Semois Valley Attractions Vallée de la Semois
The Semois rises in the extreme southeast corner of Belgium near Arlon, it flows first through the plain of Gaume in the Belgian part of Lorraine (Lorraine Belge) and at Tintigny enters the Ardennes.
From here onwards it has cut a course deeply into the hills and forms broad curves around forested rocks which again and again offer charming views. Although the distance from its source to its joining the Meuse near the French town of Monthermé is only 80km/50mi as the crow flies, the total length of the river is over 200km/124mi.The climate of the Semois valley is relatively mild, as its deep situation protects it from the predominantly westerly winds. Until a short time ago the most important agricultural product was tobacco grown along the lower course of the river, but now this only thrives in the districts further to the south; however, the production of tobacco is becoming increasingly unprofitable.The valley now lives by tourism and in its beautiful landscape it offers all kinds of attractions: canoe and boat trips, angling, numerous waymarked footpaths, camping sites, hotels and very good restaurants. There are not many cultural sites, the chief being the mighty castle of Bouillon and the abbey of Orval which is a little way off.The steep flanks of the valley at times approach the river so closely that the roads are often high above the edge, therefore a trip through the Semois Valley is best done on foot or by boat if one is not to miss the finest parts of the landscape. Many of the larger villages are on the plateau of the Ardennes high above the windings of the river.For those who are fit cycling through the valley offers fine views.
A trip along the Semois valley begins in Jamoigne which lies at the junction of the picturesque Vierre Valley and has an old castle (rebuilt in the 19th C.) and a notable church with a beautiful 12th C. font and pictures by Abraham of Orval.
From Jamoigne the Semois winds to the north and flows around Chiny, once the seat of the lords of Chiny, and then becomes wildly romantic.
Chiny Boat Trip
A trip in a flat bottomed boat is recommended, by means of which it is possible to see picturesque rocks, such as the Rocher du Hât, or sail below the Rocher du Paradis. The trip ends after 7km/4.5miles in Lacuisine from where the return to Chiny can be made on a fine footpath (¾ hour) or by bus.From a viewpoint about 2.8km/1.75miles north of Lacuisine (the path has orange-white way marks on the north of the road to Neufchâteau) there is an excellent view of the stretch which has just been completed by boat.
After Chiny the Semois becomes quieter and there follows Florenville, a tourist center on the upper course of the river. From the terrace behind the church there is an extensive view of the lovely scenery with its pastures and fields, and this is even more impressive when seen from the church tower. From Florenville a detour of 8km/5miles to the abbey of Orval lying to the south is recommended.
From Florenville the Semois describes a broad curve and meets the through road again at Chassepierre, one of the prettiest villages on the Semois and a popular holiday resort. Slate-roof houses surround the Church of Saint-Martin which has interesting choirstalls, probably from Orval. In the surroundings can be seen caves used by hunters in the Stone Age and prehistoric dolmens. About 1km beyond the village on the right of the road there is a lookout point with a good view of the village to the rear.
The N384 in the direction of Herbeumont leads via Ste-Cécile through the Forest of Conques which belonged to the priory of the same name. This priory, founded in 1694 as a refuge for the monks of Orval, can be seen shortly before reaching Herbeumont on the left of the road; it is now a hotel. Herbeumont village is dominated by the ruins of the counts' castle dating from the 12th C. which was destroyed in 1658 by the French.Around Herbeumont there are many footpaths.
From the top of the castle ruins there is a wonderful view of a very narrow reach of the Semois around a rocky ridge which, because of its form, is called the "Tombeau du Chevalier" (knight's tomb).
The Semois valley route continues to Mortehan; from there it is possible to go on to Bouillon via the little tourist resort of Dohan, or to make a detour via Auby to the Saut des Sorcières, a series of waterfalls which fall into pools, and pass the viewpoint of the Mont de Zarton. On the latter stretch the road first passes through Cugnon, where St Remaclus is said to have lived in a grotto in the seventh century. Both detours finish in Noirefontaine, from where Bouillon is reached on the N89.
Giant's Grave View
Visitors should continue from Noirefontaine to Botassart and look down on the bend of the river around the "Tombeau du Géant" (giant's grave).
After Bouillon the visitor should first take the N810 which is scenically very appealing and which passes the rock called "Hottée du Diable" (devil's basket) to Corbion, where in the 16th C. a certain Monsieur Pistole invented the pistol; and from there take a smaller road towards Poupehan, once an important place of tobacco processing. Shortly before reaching the village a path to the right leads to the viewpoint "Chaire à prêcher" (pulpit), a rock from which monks summoned people to the crusades to Jerusalem and Gottfried of Bouillon heeded their call.
At a great bend in the river the Semois valley route reaches Rochehaut situated high up with its Church of Saint-Firmin adorned with frescoes.
From here there is yet another beautiful view, this time of the village of Frahan lying opposite and across to Alle where Joseph Pierret lived; he began tobacco planting in 1855 on the Semois and made Alle his center.
Vresse is almost the end of the Semois valley tour. Here the Semois receives the Petit-Fays stream which rushes through a narrow valley which can be followed to the north on a minor road. Here can still be seen the bars on which tobacco was dried. Vresse itself has a museum which is primarily concerned with the tobacco world and with smoking.
Bohan-Membre Nature Park
Before finally reaching the French frontier the Semois flows through the nature park of Bohan-Membre which is crossed by many footpaths, including one that leads to the viewpoint Jambon de la Semois and to the prehistoric megalithic Table des Fées.
Detour to France
Beyond the frontier the Semois winds its way towards the Meuse. This is the land of the legend of the four Haimon children who set out on the battle charger Bayard from Château Regnault on the banks of the Meuse on their adventures. Near the confluence of the Semois and the Meuse above Monthermé local tradition identifies four crags with the four riders and nearby their battle steed is chiseled in the rock.