Belgian Ardennes: A clean-air break


Colin Moors takes a look at a local company who rent holiday accommodation on your doorstep in the Belgian Ardennes.

City life can be tiring for all of us. If you have children, there’s the school run, their after-school activities and looking after the home. If not, there’s the long working day, the stress of the job and possibility of dashing out to a local bar or restaurant for some brief downtime before bed and then back to work. The city atmosphere is gripped by smog and poor air quality and the traffic is regularly at a standstill.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get away from it all? You might be thinking that would mean getting to the airport, getting a plane, the transfers, the stress of air travel in general. Well, you could do that. Or, you could take a short journey by car – only an hour and a half away – to an oasis of rolling green hills, rivers and fresh, clean air, right on your doorstep – the Belgian Ardennes. Take an early finish on a Friday and you could be there in time for dinner, your comfortable accommodation awaiting you, thanks to Ardennes-Etape and the Belgian Ardennes.

Founded in 1999, Ardennes-Etape have 16 years’ experience in taking you out of the city and welcoming you into the beautiful Belgian countryside. Based in Stavelot, in the heart of The Ardennes, they offer a selection of high-quality accommodation to suit any budget and any number of people. To save you money, Ardennes-Etape also supply a book of suggestions for activities, eating and visits, with anything up to 20% off the list price and often 2 for 1. The Ardennes-pass is required reading to get the best out of your stay. For an idea of what is possible, here are a few suggestions to start your getaway:

Perched on a hillside in the village of Coo, overlooking green fields and mountains, is an exclusive hangout for two people. Use it as your base for cycling, trekking or even cave-diving, then sit back and relax in the sauna before dinner. You could visit Plopsa Coo for an adventure of a different sort – bobsleighing, playing mini-golf or visiting the monkeys on Monkey Island.  Or, you could just take the dog and go for a walk, it’s up to you. Man’s best friend is welcome too.

If you have a large family, how about the next step up? A completely stand-alone (and outstanding) house right in the middle of the countryside with a real log-burning fire and enough space for nine people. Set in Saint-Hubert, it provides an opportunity to visit the 9th century Baroque basilica, and if places of worship aren’t your thing, it’s just 20 km from Rochefort, where religion takes on a new angle – the famous Trappist beer. The huge kitchen in the house may only get used at breakfast time, as you will no doubt want to go out and relax in the countryside or take advantage of the many places to eat and drink in the surrounding area. If you like to fish, bring your equipment and pick a spot at one of the well-stocked lakes from around €10 a day. There’s sometimes a no-kill policy, so if you were looking to provide food for the family, it’s best to check.

BELGIAN ARDENNES If you really can’t get away from your work colleagues but still want to experience all the Ardennes has to offer, there’s a way to persuade them to come along with you. A house that sleeps between 28 and 34 people, and which even has a meeting room. The meeting will be considerably less painful once you realize there’s also a sauna, indoor pool, hot tub and games room to lose yourself in afterwards.

The Ardennes is the perfect place to visit any time of year. The attractions may be more obvious in the summer and autumn, with the wide range of outdoor activities, woodland walks and breath-taking scenery – even cave-diving for the adventurous spelunker! In the winter it’s transformed into a winter sports paradise. Europe’s best-kept secret, there are numerous pistes for downhill and cross-country skiing, alongside tobogganing and many other winter diversions. For some, the idea of heaven is to rent a place out in the snow-covered country, light a roaring fire and just do nothing – a complete de-stress.

You might choose The Ardennes for many different reasons. Some prefer to stay in a town, such as Bouillon, with its famous castle, or Dinant, one of the most well-known locations in The Ardennes. Others go for a more high-octane stay, visiting the famous Spa Francorchamps racetrack, the “most beautiful circuit in the world”. When the motor racing professionals aren’t doing their thing, there are track days when you can take your own car around the circuit.

Whatever your reason, Ardennes-Etape has a cosy place to call home at the end of a busy day’s relaxation.