The Bridoire Castle, or how to spend a good stay at the Dordogne
In the mind of the tourist, the Dordogne is mostly synonymous with the Périgord Noir and wandering through the valley of the 5 castles, evenings in Sarlat and canoeing down the river. However, the department is large and has a wealth of unsuspected treasures.
This is certainly the case with the Château de Bridoire, situated further west, 12 km south of the charming Bergerac and which promises families an exceptional day of adventure, games and, of course, a dive into history. Follow the guide to find out all about this exceptional place!
The history of Bridoire, home to a thousand owners
If oppidum is a notion that vaguely speaks to you, you should know that this type of Roman construction is at the origin of many medieval wonders in our country. It is a fortified village, in short, whose location leaves nothing to chance militarily speaking and was naturally chosen to build more developed fortresses later on.
This is the case here, and the construction of the castle of Bridoire, in all its components, was spread out from the 12th to the 19th century. Buridorium is the first name we know of, when it appears in the cartulary of the abbey of Cadouin, in 1150. At that time it belonged to Bertrand de Bridoire.
After having been a co-seigniory towards the end of the 13th century, held by the Maureilhac and Aubeterre families, the castle became a den of looters during the Hundred Years War. During the 15th and 16th centuries, it passed through the hands of several families, before Bridoire was totally destroyed in 1568, after having fallen into the hands of the Protestants eight years earlier. Rebuilt under the aegis of Henry IV, it was again dismantled in 1649 on the orders of the Duke of Epernon, and then restored again.
The fate of Bridoire continued to keep it in limbo over the following centuries, when it changed hands many times, saw its lands divided up between several families, and was finally sold to a Swiss industrialist in 1939. The latter lived there until 1978, before donating it to the commune, which refused, afraid of the maintenance and restoration costs. It was a Senegalese company that bought it, headed by Mr Boissier-Palun, Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, consultant to UNESCO, minister and ambassador of Senegal, and personal lawyer to the President of Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa.
The castle was then abandoned, and over time Bridoire was looted by private cars. Piano, marquetry, paintings and tapestries disappeared without anyone taking notice. The owner did not react to the alerts of the police, who could not intervene without his permission.
In 1989, the mayor of the commune, on the advice of the gendarmes, created the “Association for the Safeguarding of Bridoire Castle”, which in 1991 obtained its inclusion in the supplementary inventory of historical monuments. It would take another twenty years, between inconclusive actions at the highest level of the State, various actions by the association and demonstrations by the local population, before, after an administrative expropriation, the castle of Bridoire was finally entrusted to the couple Michel and Catherine Guyot, on 13 July 2011.
Its opening to the public in 2012 was a success, with almost 40,000 visitors to the estate. Year after year, the events and the gradual restoration have enhanced the appeal of the castle, making it the tourist jewel it is today – with an impressive cultural and architectural restoration in parallel.
The architecture of the domain
Bridoire castle is the only medieval fortress still standing in the Bergerac region, whose domain covers 40 hectares. Built on a rocky spur whose sheer drop protected all sides except the east, it is defended in this direction by a wide, arched moat separating the estate from the plateau, whose only access was a drawbridge, replaced in the 16th century by a stone arch.
An inner courtyard, surrounded by a wall with a parapet walk, is the nerve centre for movement between the various residential buildings, stables and other common areas. Four round towers with machicolations mark the ends of the two main buildings, each equipped with a staircase turret. A final square tower extends the outbuildings to the south and closes the courtyard. The interior of the buildings has been gradually restored, furnished and redecorated to honour its history.
The specificity of Bridoire is to have dwellings juxtaposed in a whimsical way, without any overall plan, because of its eventful history. For example, a chapel was rebuilt in the 19th century within a 15th century tower overlooking a Renaissance-style dwelling.
It was the Marquis de Foucauld who gave Bridoire its present appearance by carrying out major works: elaborate dormer windows, terrace and winter garden, interior balcony of his room overlooking the chapel, reception rooms, stables, etc. A residence worthy of a King, where Henri de Navarre, the future Henri IV, had the pleasure of lunch!
Your stay at the Château aux 100 jeux
As we mentioned in the introduction, the Château de Bridoire is a great place to spend a day with the whole family. It is the most animated historical site in the Bergerac region with its 15 furnished rooms on 3 levels, its stables and the many games and activities offered.
The castle is open to the public. When entering the castle courtyard, the majesty of the facades first delights the visitor. However, it is when you enter through one or other of the access gates that the journey into history really begins.
The large kitchens, dining room, winter garden, billiard room, grand salon, games room, scriptorium, chapel, stables, cellar and cul de basse fosse are all beautifully reconstructed with period furniture and decorations.
Young and old alike can then embark on an adventure in the labyrinth and its Mysterious Valley, solving the riddles as they travel through caves, rivers and romantic ruins. A playful journey over several hectares, which will take about two hours to complete!
The Haunted Nights, which take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the summer, take visitors on a journey to meet the ghosts, to find out what curse has taken hold of the castle and above all, to try to escape alive…
Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to test your skills with the 100 old-fashioned games on offer, which are free with the castle entrance ticket. For all ages, indoors and outdoors, try your hand at armour fitting, calligraphy, crossbow and archery, grass skiing, board games and games of skill, etc. The shadow theatre, the giant chessboard, the giant goose game or the puzzle games will not fail to arouse your curiosity and your sense of fun, too.
Bridoire Castle is certainly experiencing the happiest period in its history, as visitors are so happy to admire it, to take part in its many activities, to eat there and even to sleep there from now on. A flat has been specially fitted out in one of the towers in 2021. Will you dare to spend the night there?