After spending the previous day exploring Luxembourg’s industrial heritage we turned our attention to its beautiful Ardennes region. This is located in the north eastern part of the country and home to several magnificent castles. We drove along some winding roads and made our first stop at Bourscheid Castle, a 40 minute journey from the city centre.
We paused briefly at a viewpoint on the road leading up to the castle to admire views of it before finding a parking place in the free car park near to the entrance. Standard entry to the castle is €7 (£6.15) and free for holders of the Luxembourg Card.
Bourscheid is the largest castle in Luxembourg being enlarged in four stages, the last of which was in 1430 with the construction of its large curtain wall and many towers. In 1384 the Stolzemburger House was erected next to it as a residential building where the Lords of Bourscheid resided.
Abandoned in the 19th century, the imposing castle fell into ruins. Fast forward to 1972 when significant restoration work took place and the castle was opened to the public.
We took a self-guided tour starting in the Bailey with its infamous pillory where prisoners used to be chained and subjected to public ridicule. We then clambered over the ruins and up the steps to the top of the lookout towers from where we had some spectacular views across the scenic Ardennes region.
After viewing the dungeons and more of the ruins we ended our visit in the Gatekeepers House which is now a museum displaying castle artefacts.
On leaving there, we continued on to Vianden Castle taking about 35 minutes and parking in a free car park next to the chairlift. The Vianden Chairlift is the only cable car in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and offers panoramic views over the Our Valley at an altitude of 220-440 metres.
Tickets cost €7 (£6.15) and are included in the Luxembourg Card. I always enjoy a ride on a chairlift and the five minute journey up the hillside towards the castle was lovely with breathtaking views over the pine covered hills and of the pastel hues of the village below.
From the upper station there was a choice of two paths to the castle, one 1800m and described as easy and the other 600m and challenging. The start of the shorter route didn’t look all that challenging and as we were both wearing sensible shoes we decided to go that way. As it had been very dry, the loose stones weren’t slippery and we managed the path with ease and soon found ourselves at the castle entrance.
Vianden is one of the most beautiful feudal residences in Europe and a masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The castle was constructed between the 12th and 14th centuries to house the powerful Counts of Vianden.
However, after centuries of dominance in the region their descendants moved to the Netherlands and the castle was abandoned and laid to ruins until the second half of the 20th century. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg transferred it to the state’s ownership in 1977 and since then it has been restored to its former glory.
There is much to see in the castle starting in the courtyard and continuing on to the Arms Hall between the Knights’ Study and the Knights’ Hall, all of which display armour and weapons used in the Middle Ages. Another highlight was the Octagon Tower which houses the Upper Chapel, a masterpiece of the early Gothic period with its multitude of columns.
After enjoying cool drinks in the courtyard cafe we followed the path down to the charming village below and enjoyed a wander around its shops and by the riverside.
Overlooking the river is the Maison de Victor Hugo, (entrance €5 (£4.38) and included in the Luxembourg Card). This small museum arranged over several floors is where the famous French poet and novelist Victor Hugo lived.
It exhibits paintings, texts and exhibits of the author who spent several months there in 1861 during his exile and where he wrote Les Miserables.
We then followed the riverside path back to where we had left the car, stopping again for cold drinks at a cafe at the foot of the Chairlift. Feeling refreshed, we got back in the car and set off to visit the small town of Clerveaux.
We were so glad that we had decided to call there on our way back to the city centre as Clerveaux is such a pretty town nestled in a valley setting on the banks of the River Clerve. It’s dominated by the picture perfect Clerveaux Castle which, along with Bourscheid and Vianden, is another beauty.
Built during medieval times, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II it was almost completely destroyed by fire. The former fortification now houses ‘The Family of Man’ exhibition comprising a collection of over 500 photographs exploring ideas of what it is to be human.
Also of interest is the parish church, characterised by its twin spires and diamond shaped roof, which we thought was really beautiful.
A walk along its flower adorned streets followed and then an obligatory stop for ice creams before returning to our base in Luxembourg City centre. How we’d enjoyed visiting all three of these beautiful castles in the Ardennes region.
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