A lovely and varied walk in Wallonia, with plenty to see. I recommend this hike around Viroinval for a day or weekend!
Setting off early for my long weekend away in the Ardennes, I was in the village of Nismes by 9.30 a.m. This is one of the eight villages that form the municipality of Viroinval.
The village was deserted, so I parked the car by the tiny tourist office, assuming it would be a perfectly safe location. (It was the worst place I could have possibly chosen; but more of that disaster later!). I had already selected a 24 km route for my hike around Viroinval. The map of the route is shown below. You can download the map as a PDF. And you can get the GPX route from my RouteYou page.
I found the starting point on Rue Grande and set off. I didn’t have far to walk before my first eyebrow-raising experience.
LE FONDRY DES CHIENS
This astounding natural gorge has been formed over millions of years by rainfall erosion on limestone rocks. It’s decorated with giant boulders, and the abyss apparently has a depth of 20 meters. You can see from the surrounding trees how big it is. Not exactly Grand Canyon size, but pretty remarkable nevertheless.
The surrounding chalk grassland is well-known for its rare and delicate flora that has developed in what is called a natural microcosm. Spring is the best time to go flower spotting here, so I may well come back next April/May.
While you are at Le Fondry des Chiens, take some time to sit and enjoy the landscape. Please be careful though as nasty accidents have happened here, especially amongst younger folk seeking the best selfie.
ROCHE AUX FAUCONS
Next up is this rocky outcrop that gives you a super view over the surrounding countryside.
As you can see, it’s a very wooded area, and the path goes through some lovely forests. As the song goes – “If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise” …
Don’t get too close to the edge! There is a warning board for climbers, but no fencing, and it’s a big drop down!
After all that excitement, it’s time to meander back down to civilization and the pretty little village of …
As you’ve guessed, the river is the Viroin:
This really is a picturesque walk, because the next port of call has made the list of the Prettiest Villages in Wallonia …
By now I was on the homeward stretch, which went through some deeply mysterious forests:
… fields of gold …
… and some more interesting rock formations to round off a wonderful day:
AND THEN … DISASTER!
Heading back towards Nismes at 5.30 p.m., feeling pretty exhausted after my hike around Viroinval and walking 24 km, the sound of music reached my ears. Entering the village, it was clear that a summer market was in full swing. Scores of stalls were selling everything from local produce to clothes to second-hand books. And I became aware as I walked through the streets that they had all been made pedestrian-only.
Would I be able to drive my car out of the village?
The answer was a resounding NO. I found my car by the tourist office. But a huge stall selling racks and racks of women’s clothes had been set up in front of it. My car was totally imprisoned!
I spoke to the stall-owner. He explained that everyone in the village was fully aware that all cars had to be removed from the village centre before noon, to enable the stalls to be set up. And that he was unable to move his racks of clothes.
“So when does the market finish?” I asked him.
“Midnight, and we will have finished packing up by 1 a.m., when you can pick up your car.”
I had booked up a local B&B for the night. However, it wasn’t in Nismes but the next village of Dourbes – five kilometers away!
There was no option but to get my weekend bag out of the car, and walk another 5 km!
B&B LES GABELOUS
I made it, and found the B&B that I had booked.
Les Gabelous is an excellent B&B. I would rate it as good as any B&B I have ever stayed in. The hosts, Fabienne and Ben, were extremely friendly. The facilities were top-class. And the food (evening meal, breakfast and packed lunch) was tasty, wholesome, abundant and good value for money. What’s more, the host gave me a lift back into Nismes in the morning, so I didn’t have to retrace my steps!
So all in all, despite the kerfuffle with the car, it was an excellent hike around Viroinval. Stay tuned for the next stage.
ALSO WORTH VISITING NEAR NISMES
- Three Valleys Steam Train: Choo-choo!
- Museum du Malgre-Tout: Regional archeological museum
- Espace Arthur Masson: Old-time school experience
- Ecomusee du Viroin: Crafts of the past
Also, check out this video from Dieter The Photographer:
Or enjoy some beautiful classical music played by Discovering Belgium contributor Herman Vandecauter who packed his ukulele into his rucksack to play it alongside Le Fondry des Chiens:
Ups, sorry for laughing, but my mishaps with public transport are nothing compared to your nightmare 😀 Imagine the problem if you hadn’t booked a B&B! Loved reading the report and watching your photos. The village names sound familiar from other walking blogs; there must be a GR nearby!
Yes I can laugh now Guido, but not at the time! I was constantly coming across the red-and-white markers, so there is a GR down there, but which one(s) I am not sure.
It happens to be GR 12 ;-), so the one I’m walking at the moment. So I hope to pass by one day. Another one there is GR 125, which is a regional GR, so soon to be painted in yellow and red and so is LA GRANDE TRAVERSÃ‰E DE LA FORÃŠT DU PAYS DE CHIMAY
Oh no, 24km + 5km with a bag! I bet you appreciated your bed that night. And presumably you had to walk back to your car the next day on top of whatever else you were planning.
I sure did Anabel. Thanks for the reminder: I meant to add that the kindly B&B host gave me a lift into Nismes, where my car was waiting patiently and unencumbered. I’ll add it now.
It’s a good thing you’re a walker, that was quite a day’s hike!! Glad the B&B turned out to be so excellent. For one moment, I envisioned you rev’ing up the car, plowing ahead, and careening down the road, with dresses flapping from the side mirrors.
You’re doing very well by Belgium with this album, that you could see so many picturesque scenes on a single day!
They’re all terrific photos, but I especially like that forest shot !
What a great vision you give! If I were James Bond or Jack Reacher I would undoubtedly have tried that. Thanks for your positive comments about the photos.
Ken het daar vrij goed en heb al die wandelingen en dorpjes ook al gedaan.Je mag nog van geluk spreken dat je auto niet weg gesleurd werd want dan had je de dure sleepingskosten ook nog aan je been gehad maar begrijp bestdat dit een drama was na 24 km wandelen.Ptachtige toegevoegde foto’s
Ja, mijn B & B-host dacht dat dat ook zou kunnen gebeuren. Gelukkig heeft het niet gedaan. Ik ben blij dat u het gebied kent. Het is mooi en ook zo stil. Ik zag alleen mountainbikers maar nauwelijks wandelaars.
Good grief, what an adventure you had, Denzil. Can’t say you sat around all day. I love the photos of Le Fondry des Chiens – those boulders are magnificent and the pretty river meandering through and the forest of tall trees – truly lovely. The village is quite pretty but I guess you learned that not every serendipitous opportunity is truly serendipitous – parking-wise, anyway. Did you shop at the market? I wouldn’t have been able to resist.
I have to admit Sharon, that shopping in the market – and possibly buying extra weight to carry those extra miles – was not in the forefront of my mind! 🙂 Actually, if I’d been thinking on my feet (as Di mentioned below) I could have SOLD some of my overnight paraphernalia to lighten my load! Ah, the thoughts and ideas we have AFTER an event!
What an adventure, in every sense of the word.
I felt your horror as you learnt about the fate of your car…
You displayed the art of thinking on your feet!
I love how the stall owner just worked around your car.
The B&B sounds beautiful, and the owners very kind to drive you back to the village.
All in all, a lovely post and a happy ending for you ðŸ’ðŸ’
Thanks for dropping by, Di. I’m not sure about “thinking on my feet.” If I had really had my wits about me, I would have taken a photo of a VW Golf in the middle of a woman’s fashion department 🙂 Or noticed the sign earlier (that the stallowner said was “somewhere”) that apparently said “no parking here after noon”. But as you intimated and Shakespeare said – All’s well that ends well!
Ah, I get you… a photo of the situation. Well, I think problem solving mode took preference there Denzil…
As for the sign…much too obscure!
It certainly makes for some fun story telling now. I can only imagine the ‘stories’ I’ll be accumulating as we navigate living in a new city in a new countryðŸ¤”ðŸ¤”ðŸ™„
Thanks for a nice reply….have a lovely Sunday ðŸ™‹ðŸ»ðŸ’
How are the preparations for the move going Di? Do you have a departure date and a place to live?
Thank you for asking.
I appreciate it.
The Visa application is in at the UK office now so when we hear back we can book flights. All other things are in full swing, like intensive medicals, tax briefings to name just two.
So at this stage, Tony hopes to be in the London office by mid September. So under 4 weeks now.
It’s very exciting.
Thank you again Denzil and wishing you a lovely Summer week ðŸ™‹ðŸ»ðŸ’ðŸ’
Then these are exciting but potentially stressful times Di. I wish you peace amidst the bustle, calmness to rise above the frustrations, and safety during travel.
Yes, it’s the business end now so it will be a little more stressful. You are right there, Denzil.
That’s very kind of you to offer a warm blessing too. Thank you sincerely ðŸ’
Now, this was truly an adventure from morning to night. Beautiful photos, gorgeous B&B, and I’m glad they gave you a ride back. This will be a story you can chuckle about for many years. 🙂 Like the new blog layout.
Yes Judy, I’m already chuckling. Glad you like the new layout.
I’m surprised there wasn’t a sign on the car park to let you know about the market. Maybe the stall owner made that up. ðŸ˜Š lucky your walk was so interesting and how thoughtful of your overnight host to take you back the next day.
I’m sure there was a sign Carol. Maybe I was just in too much of a rush to get onto my walk. I’m just glad the police didn’t tow away the car. Or the stallholder sell it! 🙂
Yes, it could have been much more disastrous. 🙂
A beautiful walk in a beautiful region ,this we made also in Names, our car was towed away, however,..120â‚¬ 🙁
Oh no that’s really bad news, I guess I was very lucky. Misschien Mijnheer de Politieman was op vakantie!
I do enjoy walking with you, Denzil! You take me to bits of Belgium I didn’t even know exist. I really like the ups and downs in this one. I’m not much of a fan of flat landscapes, though they’re easier on the legs. I might have been tempted to look for a b and b in Virionval if I’d been you, but it worked out ok in the end. 🙂 🙂
Your postings are of inestimable interest. I look forward to every one. However, my roots are from West Flanders, and specifically, Meulebeke. Might you ever consider going there for one of your postings? I suppose the scenery there may not be as good as what you are currently working with.
Thank you for such a lovely comment Michael. I don’t think I have visited Meulebeke. However, I have been to many places in West Flanders. An overview is here: https://www.discoveringbelgium.com/category/west-flanders/ And I while ago I visited Tielt, which is just up the road from Meulebeke: https://www.discoveringbelgium.com/2013/08/14/tielt/ Having said that, recommendations from readers are always interesting, so next time I am in that province I will drop into Meulebeke.
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Beautiful hike. The scenery is so pretty.
Thanks. Yes it is a lovely part of the country.
Wow. Quite the adventure and a surprise you truly did not want after an exhausting walk. No bus or hitch hike ride those 5km to the B&B, huh? Luckily, it was “only” 5 km and you arrived well before dark. For a moment, I thought your car had been broken into or something like that, when you mentioned a disaster in the beginning of the blog and then I thought you’d have to spend the night in your car until you could move it. While it was a horrible realization at the end of a wonderful day, there are a few silver linings to the story, especially your good experience at the B&B and the ride back in the morning. Nice hike!
No bus Liesbet, and all the cars were heading towards the village (the market!) and not away from it. And giving me strange looks as they passed! 🙂
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That sounds like a proper walk Denzil and your photographs give a real sense of place and atmosphere. I was wondering how you managed to get images of the pretty village without the usual clutter of cars to spoil them. I suppose at least your car was still there when you got back to it – you know it would probably have been clamped or even towed away over here!
Yes Theresa sometimes I have to do a lot of careful cropping to remove the cars from the photos. And yes, I am glad no-one removed my own car!
wow another 5 k walk to get to your B&B… Looks well worth the walking though Denzil.. Loved that Gorge.. and it is my kind of countryside
Love the architecture , And like England stone bridges across rivers that stand the test of time..
Loved my walk with you 🙂
Thanks Sue you are kind. It seems that a trip to the Ardennes would suit you just fine!
It would suit me down to the ground as they say.. 🙂
Man, first – thanks for the reading. I was there with my family back in 2016 and it was very nice place to stay for some time…
And how I understand your troubles with car! I finished like this few years back, when I walked – after several days of walking through southern part of Czech Republic – to the small village, where I had a night booked. What a surprise when I realized the village has two parts (divided by wide river without any bridge) and I am on the wrong side (navigation failed). It ment a) to return back to the bigger city and on the other side (5 kms), b) to go opposite direction and pass cca 150 meters of giant wet nettles (it was right after the rain), c) to cross the river (rejected due to my bag). So finally – as I was super tired – I resigned and called taxi. 🙂
So yes, I truly understand, how you felt that time.
Greetings from Czech Republic and have a nice time while discovering! 😉
Hey Petr, great to hear from you, thanks for dropping by. And what a tale you tell! These kinds of experiences are no fun, especially when they occur at the end of a day when you’re exhausted after a day’s hike. Still, glad to see you took the sensible option!
Thanks Herman: great video!
Thanks for pointing me to this article!
Now I am looking forward to Viroinval on my quest to visit all the geographical centers of Europe – https://andreasmoser.blog/2022/08/11/journey-to-the-center-of-europe/ .
Viroinval enjoyed that honor when the EU had 15 member states. And maybe that explains the flags of all EU nations around the church in Nismes at the beginning of your story.
Note to myself: Don’t go by car:
(Good that I don’t have one.)