ARDENNES

France|August 2020

ARDENNES
Go with the slow in this green and pleasant corner of north-east France, says Helen Parkinson
Helen Parkinson

Once the stage for some of Europe’s most fearsome battles, the peaceful countryside of Ardennes today is a far cry from its beleaguered past. Sitting snugly against the Belgian border, it’s a département of rolling hills and thick forests – characteristics that Allied forces assumed, to their detriment, would make it impenetrable to invaders. With 75 years since the last major conflict, the Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes is as peaceful as they come; a rural idyll where you can enjoy French life at a slower pace – and it’s easy to reach from the UK.

Up hill, down dale

Laced with rivers and forests, Ardennes is one of France’s natural wonders. The Meuse carves its way through the countryside, departing into Belgium at Givet at the northern tip of the French Ardennes. Splayed across the north of the département is the Parc Naturel Regional des Ardennes with its protected forests, heathland, and marshes; inspiration for many a writer, notably Arthur Rimbaud. With 300km of hiking trails and 500km of leisure and mountain bike paths to explore, you could devote an entire holiday to this remarkable landscape.

Puppet show

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August 2020