. You quickly leave the hustle and bustle behind. On the left are fields and farms, on the right, across the river, there’s Beynac … 

Have you heard of Josephine Baker? She was a huge star in her day; an African American singer, dancer, all-around performer. Who found her greatest success and acceptance in France. Josephine had her very own castle – the Chateau Milandes. And it’s here, right here, just off the D 53 …

And, like Castelnaud, I’ve never bought a ticket and gone inside. One day. I am kind of fascinated by Josephine and would like to see her digs. Hey, maybe she collected medieval weaponry.

The sounds of silence

Continue along the water and then down, into the tiny village of Allas, like this …

It’s quiet along the water. And even quieter once you start heading up the hill on the D 50. Really quiet. On my last trip here, I rode this route three times and did not see another cyclist. And only a few cars. I love it when it’s quiet like this and I have the road and the scenery all to myself.

At the intersection of the D 50 and D 53 there’s a decision to be made: Left and down on the D 53, toward Chateau Milandes and back along the water to Castelnaud; or stay on the D 50 and loop further east and then north to Castelnaud. You can’t go wrong either way, but I prefer the D 53. It’s a long, lovely downhill. Like this …

The Domme climb

Back across the Dordogne on the D 57. Once, as I was crossing the bridge, I saw this up ahead of me …

I love the climb up to Domme. It’s not that long, about a mile. It’s steep, but not crazy steep, and then … well, Domme, a walled village atop a cliff. With an incredible view …

I like to get a snack and sit along the edge of the cliff and take in the sights. And people watch. Lots and lots of people up here, mostly in cars, but several on bicycles. I exchange nods with the other cyclists, as we know this is by far the best way to see the Dordogne. Are we a bit snobby about it? Of course, but only in a slightly annoying way. I’ve had conversations with a few my fellow cyclists while sitting up here. “Where are you coming from? … where are you going? … isn’t this view amazing?”

La Roque-Gageac

Finally, I pull myself and my bike away from the Domme view, and we head down the hill, across and then along the river, through La Roque-Gageac.

Unlike Beynac and Domme, villages built atop cliffs, La Roque-Gageac was built at the bottom of and into the sides of the cliffs along the Dordogne.

Back to Beyanc

Follow the river and D 703 back to Beynac.

The hotels and restaurants (there’s only a couple of each) are at the bottom of town. The walk up to the castle (there’s no way you could ride up), on the ancient stone paths, is steep. Incredibly steep. But worth it. Here’s the view from the top …

Walking down is a lot easier and faster than going up. Here’s a fun video of the walk back down … don’t get dizzy!

Interested in cycling the Dordogne? Here’s the link to my Biking Bordeaux book on Etsy, its only $2.50. It includes info and routes along the Dordogne, plus the nearby Lot and Cele rivers.

And now, finally, after a shower and posting something on my Biking France blog, it’s time for dinner at La Petite Tonnelle …

One thought on “My Favorite French Rides (#7): The Beynac Loop … with Josephine Baker, Medieval Castles, Domme & Quiet Roads

  1. I have lived in Beynac and Sarlat and am a keen cyclist out three times a week with the local Domme club. I have discovered many roads off the beaten track that even after living here for twenty years never knew or would have found. Beautiful countryside and never really flat.

    Liked by 1 person

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