Beynac-et-Cazenac lies 10 kilometres southwest of Sarlat-la-Canéda, on the banks of the Dordogne, and boasts an imposing castle, once besieged by Richard the Lionheart. The first historical mention of Beynac dates back to 1115 when Maynard de Beynac made a gift to the sisters at Fontevrault Abbey. The Château de Beynac sits high above the village on a rock overlooking the river and it’s as impressive as any fortified castle in France. Climbing up the steep alleyways to the castle from the lower village is no easy feat and anyone who attempts it needs to plan for more than one rest break. Once at the top, the view is incredible and up the Dordogne you can see Château de Castelnaud, Beynac’s longtime enemy.
Make no mistake, Beynac-et-Cazenac is a medieval village, with slab-roofed houses wrapped in stone built practically on top of one another. The ancient château boasts an old-fashioned drawbridge and for a brief moment I had the feeling I was walking onto a movie set, half expecting to see King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table come rushing out of it. However, this castle is almost all French and it had little competition from the English who occupied the neighboring Château de Castelnaud during the Hundred Years’ War. It took England’s King Richard I to seize the castle in 1197 before an Englishman would control Beynac, only to die two years later at the hand of young boy’s crossbow during an inspection of one of his fortresses. The boy claimed that Richard had killed his father and two brothers and expecting to be executed, Richard pardoned the boy and sent him away with 100 shillings just hours before his own death. The history of Château de Beynac and its surrounding rivals is the stuff of legend.
As a shooting location, there is much to behold in this village. Extreme heights and angles abound and the castle certainly adds to the mystique. We arrived in the afternoon and stayed after sunset. At night, Beynac lights up against the Dordogne River, casting a reflection off the water that made you wish the sun might never rise again. Several cafés and shops line the main street that runs up along the edge of town. A movie crew could have some trouble traversing its steep streets, but I wouldn’t hesitate to put Beynac-et-Cazenac on a list of the top six potential locations for The Camera.