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The Hautes Fagnes

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The high plateau that stretches north of Malmédy up as far as Eupen is known as the Hautes Fagnes (in German, the Hohes Venn or High Fens) and is now protected as a national park. This area marks the end of the Ardennes proper and has been twinned with the Eifel hills to form the sprawling Deutsch-Belgischer Naturpark. The Hautes Fagnes accommodates Belgium’s highest peak, the Signal de Botrange (694m), but the rest of the area is boggy heath and woods, windswept and rather wild – excellent hiking country, though often fearsome in winter.

Some 7km north of Robertville, on the road to Eupen, the Centre Nature Botrange (t080 44 03 00, whttp://www.botrange.be) provides a focus for explorations of the national park. A bus runs to the centre from Eupen, but otherwise you’ll need your own car to get there. At the centre, multilingual audio-guides steer you around a permanent exhibition, Naturama, which describes the flora and fauna of the area and explains how the fagnes were created and how they’ve been exploited. The centre also rents out skis in winter and runs organized hikes.

Further up the main road is the Signal de Botrange, Belgium’s highest point, though the high-plateau nature of the Hautes Fagnes means it doesn’t feel very high at all. A tower marks the summit, offering a good panorama over the fagnes, and there’s a restaurant that’s ultra-popular with coach parties and walkers alike.

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