The stunningly sculptured landscapes of the famed overhanging gardens of Marqueyssac wrap around a small 17th century chateau that sits perched above the picturesque Dordogne valley at Verzac. The bubbly, rounded forms of the feature garden are carefully manicured by a team of gardeners, maintaining a design that was first developed over 300 years ago.
This is a most unusual garden, being as much a location for nature walks as it is a tourist location. The gardens themselves only feature a limited number of plants, so don't expect a big floral experience. But if you like topiary box shrubs, then this is perhaps the best place in the world to see them.
There are in excess of 150,000 English Box shrubs (buxus sempervirens) planted here which have been expertly manicured to extraordinary shapes which combine to make intriguing vistas.
But Marqueyssac is as much its location as its contents in that the views across the Dordogne from this elevated position are superb. It is the combination of artistically pruned shrubs and fabulous views across romantic French countryside that make this place so memorable.
Today visitors can stroll the entire length of the escarpment including 6kms of easy walk pathways, most with amazing views. All paths are lined with trimmed boxwood but there are also many shade trees, making it a particularly lovely place to visit on a warm summer's day.
Extra features have been added including a Belvedere perched at the highest point and offering brilliant views of La Roque Gageac, Chateau de Beynac and Chateau de Castelnaud. There are also streams, waterfalls, pavilions, a chapel, aviary and play areas along with an excellent restaurant and tea rooms - as you'd expect, all offering fabulous views.
An individual tour of the gardens will take about 1hour 30mins but most visitors would need more than a couple of hours to explore the full extent of these elevated gardens. In July and August they are open in the evening for a candlelight festival. This adds a new magic to the gardens with the paths and plants lit by hundreds of small lights.
While Vézac may be out-of-the-way for most travelers, it’s roughly half-way between the Bourdeaux and Rhone wine regions, placing it directly in the path of French wine travellers.
We would recommend that the Gardens of Marqueyssac are definitely worth a stop - then travel on to Sarlat-au-Caneda, an extraordinary 14th century market town just a few kilometres away where there is plenty and varied accommodation to be found.
Author: Bob Saunders.
Restaurant The gardens have a restaurant which has panoramic views of the valley along with snack and tea rooms which serve light meals. Both are open between Easter and October.
Children There two plays areas and a maze. There is a children's circuit that caters for discovery and are at a child's height. In July and August there are other special activities for children including rock-climbing and acrobatics.
Marquassac is in the Dordogne Valley, public transport to these gardens are not great, so if you don't have much time and really want to see these gardens, hiring a car is your best option.
It is easy to reach from Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse, via autoroutes A20 and A89.
By train the TGV from Paris-Gare de Montparnasse takes 3 hours to Bordeaux or you can get connections directly to Saulliac and bus from there.
By car it will take about 2hours 30mins from Bordeaux.