Belgium // The Ardennes //

Walking, biking and canoeing along the River Lesse

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The Dinant tourist office sells the Institut Géographique National’s map Dinant et ses Anciennes Communes, which shows fifteen numbered circular walks in the Dinant area, each of which has a designated starting point at one of the district’s hotels. Also shown on the map are one cycling circuit and five mountain bike routes, the latter ranging from five to forty kilometres in length; to see the most attractive scenery you need to get out on the longer routes 19 and 20. The 5km Walk 5 takes in much of the locality’s most pleasant scenery, weaving its way along and around the River Lesse between the hamlets of Anseremme and Pont à Lesse. It involves some reasonably testing ascents, whereas GR route 126 offers about three hours of gentle walking along the Lesse between Houyet and Gendron-Celles, both of which have a train station. Take the train timetable along with your picnic and you can plan to arrive at Gendron-Celles in time for the return train to Dinant. The 8km Walk 8 is not one of the more spectacular routes – much of it is over tarmac road – but it does allow you to visit a couple of places of some interest. From Gendron-Celles train station, the route leads about 2km northeast along a country road – and beside a small tributary of the Lesse – to Vêves, whose fifteenth-century château is perched on a grassy mound overlooking the surrounding countryside (whttp://www.chateau-de-veves.be). With its spiky turrets and dinky towers, the château is inordinately picturesque, but the interior is disappointingly mundane – mostly eighteenth-century period rooms. A couple of kilometres further on, Celles is one of the prettier villages hereabouts, gently filing up the slope of a wooded hill, underneath the huge tower and Lombard arches of the Romanesque Église St-Hadelin. There’s a sporadic bus service from here to Dinant, or you can return to Gendron-Celles train station via the Bois de Hubermont. If you’re driving, note that Celles is on the N94, about 9km east of Dinant.

The standard itinerary for potential canoeists and kayakers begins at Anseremme, where most take the train (or special minibus) to either Gendron-Celles (for the 11km 3hr paddle back) or Houyet (21km; 5hr). If you’re travelling by train to begin with, you can go straight to Gendron or Houyet from Dinant and pick up a boat there – but remember that advance reservations are well-nigh essential. The Lesse itself is wild and winding, with great scenery, though be warned that it sometimes gets so packed that there’s a veritable canoe log jam. Consequently, it’s a good idea to set out as early as possible to avoid some of the crush – though if you’re paddling back from Houyet you really have to get going early anyway. Both Gendron-Celles and Houyet train stations are metres from the river – and the boats – and also make good starting points for hiking the surrounding countryside.

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