Marqueyssac gardens and its famed topiaries (Dordogne)

Discover the enchanting Marqueyssac Gardens in the heart of Dordogne, France. Get the guide to its famous topiaries, history, and panoramic vistas.
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Nestled near the tiny village of Vézac near the Dordogne river the, Marqueyssac Gardens occupies a prime position atop a limestone cliff. This area was once a frontier as the French and English were fighting each other in the Hundred Years’ War.

Today the gardens are more likely to attract tourists, nature lovers and children rather than soldiers. Located in the heart of the Périgord Noir in Nouvelle Aquitaine, this is a region celebrated for its medieval towns, castles, and lush landscapes.

Maze at Marqueyssac gardens
Entering the maze

The Marqueyssac Gardens are famous for their meticulously designed topiaries in geometrical rounds and ovals, carefully trimmed to an inch. The topiaries are juxtaposed with a wild forest like area, amelding horticulture and nature is quite the symphony.

So let’s have a look at how the Marqueyssac Gardens came about and what there is to see there. Allons-y!

History

While castles nearby like Château de Beynac, Château de Castelnaud and Fort Roque Gageac were involved in the Hundred Years’ war, it is immediately apparent that the Château de Marqueyssac was built much later.

And that is because Marqueyssac was not built as a defensive position on the cliff overlooking the Dordogne river (where the Belvedere is today), unlike the others. Rather it is built further half a mile from the edge, in a more renaissance style.

Indeed, the origins of the castle can be traced back to the 17th century when it was built by Bertrand Vernet de Marqueyssac, a counsellor to Sun KingLouis XIV.

Over the centuries, the castle changed hands several times. In the 19th century, Julien de Cervel, inspired by the Romantic movement, undertook the transformation of the gardens into the enchanting landscape we see today.

Tree houses at Marqueyssac gardens in France
Tree houses at Marqueyssac gardens

The art of topiary dates back to Roman times, and but it really picked up steam in the 19th century. Today, the Marqueyssac Gardens stands as a testament to the enduring allure of this horticultural tradition.

Visiting the Marqueyssac gardens

When you walk into the Marqueyssac Gardens, the main attraction is undoubtedly the topiaries. Most are sculpted into an oval shape to form beautiful mounds of bushes, rather like a quilted cushion.

There is meticulous craftsmanship and artistry involved in maintaining these living sculptures. As explained by the Marqueyssac guide, it takes hours of care by a large group of full-time gardeners to keep these horticultural sculptures looking this way.

As you enter the gardens, you will notice a rather small château at the entrance. You can visit inside the château for a look inside and a view over the back of the gardens.

Inside the château at Marqueyssac gardens
Salon inside the château

At the back of the château is a maze that you can wander through, a delight for the young and old. The grand promenade, with its green arches, leads to the Belvedere, which is a high vantage point on a hill that offers panoramic views of the Dordogne river and valley below.

From this elevated perch, visitors are treated to a breathtaking panorama that captures the essence of the French countryside. It is a favorite spot for photographers and would-be photographers alike.

View from the Belevedere at Marqueyssac gardens
View from the Belevedere

In addition to the topiaries and the belvedere, Marqueyssac Gardens boast a wealth of features to explore. The garden paths wind through a variety of landscapes from small water features to treehouses, and playgrounds to woodlands.

The Gardens also host seasonal events, such as candlelit evenings, where the paths are illuminated by thousands of flickering candles, creating a magical ambiance. These events offer a unique opportunity to experience Marqueyssac in a different light (literally)!

Alleyway at the Marqueyssac gardens

How to get to the Marqueyssac gardens?

The Marqueyssac gardens are about 330 miles (535 km) from Paris and is about 125 miles (200 km) from Toulouse and Bordeaux. The only way to get to the Marqueyssac gardens is by car or bus.

If you are driving down from Paris, the closest big city along the way is Limoges, which is about 95 miles (160km) away. If you don’t wish to drive, there are organized tours leaving from Sarlat-la-Canéda that will take you around the sights around the Dordogne river.

topiary bushes down a hill at Marqueyssac gardens

How easy is it getting around?

The Marqueyssac gardens are quite large and extensive and it is quite easy to walk around most of the gardens. There are large walkways and ramps all over the gardens for strollers and wheelchairs.

How long should you spend?

About half a day is enough in the Marqueyssac gardens, but you may want to stay longer to explore the surrounding countryside like La Roque Gageac, Castelnaud-la-chapelle, Domme, Sarlat-la-Canéda, Beynac-et-Cazenac, Rocamadour, Lascaux caves, Gouffre du Padirac, etc.

When is the best time to visit?

The Marqueyssac gardens get quite crowded on days with good weather, especially in the summer. It gets busier in the afternoons, so you may want to head over in the mornings.

Where should you stay?

There are some great hotels in neighboring Sarlat-la-Canéda from where you can explore the Marqueyssac gardens and surrounding countryside:

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If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more about traveling around Nouvelle Aquitaine. A bientôt!

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