The towers of Turenne -
From the gorgeous castle at the top to the quaint square at the bottom, no visitor could avoid a trip to Turenne and its descending spiral of picture-perfectness. If you don't believe us, take a look for yourself at one of the most picturesque villages to visit in the Dordogne Valley.
The pretty village of Turenne is situated just 12 miles north of the Dordogne river and is listed as one of the 'Most Beautiful Villages of France' alongside neighbours Curemonte and Carennac.
Its hilltop position means that visitors are treated to some of the Dordogne Valley's most gorgeous panoramas across the lush countryside, forests and hilly backdrop. Not only is the village a waypoint for hikers, it is also a crucial stop for pilgrims on the Way of St. James.
Bearing the name of a powerful viscountcy that ruled over the Dordogne for ten centuries, Turenne has preserved much of its rich medieval past which are still visible today.
A noble place
In contrast with nearby Collonges-la-Rouge, the stone used to build the houses is not red but the local honey colour, all of which are topped with either 'lauze' stone slabs or slate.
Mostly inhabited by noblemen and the upper-classes, the old town houses date back to the 15th and 17th centuries and many sporting either a turret or bartizan. The narrow cobbled streets are decked with hundreds of fragrant flowers and are largely pedestrianized, adding to the ore of this medieval fiefdom.
Turenne boasts two superb churches. The 17th century Collegiate Church of Our Lady of St. Pantaleon, to the left of the village, is the most important religious monument and boasts a magnificent gilded wood altarpiece, stain-glass coloured windows and porch bell tower standing over 30 metres tall. Just below the castle, the Capucins' Monastery Chapel has been fully restored and is now used to house various exhibitions.
Elsewhere in the village, visitors can marvel at the Porte de Mauriolles, one of the original stone gateways in the town's fortifications as well as the Calvary Tower, Canon's House and Hôtel de Cosnac, an old hunting lodge.
The hilltop castle and towers
However, the crème de la crème of Turenne's cultural visits is of course its hilltop castle (or rather the remains of the fortress that once stood along the cliff). Built to protect the feudal seat of the viscounts of Turenne, the site greets its visitors with two high towers separated by a superb garden.
Embellished with an arch vault, the Treasure Tower houses an 14th-century keep and guardroom whilst the round Caesar Tower offers a superb view over the surrounding countryside from the top of its spiral staircase. The circular watchtower is the older of the two as the square donjon was constructed some 100 years later. The towers are now separated by a colourful garden and a large part of the original fortified wall of the castle.
Looking down from the castle across the village, visitors can appreciate Turenne's interesting mix of flat and conical rooftops. There are two ways to access the castle: The first route crosses straight through the village and is relatively steep but offers some shade and good photo opportunities. The second is a gentler path that veers to the right of the village and is preferable for people with walking difficulties (it doesn't look that high from the bottom, on a hot day with the kids, it really is!)
There is a choice of charming cafés and restaurants both outside the historic village and on the main square. La Maison des Chanoines is a great place to fuel up before taking on the 'big climb'. Small boutiques selling local delicacies like walnut cake and oil and Quinquinoix wine are also dotted around the village.
A carpark is situated along the main road, close to the centre. If you're looking for a view of Turenne in its entirety, head towards Turenne Gare and admire the medieval houses cascade off the hill into the fields below.