40km east of Périgueux, Hautefort is one of the most prestigious châteaux in Dordogne and indeed South-West France and is a listed historical monument.
It stands in an enviable position overlooking the Auvézère Valley and Hautefort village, a grand chateau with two wings each terminating in a round tower. The whole is surrounded by impressive French style formal gardens. It is a style of chateau little known in the Dordogne and more like those built by the nobles in the Loire Valley.
Standing on the position of an earlier, 12th century chateau, Hautefort was built in the middle of the 17th century. After subsequently falling into disrepair, it became the life work of the Baron and Baronnesse de Bastard to reconstruct and renovate the chateau, a task that took several decades during the middle of the 20th century, to be completed by 1968 (after the baron had died his wife continued alone).
In a terrible turn of events, shortly after four decades of work had been completed the chateau burned to the ground. Undeterred the baroness resumed work again, and the chateau was again renovated. The resulting fine castle is a tribute to the eforts of the two of them (a room in one of the towers of the chateau commemorates the events of the incendiary in 1968).
Apart from the splendours of the building itself, Chateau de Hautefort contains an impressive collection of 17th century paintings and tapestries. It is one of the most popular and visited chateaux in the region.
Wandering around the chateau the rooms have lots of colour; with beautiful bedspreads and curtains, chairs with faded tapestry covers and the walls which are often painted in pale pastel colours. Huge vases of flowers are set out in each room and the polished wooden floors are one of the key features of the rooms. It is a chateau you feel you could happily live in unlike most chateaus which are often draughty old military structures or have a formality which would be hard to live with on a daily basis.
March and 1-11 November: 14.00-18.00 weekends and bankholidays
April and May: 10.00-12.30pm and 14.00-18.30 every day
June, July, August: 9.30-19.00 every day
September: 10.00-18.00 every day
October: 14.00-18.00 every day
Visits cost 8.50 euros for adults and you can wander around at your leisure. Leaflets are available with information about the castle.
The gardens of the Chateau de Hautefort have been awarded France's Jardin Remarkable status. They comprise a beautiful French Formal garden with lots of clipped hedges producing geometric shapes and parterres which are filled with varying planting displays. Included in these are some stunning burgundy coloured roses. These formal gardens surround the castle but a little further away is a lovley English style landscaped park. The gardens were designed in the 19th century by the Compte de Choulot, a famous landscape architect of the time.
From the gardens and the chateau you get some excellent views over the village of Hautefort and the surrounding countryside.
Evening visits are becoming increasingly popular at the major sites in the Dordogne. Not only do they give you a chance to visit in the cooler evening air but they also have a completely different atmosphere. These take place on a set night in July and August.
During July and August the Chateau de Hautefort is open Wednesday nights for a theatrical visit where you will be led back to the 17th century. These visits start at 9pm.
Other sites offering evening visits are the Chateau de Bourdeilles on Fridays; the Chateau de Biron on Tuesdays; the Jardins de Marqueyssac on Thursdays; the Jardins d'Eyrignac on Mondays; the Lascaux caves on Fridays; the Grotte du Grand Roc and the prehistoric shelter of Laugerie Basse on Mondays; the Cloitre de Cadouin on Wednesdays (information correct 2013).
The village of Hautefort nestles below the chateau and is dominated by the Ancient Hospice. This was built by the Marquis of Hautefort in 1669 in order to welcome the poor and give them religeous help. This quickly graduated into medical help especially with the help of a group of nuns who remained until 1995. The building, which is in the shape of a greek cross is now home to a museum of medicine with a recreated sick room from the 17th century as well as instruments of this period. The tourist office can also be found in the building.
April, May, October: 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-18.00, every day
June to September: 10.00-19.00, every day
You can choose to visit yourself or take a guided tour.
There are a number of different walking routes in the Hautefort area varying from 8 to 12km. These can also be done on mountain bike or horse back. Pick up a leaflet from the tourist office for details.
It is also possible to do a 1.5km walk around the 'l'etang du Coucou', a small lake near to Hautefort.
The charming town of Excideuil with its castle, attractive centre and one of the oldest buildings in the dordogne is nearby and well worth a visit and has a selection of cafés and restaurants if you are needing refreshments after your look round the chateau.
This page in French: Chateau de Hautefort (version Francais)