From its world-famous forest to the craggy Meuse Valley, The French Ardennes is renowned as one of the least-explored, greenest and wildest areas of France.
Its outstanding natural beauty was officially recognised in February 2012 by the designation of the Parc Naturel Régional (PNR). A scheme created by the local authorities and the national government as a way of recognising a rural area of outstanding beauty, a PNR is similar in status to the UK’s own National Parks.
This is a great outdoors, where the visitor is able to go walking, cycling, canoeing, horse-riding, swimming, bathing, fishing, sailing, or enjoy heart-pumping adrenalin-inducing activities while still communing with nature.
Its green credentials have been further enhanced by the creation of an “Ardenne Ecotourism Club”, which was created by tourism professionals to make optimal use of environmental resources, to help local economy and to preserve the natural heritage.
Whether providing accommodation or outdoor activities, all members of the Club respect the guidelines of tourism sustainability. In practice, this means supporting the development of non-motorised travel routes, the responsible use of activities and equipment, and the promotion of the local food network.
Boasting well over 600 miles of hiking trails, The French Ardennes is a hiker’s paradise; and Ardennes Tourism itself publishes an annual Walking and cycling in the French Ardennes guide.
The most recent cycle path, meanwhile, has already been welcomed as one of the finest in the whole of France. The Trans-French Ardennes cycle path runs 75 miles from Charleville-Mézières to Remilly-Aillicourt, giving walkers and cyclists the opportunity to see the Meuse valley, Sedan and surrounding countryside. The path is part of the 621 miles Meuse Cycle Route (an EuroVelo official candidate route), which runs along the Meuse River from its opening in Rotterdam to its source in the Haute-Marne. The “Accueil Vélo” label is a guarantee of its quality and welcome; and further details can be found at http://fr.calameo.com/read/000023007ba316e9b3c77.
Other trails such as the Ennemane (6 miles from Remilly-Aillicourt to Raucourt-et-Flaba) and the Trans-Semoysienne (9 miles from Monthermé to Hautes-Rivières) offer the cyclist other options.
At Fumay, the longest zip-wire in northern France (1,200 metres) flies over the River Meuse. TerrAltitude’s “Fantasticable®” is where willing volunteers are welcome for a ride they won’t forget – in tandem-trips, or by adopting the all-new solo seating position. The latest experience created for 2018 here is a “Catapult”, which will launch visitors over a distance of 20 metres!
Given the nature of its terrain, The French Ardennes also gives visitors plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation in the great outdoors. And amongst the more unusual places to stay is a Mongolian yurt, a Japanese ryokan, a gypsy caravan, a Nordic kota, tree houses, a wood cabin, and other off-the-grid accommodation.
Two major attractions with a strong link to the wild nature of The French Ardennes are: The Parc Argonne Découverte – a rapidly growing outdoors venue, which offers an insight into the wildlife of the region, as well as one of the leading Wolf Parks in France; and the Domaine de Vendresse – a leisure park combining happily nature, water sports with industrial history.
And in terms of The French Ardennes hitting the right note with arguably the most eco-friendly and highly eclectic music festivals on the planet, there’s Le Cabaret Vert… One of Europe’s top music festivals this year’s Cabaret Vert takes place from August 23 to 26.
A new magazine-style brochure, entitled French Ardennes Inspirations, can be downloaded online http://gb.ardennes.com.
IMAGE USED: ©laetis