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The Ourthe valley by camper van
4 DAYS, 120 km
Oh for these unspoilt landscapes devoured by chasms of rock! Or is it the density of the forest that makes us feel so small? This short itinerary where the two Ourthe rivers meet is an invitation to slow the pace and enjoy a few surprises.
In the secrecy of the forest, let your imagination run wild as you pass the stately dwellings and solitary castles of the Ourthe valley. We travel from hamlet to hamlet for twenty kilometres or so, as far as Durbuy, stopping first at the historical centre early in the morning, before this medieval town fills with hoards of tourists. We then decide to visit some more natural sites which, as luck would have it, abound in this part of the province of Belgian Luxembourg! Even in the autumn season, this has to be one of the most beautiful camper van tours of the Ardennes, .
Rhadadesh: an unusual, spiritual place
After less than 10 kilometres, at Septon, we follow the road to the Château de Petite Somme, a haven of peace hidden among the trees. This beautiful Gothic château is a few centuries old and has an unusual history! It belonged to the bishop of Liège in the 11th century, was used as a hospital to treat the injured during the First World War, and as a refuge for American soldiers during the Second World War, before becoming a holiday centre for handicapped children. Since 1979, it has been a place of spiritual retreat for the Hindu community of Rhadadesh, attracting both the devout and the simply curious. A little disconcerted after this original experience, we get back on route to Ny and Wéris, which are both rated among the most beautiful villages in Wallonia.
Wéris is reputed mainly for its high density of megaliths in Belgium. When we reach the village late in the afternoon, we receive a pleasant welcome in the form of an amazing building that seems to come right out of a book of spells! La Maison de Harry Cot is in fact a bistro-style restaurant, but with a difference. Luckily, there's still a table, and we dine in what appears to be the upside-down hull of a ship. A feast for the eyes as well as the palate! We feel as if we're immersed in a fairyland... So watch out for the Ardennes elves! We hope we don't offend them by bivouacking on the way to the megalith sites...
The magical meanders of the River Ourthe
From luxuriant green countryside to wooded hues, nature really does offer some wondrous sights. Nobody knows if or when some fantastical being might appear! The names and emblems of many local breweries come from such legendary creatures! At Hotton, after the bridge over the Ourthe, we head for the picturesque town of La-Roche-en-Ardenne, before taking a road up to the Nadrin plateau (elevation 396 metres). There are a number of campsites on the banks of the river. We park our "Swinguy" at the "Cinq Ourthes" panoramic viewpoint, and continue on foot, quickly reaching the Hérou, a vertiginous rocky spur. We admire the view over the Ardennes forest and the River Ourthe, which winds languorously across the massif! Below us, the river has a golden hue and everything seems magical! We take our time on this hike which follows the Escapardenne Trail. But by constantly stopping to rave about the views, we're caught out by the fall of dusk. The atmosphere is mystical, but the situation potentially dangerous! By some miracle, we find our way back to the camper van, guided by the light of the full moon and the meanders of the River Ourthe.
The song of the forest
We spend a peaceful night by Nisramont dam, in the middle of the massif, not far from the meeting point between the eastern and western Ourthe rivers. The next day, we go for a revitalising walk on the banks of the lake. The renowned Achouffe brewery is just 10 kilometres away, so we decide to go there. The visit is informative, but there isn't the same family atmosphere as we've found in the smaller, craft breweries. Our thirst for discovery is quenched, but there's still one thing missing before our experience is complete. The middle of autumn is the ideal time of year to hear the bellow of the deer. Although we think we might have heard it from the camper van, the song of the deer has never sounded so familiar as it does this evening. Because we've come to the Tailles plateau to meet Julien, a nature lover with a passion for the forest who writes the "Phoenix Trail" blog. What better way to end our trip than spending an evening with him around the fire? The next day, we take the country roads back to Gouvy, fully satisfied, if already slightly nostalgic.
Camper van facilities along the way
Houffalize camper van service area
An exemplary service area. 14 pitches right in the town centre (Rue de la Roche), close to shops and restaurants. €20 for 24h parking, water, electricity (bring an adaptor), wastewater disposal, Public toilets and Wi-Fi. Washing machine (€6 or €11) and dryer (€4 per 15 minutes) also available.
Camper van parking only, no other facilities. Overnight parking authorised.
The Ourthe valley - a new facet around every bend of the meandering river