The Lesse Valley in the belgian Ardenne is famous for its beautiful nature, its outdoor activities and its medieval castles. The Valley is the gateway to Belgian’s mountain region called Ardenne and due to its situation close to many cities, it is the perfect destination for a week-end outing.
Furfooz Nature Reserve
The Furfooz nature reserve offers a great excursion not only for a walk in its beautiful rocky nature but also to discover the fantastic archeological heritage site of the area.
Indeed, Furfooz was continuously inhabited from the prehistoric to the medieval times and many rare objects have been found at its archeological sites. On the beautiful 4 km walk through the reserve you can visit the caves, caverns and rocks that were formed over time. You will also be able see the ruins of a thermal bath from the Roman era which were rebuilt in 1958.
At the moment, you need to book your tickets in advance on this website. The price is 5€ per adult, 3€ per student and 1€ for children under 12 years old. The winter time opening hours from November to March are from 9 am to 4 pm. In summer (from April to October) the site opens at 10 am and closes at 5 pm.
Only a few kilometers from Furfooz away, the breathtaking Walzin castle, one of the most beautiful castles in Belgium, is overlooking the Lesse river.
The castle was built in the 11th century and is often called the belgian Neuschwanstein. It has inspired several artists, including Victor Hugo, who draw the site in 1854. The castle had been damaged severely over the years, including by the French army in 1793. However, restauration works have been organized between 1930 and 1932 by the family of the owner Alfred Brugmann de Walzin. Since then, the castle was purchased by count Alexis of Limburg Stirum. Unfortunately, the private property is not open for visitors but the outside view is already worth the visit.
There are several options to visit this beautiful place:
- Hike from Furfooz Nature Reserve
If you like hiking, we would definitely recommend to continue the hike after the 4 kilometer discovery of the Furfooz Nature Reserve. Just before getting back to the parking area to the right, you can turn left instead and walk all the way to the castle. You can download the itinerary here.
We had chosen this option and parked our camper on the big parking area in the village Furfooz. From there, we did the small walk in the Nature Reserve in the morning and hiked all the way to the Walzin castle in the afternoon after having lunch in our camper van.
2. Kayak on the Lesse river
Definitely, a more adventurous option to discover the castle is a kayak descent of the Lesse river either with your own kayak or by renting one in Gendron or Houyet. On your way down the river you will be able to enjoy the view on this beautiful castle before you arrive in Anseremme.
3. By Car
Of course, you can also go directly by car even though parking spots are limited. Most people seem to park along the road Rue du Barrage, cross the river and walk along the Lesse in order to enjoy the beautiful view.
However, we would not recommend to go with bigger campervans and choose one of the other options instead as they are much more fun anyway.
Another must-see of the region is the stunning Veves castle which is surrounded by the beautiful deep forests around the Lesse river. The site is classified as an exceptional monument of Wallonia and unless the Walzin castle, it’s inside can be visited at least some days of the year.
Its real name is Celles castle and its foundation date back to as early as 670. After being destroyed in 1200 and rebuilt in 1230, the castle was damaged by a fire at the beginning of the 15th century and had to be restored. Until the Middle Ages, the castle served as a fortress before undergoing a transformation of the interior during the Renaissance in order to be inhabited in a more comfortable way.
We arrived on a Saturday evening and spent the night on the parking area of the castle enjoying the beautiful view and the access to the park. The next morning, we visited the inside of the castle, which is a mixture of Renaissance furniture and the story of the family that owns the place. For families, the site offers a treasure hunt inside and outside the castle which the small ones seem to like particularly as they even get to wear costumes.
Lesse River Microadventure
One of the must-dos when coming to the Lesse Valley is an adventurous kayak ride down the river. You can either start your descent at Houyet (21 km) or Gendron (12 km) and go all the way down to Anseremme. This is one of the main kayak spots of the area and you might want to book your trip in advance if you don’t have your own kayak. If you take your own kayak, it seems to be possible to take the train from Anseremme to Gendron or Houyet in order to get back to your car or campervan.
If you are more the walking kind of person, there are also several hikes along the river starting just in front of the Gendron train station, where you also find another beautiful and convenient spot for your campervan experience (at least during low season).
Whether you spend the whole week-end in your campervan, take a B&B or just go for a day, the Lesse valley is definitely a good choice for your micro-adventure and a change of scenery.
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