Going off-grid, and a little wild, in The French Ardennes

Less than two hours from Paris, The French Ardennes remains one of the lest-explored, greenest and – in places – wildest areas of France.


Most of it was designated as a Parc Naturel Régional (PNR) in February, 2012 – recognising it as a rural area of outstanding natural beauty.


French holiday makers to the region already know exactly what to expect here: a “great outdoors” where it’s possible to commune with nature, and spend day-after-day in the open air enjoying the sights and sounds of one of the most unspoiled regions of France.


Not surprisingly, this is all reflected perfectly in the choice of accommodation, range of activities, and many of the attractions that are available to visitors.  It’s the kind of place where you can sleep in the trees or in hammocks, go walking with donkeys, and learn to climb rock-faces or trees.


Typical of the accommodation available here are the Finnish-style kotas which are now starting to pop-up across the region, and which are also highlighted on a page on the Ardennes Tourism website (http://gb.ardennes.com/home/resultats-de-la-recherche/q/kota).


Amongst these are two brand new kotas for 2017: one in Semide (http://bit.ly/2tZxhmO); and the other in Lac de Bairon (http://bit.ly/2ve3lTK).  (The price for a weekend stay here is around €150; or €350 for a week).


The Kotas are typical of huts lived-in by Saamis, the people of northern Finland.  And while most are equipped with beds, furniture, and electricity, some do not have running water for environmental reasons


A separate Wellness Village – Kotas Nordic Spirit (http://www.kotas-espritnordique.fr/en/) – in the tiny village of Balaives-et-Butz also opened to the public at the end of 2015.  Each one of the four comfortable and well-appointed Nordic kotas here has its own pontoon by the lake for fishing and relaxation, while the wellness area itself includes a spa and a traditional Finnish sauna.  Open all year, prices start from €125 for 2 people per night, including breakfast.


Other, similar, accommodation in The French Adrennes includes the Cabane et Vallee (http://cabane-et-vallee.fr) located within the French regional nature park.  The two woodland cabins which sleep 2-4 people, are in the village of Haulmé village in the remote and wild Semoy Valley to the north of the region.  Prices start from €120 a night; and there are many outdoor activities nearby – including canoeing, climbing, walking and cycling.  A new cycle path for 2016 – La Transsemoysienne – along the Semoy river also runs past these new woodland huts.


Elsewhere, here is a genuine opportunity to go back to nature from €90 a night at Cab’âne – a wood cabin without WiFi, and equipped with candles, an ancient stove and a dry and composting toilet (https://www.lacabane-ardennes.com/).


And if you are staying in this style of accommodation, what better reason to visit between mid-September to mid-October, than when it is possible to join guided tours that go deep into the forest to hear The Deer’s Bellow (http://bit.ly/2hnY0nl)?


There are several ways of joining-in with this incredible experience: one way is to head to the village of Belval Bois des Dames on September 12, 15, 16, 19, 22, 24 and 25, when it will be possible to join a guided tour, with evening meal for €55 (or €16 without a meal).  Advance booking is required.  For further details visit http://gb.ardennes.com/belval-bois-des-dames/soiree-brame-du-cerf/tabid/5421/offreid/7bf5e3df-9c0c-42ed-81a2-b4c9b5ee35a6.


The other option is a one-off event in Hargnies in the evening of September 22, when the cost is €25 per person, including a meal. Places are limited and booking is required (http://gb.ardennes.com/hargnies/le-brame-du-cerf/tabid/5421/offreid/616ca0bd-1f0b-4acd-b5d4-efa0b57caa55; Tel: +33 3 24 42 90 57).


Just three hours’ drive time from Calais, and linked from the UK with the high speed TGV trains (via Lille, and Paris), further details about The French Ardennes are featured in the 2017 edition of the Discovery Guide to The French Ardennes which can be ordered by emailing info@ardennes.com, or by telephoning +33 324 56 06 08.


For further information, visit http://gb.ardennes.com.