leaves on the water of the Rau de Vieux Fourneau
Autumn leaves on the Rau de Vieux Fourneau
Grand Bru lies in the valley of a small river – the Rau de Vieux Fourneau – which tumbles into the larger river Aisne, which is, in turn, a tributary of Belgium’s second longest river, the Ourthe. For tourism purposes, the immediate surroundings are branded as Le Pays d’Ourthe & Aisne. We are also in the Famenne region (or, geologically speaking, the Calestienne). This is an area of limestone known for its deep and giant caves carved out over millions of years, and adorned with enormous stalagmites and stalactites. Several of the caves are open to the public, including that of Remouchamp with its breath-taking subterranean gondola trip along the Rubicon river (not Julius Caesar’s Rubicon, but you can cross it nonetheless). Above ground there’s a varied landscape of bucolic beauty.

The sombre, conifer hillsides of the Ardennes lie further to the south. Here, a mix of evergreen and broadleaf trees is evenly balanced with pasture and hedgerows. Jagged teeth of rock stand like sentinels in mossy fairy-tale forests of pine, oak, beech and hornbeam. Cliffs overhang meadows and rivers and tumbling streams. Picturesque farms and villages abound. And prehistoric communities have left their mark. Between the valleys, on high plateaus, expanses of moorland filter the various sources of the Ourthe. And in the colder months – climate change permitting – the downhill ski slopes are close by too, perhaps Belgium’s best kept secret! Obviously, the best thing you can do in Le Pays d’Ourthe & Aisne is to walk! (If only to work up an appetite for the second-best thing, which is to eat.) Some people like to go by bike, and there are plenty of dedicated trails for that too, including the elaborate “ravels”. And for an extra special excursion, you can even take a donkey to carry your load…