A three-day walk in the Flemish Ardennes
Flirting with the language border
Three days of exploring the rolling hills and vast plains of the Flemish Ardennes? Sign me up! When Tourism Flemish Ardennes asked my friend and me to explore a beautiful corner of my native country, we wholeheartedly said yes. As keen mountain hikers, we like to tackle high peaks, but we felt like trying something different. With a rucksack full of enthusiasm, we set off on our hike in the Flemish Ardennes.
DAY 1: OUDENAARDE - KLUIS FOREST
The walk starts on Oudenaarde’s market square, which is easy to reach by train. The city is called the ‘pearl of the Flemish Ardennes’, and we soon understand why. Oudenaarde surprises with its impressive town hall, hidden corners full of character and idyllic paths along the Scheldt River.
After a few curious glances in the cosy streets, we leave Oudenaarde behind us. We are pleasantly surprised by the silence, which nature lays over us like a soft blanket.
What immediately stands out is the number of footpaths. Even the smallest path between a cornfield can be found on the map. This makes it possible to put together your own route and make the walk as short or long as you like. We are following the GR route and the Regional GR route Flemish Ardennes, marked with the colours white-red and red-yellow. We will be walking a total of about 73 km.
Heads roll on the Koppenberg
After walking for 90 minutes, we reach the Koppenberg, a feared slope in the Tour of Flanders. We see some courageous cyclists puffing uphill and watch with understanding when they get off their bikes to walk the last few metres. We are relieved that we can walk up this 77 m leg killer instead of cycling it.
Koppenberg Forest appears a little further on, offering us some coolness just in time. The hot afternoon sun tries to penetrate the trees in the forest, but fortunately, it does not succeed.
Cooling down and local beers in Kwaremont
We enjoy the scenery, but the scorching sun and 35°C heat make us suffer a bit. Just when you feel the urgent need for rest and shade, the little chapel ‘Ten Boeken’ appears out of nowhere. The appropriate text on the bench puts a smile on our faces.
TIP: Be prepared if you do this long hike in high temperatures because there are few opportunities to refill your water bottle on the first day. Bring plenty of water and drink enough to keep yourself hydrated.
Nico and I drink litre after litre of water until the last drop is almost in sight. The village of Kwaremont appears just in time. Café in de Zon – fortunately with shade – offers us salvation. “Two litres of chilled sparkling water, please, and a Kwaremont as well.” The latter, a tasty local beer, could not be passed up.
An oasis in Kluis Forest
Kluis Forest is a large playground for hikers and cyclists, with dozens of paths waiting to be discovered on the Kluisberg. We choose the path that leads to our destination of the day: B&B BosbAAr.
B&B BosbAAr appears as an oasis among the trees. Wet with sweat from our last climb, we walk into a new world. A world of jazz music, flamingos (not real, mind you), original accents and a refreshing shower! Stijn and Sylvie, and their cute donkeys Vittel and Perrier, warmly welcome us.
The fact that we can enjoy a luxurious room and a deliciously filling evening meal after a day of hiking is something new for us. In the mountains, we usually crawl straight into our tent. We like this new way, where you can really relax and refresh yourself. I crawl into bed, tired but satisfied, and think how wonderful it is to discover all these beautiful places in Belgium.
DAY 2: KLUIS FOREST - BRAKEL
A royal breakfast at BosbAAr and the coolness of the forest give us a good dose of energy to tackle the next 35 km. We are all alone and enjoy the sun’s rays softly penetrating the trees.
Once we walk out of the forest, we realise how hot it is. Fortunately, there is a good mixture of sun and shade on the programme today. We also get a dose of cycling history via the Ronde van Vlaanderenstraat, a well-known street from the Tour of Flanders that honours 76 Tour of Flanders winners on the paving.
The highest point in the province: Hotondberg
At 10:00, we are heading towards the highest point in East Flanders: the Hotondberg. After the short but steep climb, I feel completely exhilarated. It can feel good to make your body work! As a reward, a refreshing glass of water awaits us in Hotond Café, which immediately stands out because of its large mill that you can climb on! The outdoor café with its beautiful views completes the picture.
After a morning full of forests and countryside, we walk along the outskirts of Ronse. In this 35°C heat, we prefer to take a break in nature but find ourselves among the trees again after an hour.
Silence in the Muziekbos
Contrary to what its name suggests, we enjoy silence in the Muziekbos. Bluebells bloom here in the spring, but we enjoy this beautiful stretch of greenery even without these colourful flowers.
We have lunch at Bistro Boekzitting, but you can also bring your own picnic and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Muziekbos.
Without noticing it, we suddenly find ourselves in Wallonia. On some paths, you walk on the language border. If you go a bit more to the right, you are in Wallonia, to the left in Flanders. Start practising your French! On the other side of the language border, we like the village of D’Hoppe/La Houppe, a small hamlet completely surrounded by forests.
D’Hoppe feels like a holiday destination. You'll walk out of Pottelberg Forest and see the cosy outdoor cafés, small streets and cute houses appear. Don’t worry if you don’t speak French fluently; most people speak Dutch and English quite well too.
Pottelberg Forest and D’Hoppe connect seamlessly to Brakel Forest across the language border. We are back in Flanders! The route winds through the cool beech forest, with beech trees of up to 120 years old. We get the feeling that we have seen this forest before. Suddenly, it dawns on us that this is one of the most famous forests for viewing the carpet of bluebells. All the more reason to come back in spring!
We walk back into Wallonia, and the many kilometres and burning sun start to weigh on us. Fortunately, there are tables and benches in Livieren Forest, just in time for a well-deserved break.
We leave the GR route at the end of Livieren Forest and walk back into Flanders. Half an hour later, we arrive at our accommodation: B&B De Groene Weg.
Spending the night in a pod
B&B De Groene Weg
Do you want to feel as one with nature? Check out this B&B with ecological pods and views of the countryside. I cannot describe how wonderful it feels to take off my shoes and completely relax in this cosy wooden cabin. We enjoy the view with a Belgian beer and two curious sheep who are our neighbours.
The owners, Annette and Pieter, welcome us to their little paradise with a smile. Time seems to pass more slowly here. With a focus on simplicity and nature, we enjoy Annette’s homemade jam, eggs from their chickens and heavenly apple juice fresh from the orchard during our stay.
Storm and warmth at Moeder Agnes
In the evening, we dine at Moeder Agnes, a restaurant that is about a 20-minute walk from B&B De Groene Weg. It is raining intensily, but before we know it, we are enjoying their traditional beef stew and a big pot of mussels. Moeder Agnes is run with great passion by Gwénaël, who is bilingual, and Audrey, who is French. We quickly strike up a conversation with them.
DAY 3: BRAKEL - GERAARDSBERGEN
After an excellent night, I am woken up by a rooster, an owl and other birds that I hear in the distance. There’s no lack of nature and wild animals! We opt for a slow morning on our last day. There are fewer kilometres on the programme, and we give our bodies – and especially our feet – some extra rest. We enjoy the morning sun with a lovely breakfast basket and two social sheep who hope we will share all that good stuff.
B&B De Groene Weg
Encouraged by a cool breeze, we start the third day. We walk through the vast fields and see forests, maize and other crops all around us. There is also no shortage of Belgian Blue cattle, which show off in their large fields.
After 2.5 hours of brisk walking, we take a break at the church in Zarlardinge, ideal for savouring Annette’s packed lunch. And then it’s time: the last 90 minutes to Geraardsbergen.
Before we enter Geraardsbergen, we treat ourselves to chilled water at Het Bruggenhuis on the Dender River. Then we walk along the water towards the centre. It’s a beautiful walk, and many cyclists and walkers share the same opinion.
Last sweaty moment on the Wall
In Geraardsbergen, we are ready to sweat one last time. We'll arrive at the top of the Wall at about 14:30. We see a few cyclists attempting the climb, some more successful than others. The road rises steeply, with cobblestones that don’t make it any easier.
Our three-day walk in the Flemish Ardennes is over, which means we can treat ourselves in Café Het Hemelrijk. We enjoy a well-deserved mattentaart (a popular pastry from Geraardsbergen) while watching cyclists struggle to climb the Wall. It’s the perfect ending to a great trip! All that remains is the walk to Geraardsbergen station, where we can easily take the train back home.
These three days have flown by. It doesn’t feel like we walked 73 km, even though our feet would beg to differ. We discovered so many different landscapes and enjoyed the diversity between the rural countryside, refreshing forests and cosy villages.
If you’re not afraid of a long walk and want to discover a beautiful part of Belgium, I highly recommend it! The beauty of the Flemish Ardennes will amaze you.
Where can I spend the night?
Nestled in the middle of Kluis Forest, you’ll find BosbAAr: a small oasis where you can rest your feet after your first long day of walking. Stijn and Sylvie have invested a lot of time and energy in restoring this old farmhouse, resulting in a stylish B&B and bar.
The bar closes at 18:00. After that, you can experience this unique place in peace and quiet. Be sure to book your accommodation well in advance, as only a limited number of rooms are available.
This B&B is a 30-minute walk from Hayes Forest. It offers the unforgettable experience of spending the night in a pod. Three pods and several rooms are available.
De Groene Weg is beautifully situated and allows you to cook your own meal if desired. If you want to travel light, you can book a dinner and delicious breakfast basket. Do you prefer to go to a restaurant? Restaurant Moeder Agnes is just a 20-minute walk away.
Please note: the second hiking day is a long one. If you would like your second day to be a little shorter, you should book an extra accommodation.
What equipment do I need?
Although this is a long walk, it’s not technically challenging. Wear comfortable sports shoes, such as trail running shoes or light hiking boots.
You don’t need camping equipment, which is the big advantage of this hike! You can spend the night (and be pampered) at the eateries and accommodations along the way.
Make sure you have enough snacks and water with you. A few fresh clothes to put on after hiking are also recommended. Be sure to bring plenty of water, as there are few places to refill your bottle on the first day. Depending on the season, warm clothes, a raincoat and sunscreen may also come in handy!
How do I get there?
The hike starts on Oudenaarde’s market square, but you can also start in Geraardsbergen.
This three-day walk along the language border makes it possible to arrive by train in Oudenaarde and to depart by train from Geraardsbergen. So, you can leave your car at home for a few days or leave it at the station. Easy!
When is the best period for this hike?
You can do this hike all year round, but spring and autumn are the best times because then the forests are at their most beautiful. The spring season rewards you with purple bluebells, and in autumn, you get an orange carpet of leaves.
Which route can I follow?
We followed the Regional GR route Flemish Ardennes for three days. You can make the route as long or short as you like.
View the route here.
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