ARDENNES, LUXEMBOURG AND BASTOGNE
3 days 620 miles Castles
WITH ITS MULTI-LAYERED, picturesque landscapes shifting between gentle, rolling farmland in the west to steeply forested river valleys in the east, Luxembourg isn’t the top of many biker’s lists of places to visit because it hasn’t got grand Alpine passes or Pyrenean peaks. But the Grand Duchy makes a memorable long riding weekend — especially if you plot a route to take you there and back through the verdant majesty of the French Ardennes.
At 60 miles tall and 40 miles wide, Luxembourg is the same size as an average English county but it’s greener, cleaner, isn’t choked with fat, angry holiday traffic and has better food, wine and beer. And its roads — even back lanes — are mostly billiard-smooth. Luxembourg is Europe done right.
To get there from Calais, pick up the A25 and A23 Autoroutes to Valenciennes, then drift through the Avesnois regional park’s slowly unwinding country roads in the general direction of Belgium. Cross the border, then back again into the French Ardennes and pick up the Meuse river. Dodge either side of the Semois valley in a scribble of narrow tarmac, cross into Belgium again, and stop in Neufchâteau; confusingly, this is in the Belgian province of Luxembourg, but not actually in Luxembourg. Blimey, borders, eh?
Day two is pure Luxembourg the country, though. The day’s distance is around 90 miles but it’s all easy-going bend-swinging on an asphalt surface that would shame a brand-new racetrack. Minor and major roads are quiet, well-maintained (with bike-‘friendly’ crash barriers) and although no epic rides — in terms of topography, Luxembourg is more Wolds than Highlands — instead a network of relaxed, drawling roads glide beneath shimmering arched tree foliage. Or stop and bask in the historical splendour of Luxembourg’s castles and stately homes perched on rocky outcrops. Not many of those in Lincolnshire, to be fair.
Every town and village is an excuse for a coffee and a wander; you can lose the day enjoying the region’s food, architecture, history and lifestyle. It’s a chilled, laid-back biking vibe — the bike is a vehicle to experience more than just riding.
Like most of Europe, Luxembourg welcomes riders and their wallets, with loads of hotels, inns and B&BS posting biker-friendly signs, many equipped with wet rooms (it has been known to rain sometimes) and secure parking (crime is low anyway). Language is no barrier; Luxembourgers are friendly and engaging, and happy to be as fluent in English as they will also be in German, French, Flemish and Luxembourgish.
Must-see sights of a slightly rushed one-day loop (or make it two!) would include the winding Moselle vineyards (you should stop for a night, for a proper taste of several bottles), the Mullerthal’s stunning rock formations (pack walking boots), and castles at Vianden, Beaufort and Clervaux (which also includes the world-famous Family of Man photo exhibition — well worth the time).
The final day is a re-tread of the first, but with yet more back-road chicanery across the heart of Luxembourg before diverting to visit Bastogne, scene of incredible American bravery and resistance in WW2 (visit the memorial). Then trace a steady crosscountry stretch back up towards Valenciennes and Calais on arrow-straight rural Belgian N-roads. You’ll come back slightly poorer but so much richer.