For our first road trip after 14 months around the world, we travelled close to home! This decision was partly due to the international context (COVID19), our current situation and a desire to discover our door step’s surroundings. We left from the North of France to explore, a few hundred miles in a neighbouring country, the Belgian Ardennes region. We stopped at the Eau d’Heure Lake, Bouillon, Herbeumont, Orval Abbey, Saint-Hubert, Dinant before going back to the French side with Chooz and Val Joly.
The Ardennes are a natural region stretching from France to Germany, via Belgium and Luxembourg, which has a lot to offer for nature lovers. Lakes, forests, rivers for great walks and hikes but also mountain bike or kayak trips. We were also seduced by the richness of its history with numerous castles and superb medieval villages. Finally, the legends and history linked to the region’s witchcraft have sparked our curiosity… Magical stay guaranteed!
For this peaceful and short nature road trip, we didn’t cover long distances. We travelled with a motorhome equipped with toilet and shower and were able to camp off the grid on the numerous free areas in the region. The Belgian Ardennes are very accessible with a van, RV or motorhome and we loved each of our overnight stops. We have always been able to sleep in nature and take advantage of hikes or access to villages on foot or by bike directly from the campsites.
Eau d’Heure lakes
For our first spot in the Ardennes, we went to the Eau d’Heure lake. It is an artificial lake created by the Plate Taille dam and its impressive observation tower. It is a pleasant place and there is a large choice of activities. For example, you can go for walks or bike rides around the lake, practice water sports or tree climbing.
On the camping side, we stayed in the parking lot at the edge of the dam which offers a nice view of the lake and the dam. The place is popular and we recommend to avoid it if you are looking for a secluded place surrounded by nature.
The day after, we drove to discover Bouillon village in the Ardennes. This village is surrounded by the Semois river and its impressive castle overlooking the river. The village is very beautiful and there are many walks in the forest available for all levels. We really enjoyed this stop between history and nature!
We camped at the castle foot at the motorhome area next to the soccer field. The place is located at the edge of the Semois and the edge of the forest and is very quiet and pleasant. The restaurants on the banks of the Semois offer a very pleasant setting.
Bouillon Castle visit
We visited the castle which we found a little disappointing because of the lack of explanations (which may be due to the COVID restrictions). The audio guide is not included but is essential to obtain a minimum of information. However, the view on the village and the surroundings is beautiful from the castle. It costs 11 € per person (this is a combined ticket with the Fortified Castle, the Ducal Museum and the Godefroid de Bouillon archeoscope) and 2.5 € for the audio guide. More information available on www.bouilloninitiative.be.
Herbeumont is a very small village also surrounded by the Semois and overlooked by some castle ruins. The access to the castle is free but you have to deserved it because it is located at the top of a big climb. The hike is charming and the view is wonderful. Another interesting point to explore is the Viaduct which passes over the river. We went over it by bike, it is very easy to access and the distance is short even by foot. For the night, we stayed on the motorhome area of the village which used to be the platform of the old station.
We came across this village and its ruined castle a bit by chance and we loved it!
Forest walk to discover edible wild plants
The next day, we started the day with a meeting with Barbara from Saveurs de la forêt who taught us about the edible wild plants found in the forest. We had made this tour in order to deepen Clémentine’s research for her book. We had a great time. The activity lasted 2 hours with a very informative tour of Barbara’s garden then a small walk in the forest for 20 € per person. Barbara also offers horse riding and / or a meal based on edible wild plants. You will find all the information on her website. Do not hesitate to contact her.
This activity made us think about our diet and lifestyle and offers a very good introduction to maybe start adding nettles in our soup or flowers on our plate!
Orval Abbey visit
Then, we headed to the Orval Abbey which we visited for 7 € per person. We were a little disappointed because there was a lot of work in progress and not everything was open (especially due to the virus). The brewery was under construction but we still left with our brewed on site beer pack.
Finally, we drove to Saint-Hubert to spend the night at the Fourneau Saint Michel area at the edge of a small stream. The place is very peaceful although close to a fast road. It is also the starting point for many walks and hikes in the forest.
For our last day, we visited the Dinant city. It is a pretty setting at the edge of the Meuse with the citadel dominating the city. However, it is rather difficult to access with a motorhome. We recommend to park at the citadel (but it is not possible to sleep there). From there, you can take the cable car (10 € per person) to explore the city. This also allows you to visit the citadel and enjoy the view from above. The city is perfect for a weekend getaway along the Meuse, you can visit the church, the cave la merveilleuse or simply wander around the city. It is also the place where the Lesse joins the Meuse, a very nice canoe / kayak trip for the most adventurous.
Dinant was not very welcoming for motorhomes, so we decided to continue our journey to Chooz in the French Ardennes. We first took a lunch break to taste delicious Belgian fries at chez Fernande before going back to France (don’t miss out on eating fries in Belgium!).
We found a very nice spot by the river to spend the night in Chooz. A cycling / walking lane runs along the Meuse to Chooz, it is ideal for exploring the place by bike. However, the village shelters a nuclear power station which spoils the landscape a little. So we explored the village by bike before leaving for another place to spend the night.
Val Joly, France
It was at Val Joly that we decided to finish our trip. This leisure centre on the artificial lake has a free motor-home area. In addition, many activities are available: swimming pool, aquarium, water sports, horse riding, tree climbing… Please note, the motor-home area is on a slope, so make sure you have wedges if you want to sleep flat. The view on the lake is very pleasant and you can observe horses and ponies resting next to you in their pastures.
Voyage de Miel road trips
Our road trip in the Ardennes was an opportunity for us to reconnect with the pleasure of travelling in a van which we are big fans of. Read more articles from our trips to Australia, New Zealand or Alaska. Also discover another epic road trip in Europe by car with Scotland.