If ever a campsite was to exceed expectations, Camping le Capeyrou is it. Sitting on the banks of the dragonfly-abundant waters of the River Dordogne, beneath the cliff-top sentinel Château de Beynac, is this brilliant family-friendly campsite.
After visiting this region of France, my love for all things French was reignited. Not that it wasn’t burning happily before, but this area truly throws at you everything that is so quintessentially French that I defy you to leave without being transformed into a Francophile. In fact it was SO good, we’re going back there again this year.
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Camping le Capeyrou campsite Dordogne, France
Camping le Capeyrou is perfectly positioned in eye-poppingly scenic countryside. Despite its rural location, you’re a short stroll along the river away from the magical medieval village of Beynac-et-Cazenac, which tumbles down the hillside to the water’s edge from the castle at the top. Within Beynac’s age-old walls, there are cobblestone alleys, turreted buildings, restaurants to discover and spectacular viewpoints to ponder. It’s a real treat to have this on your doorstep and to be able to wander out to dinner with the kids from your campsite.
The campsite is in a government-designated protected area, so there are only 120 tent pitches on the five hectare area of flat land, as well as a handful of Eurocamp safari tents. The best pitches are dotted alongside the river banks, although these obviously fill up quickly in summer, so you’ll need to book your spot well in advance to nab one. An extra bonus is that there are no fixed arrival days, so you can book your dates as suits.
It’s a grassy, pretty campsite, and pitches are separated by bushes and there are plenty of trees to make it feel leafy and not too sparse. The majority of camping pitches are standard (around 80 of them) and measure between 100 to 110 m². You can opt for an electric point which can be between 2-20 metres distance from your pitch. Water access points are available all over the site and it’s possible to rent fridge space too.
The maximum comfort pitches are slightly bigger, have water access and drainage facilities and are located towards the rear, on the edge of the fields with views of the chateau. These are the first pitches to go though, so you’ll need to book well in advance to nab one during the peak season. As a family-oriented site, it’s also quiet at night, but come morning you may hear the tell-tale sounds of hot air balloons passing over…
The campsite has a good sized, heated swimming pool (bathing shorts allowed!) with loungers dotted around the edge and a toddler pool on the side. During our stay it tended to empty out during the day while families went off in search of entertainment and then start heaving with people and dive bombing kids in the afternoon.
There’s also a volleyball court, table tennis tables, kids’ playground with a sandpit for 0-6 year olds, spider climbing frame, trampoline and a recreation room decorated with old bicycles. Building pebble dams in the River Dordogne or Céou, is also a kiddy-entertaining favourite.
The onsite bar is a characterful place with outside patio area (great for a sundowner or two), dartboard, billiards and games, a musical soiree once a week during the peak summer season, plus a huge hearth which is lit during the off-season. They don’t do food onsite, but there’s a little grocery store, pâtisserie (Nathalie’s bakery) for your morning baguettes and croissants (and plenty of delectable french treats), plus a butcher’s by the campsite entrance. Food vans (Thai, snacks, omelettes etc.) rock up on different nights if you can’t be bothered to cook or are particularly tempted by the smell of frites!
If you’re camping, you’ll want to know about the ablutions, and actually there are plenty of showers and a baby bathroom in two toilet blocks on the campsite. We rarely needed to queue in July…but will see how this goes in mid-August! You’ll also find a launderette (with two washing machines, iron and ironing board) and campervan service area onsite.
Things to do when staying at Camping le Capeyrou campsite, Dordogne
Be you a couple or family group, there’s masses to do with kids in the area…
Canoe the River Dordogne
There are numerous companies that hire kayaks and canoes in the area and you can choose the length of the route you think you and your kids can manage. I highly recommend arranging to be picked up from your campsite and then floating back to your doorstep! We did exactly that, choosing a 10km route with Canoe Dordogne that took us around 2 hours, floating downstream past stunning sites like La Roque Gageac (where the houses are charmingly built into the cliffside), back to the campsite Camping Le Capeyrou. Don’t forget to pack snacks and a camera – the trip is squirming with picturesque photo opportunities of old stone bridges, hillside castles, hovering dragonflies, passing traditional Gabarres (which you can ride for €8.50 adult/€6 child) and the like. Just ask for details at reception.
Discover the secrets of the underground
This area of the Dordogne is home to umpteen natural wonders, caverns, grottes, ancient paintings and troglodyte caves, both prehistoric and medieval. The surrounding area is famed for the presence of Cro-Magnon Man some 20,000 years ago. We visited Le Gouffre de Padirac (technically in the Lot region, about an hour away from the campsite) which was particularly magical thanks to the giant sinkhole that descends into the belly of the earth at the entrance, and magical underground river punting tour. You can purchase your tickets for this fascinating subterranean adventure in advance online, which is a good idea with kids in tow as there were queues when we visited.
Other nearby caves that you can visit are the world-renowned Lascaux (40 minutes drive from the campsite), Grotte de Domme (20 minute drive), Grotte de Rouffignac (40 minute drive), Grottes du Roc de Cazelle (20 minute drive), Les Grottes de Maxange (20 minute drive) and Le Gouffre de Proumeyssac (20 minute drive) are just some of them.
Sample the regional specialities of the Dordogne at a local market
It’s not hard to sniff out traditional Dordogne specialities in this region. Take a short drive and local cheese and Foie Gras farms beckon you with hand-painted signs in the midst of fields bursting bright with sunflowers.
Markets spring up often in the charming local towns near Beynac-et-Cazenac and what better than an early morning meander along the stalls, sampling potent fromage de chèvre (the goatier the better in my opinion), vin rosé and fragrant strawberries?
From mid-June to September there is a weekly market every Monday morning in Beynac – an easy stroll from the campsite – where you can stock up on fresh fruit and veg as well as local specialities such as foie gras, saucisson, walnuts and figs.
10-minutes away in the medieval town of Sarlat, the local producers’ market day takes place every Saturday. There’s also a daily covered market housed in the converted Church of Sainte Marie, brimming with artisan foodie goodies.
Eating out in the Dordogne
We didn’t have a single bad meal during our time in the Dordogne, in fact a lot of the food was really quite exceptional. People go mad for all things duck-related here, and one way to try all the different specialities is to opt for one of the great value three course set menus that French restaurants do so well, and munch down some foie gras for starter, magret de canard for main and a dreamy crème brûlée for dessert.
Where to eat near Camping le Capeyrou campsite, Dordogne
Don’t miss Beynac’s unbelievably romantic la Petite Tonnelle restaurant, on the higgledy-piggledy street that leads up to the village. This is affordable fine dining with all the trimmings of twinkly, olde worlde atmospheric French magic. There are tables inside the restaurant – all exposed brick and wooden beams, but in the balmy evening eat, the al fresco tables are the best. Walkable from the campsite.
Other eateries nearby include La Terrasse des Chateaux, Auberge Lembert, Hostellerie Maleville (great for steak frites and salads right next to the river), plus a number of snack places near the Chateau de Beynac.
Visit a fairytale castle of the Périgord region
Prepare to enter a land of real-life fairytale castles in this chateau-rich area of France. Known as the valley of the five castles, there are 100 castles within a 30km radius of the campsite. If you’re got princess-lovers or knight enthusiasts within your troops, they’ll go crazy for the hills of the Dordogne, alive with turrets, flags, ramparts and the elaborate parapets of beautiful stone castles. Some are little more than tantalising ruins, others have barely changed at all since their own day and age.
Visit Château de Beynac
From the campsite, it’s roughly a 20-40 minute climb up through the twisting, steep, narrow, ancient cobbled streets, past duck egg blue-shuttered and flower bedecked houses and secret doorways to 12th century Chateau de Beynac, for jaw-dropping views over the river and gob-smackingly pretty Dordogne valley. Be aware, it’s worth going early, to avoid the midday heat of summer.
The castle, built into the cliff-face, is the most well-preserved fortress of the Périgord region, and transports visitors back in time to the bleak darkness of the soldiers’ quarters and 14th century latrine to the labours involved in a days-of-yore style kitchen. Where once enemies were fearfully spotted through arrow loops and battlements, these ancient barricades now offer the greatest reward of all – spectacular, peaceful, panoramic views.
Go for a stroll or a cycle
To explore neighbouring villages, follow the flat river path 2.5km along to Castelnaud or 4km along to La Roque-Gageac. From Castelnaud, there is a cycle path which follows the Céou stream. Otherwise just wandering into the village of Beynac, with it’s amazing architecture, never grows old.
Visit nearby fairytale Dordogne villages
Guess what? Roque Gageac is also one of France’s prettiest villages! On a role here. Sitting on the banks of the Dordogne River with a steep cliff as a backdrop, the pointy roofed buildings of this yellow stone town have changed little in the past 300 years or so. Explorers will love the troglodyte fort snuggled in the cliffs 40 metres above La Roque Gageac and exotic garden vibes given off by the entire village. After exploring, why not organise a canoe trip and see it from the water – ah c’est belle!
This small medieval village is quite a sight to behold. Clinging to the cliffside along the Alzou canyon, its buildings seem to blend seamlessly into the rock. We didn’t actually go into the village, just gazed in wonder at it from afar, but exploring the Notre Dame Chapel housing the Black Virgin, ramparts and various other churches and chapels would make for a pretty spectacular family day out. Rocamadour is about an hour away from Beynac-et-Cazenac – a nice one to stop by if you’re making the trip to Gouffres de Padirac or La Forêt des Singes (a park where macaques roam free).
Sarlat’s winding, wending impeccably well-conserved streets, Gothic and Renaissance mansions and golden Perigord stone draw crowds of tourists during the summer months. It’s considered to be one of France’s best examples of a 14th century town and wandering its maze-like alleyways throws up historic curveballs, beautiful architecture and nooks and crannies filled with surprises. Apparently, the town’s population has been wiped out several times during its history, although its hard to believe this on market days (Saturday) when the town throbs with people looking to snap up some delicious local produce. Don’t miss the daily indoor market housed inside converted Church Sainte Marie.
Castelnaud la Chapelle
10 minutes away by car, the 12th century village of Castelnaud la Chapelle, with its sloping roofs, wooden shutters, half-timber houses and floral displays is one of France’s prettiest villages. Like Beynac-et-Cazenac, it is dominated by its medieval fortress, Château de Castelnaud which sits in prime position gazing over the Dordogne Valley. It too drops steeply down to the river below, the confluent of the Dordogne and Ceou, where you’ll find cafes and picnic spots.
Just a 20 minute drive away, is another medieval village, classified as one of the prettiest in the country. But this one has something most do not – troglodyte dwellings dating back to the 13th century right underneath the main square! It’s possible to visit them, the entrance is in the corner of the square, near the fortified gate. Belvès is famous for being the ‘town of seven bell towers’.
Make like Phileas Fogg and fly in a hot air balloon over the Dordogne Valley
If you have the means and the weather is playing ball, I can’t implore you enough to splash out on a hot air balloon ride over the Dordogne. It was one of the most special experiences of my life. One minute you’re on the ground, the next you’re sailing over sunflowers, brushing tree branches, dunking the balloon basket in the Dordogne river, floating up to the peace and coolness of 2000 metres and waving to unsuspecting holiday-makers enjoying their dinner al fresco. The views, feeling of flying and final drink made from homegrown walnuts make this the ultimate Dordogne activity. I wrote about this stupendous balloon ride here (and won a prize from Telegraph Travel) for my account of this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
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