Head west to Beckerich, Redange and the valley of castles
It’s tempting not to stray out of the city or your home turf, but the west of Luxembourg has some interesting towns and villages, worthy of investigating for a day trip. We take a look at two of them – Beckerich and Redange-sur-Attert, and the scenic valley of the seven castles.
Beckerich is perhaps best known for having its own currency (the Beki) and for its mineral water. The Beki has helped it to promote its renewable energy business, but for visitors, the Old Mill is the place to go. Lovingly restored it now houses a historic sawmill, a museum of local crafts and an art gallery.
The Church of Betto in Beckerich was first mentioned in documents in 1235, and the village was originally under the authority of the nuns of Clairefontaine. In 1328 the Beckerich Mill was given to the nuns by King John the Blind, and the inhabitants of the village had to grind their grains there (or face a fine) and undertake duties such as cleaning the nearby river and providing new millstones. French Revolutionary troops auctioned off the mill in 1797 and the private family owners started to supplement traditional mill activities with a saw mill.
The Brenta electric saw purchased in 1926 by the Waxweiler family is still in working order today. It was rented by the American army at the end of the Second Word War to cut beams for the construction of bridges. The sawmill closed in 1975.
Today, the renovated mill consists of old barns, a stable and the mill house. There’s a small art gallery open Thursday to Sunday from 14.00 to 18.00, and you can find information on events and workshops on their Facebook page.
The pond at the mill is home to five species of dragonfly that have disappeared elsewhere in Luxembourg, and swallows, which have recently recolonized the walls of the old sand quarry.
Basketwork, quarrying, and later the railroad, all had an influence on the area, and you can still see a restored 19th century railway station at Noerdange. For more than 70 years the Prince Henri or Attert line connected the station to Petange and Ettelbruck. You can peek through the windows for a look at the station, or request a guided tour.
The mineral water you can buy today comes from the Mëlleschbour and Wäshbour springs which also supply the local drinking water (lucky locals). The restored mill is also the starting point for a number of trails and cycle routes.
Walking, cycling and alpacas
An 11.6km blue flag circular trail leads from the village of Beckerich past the old stations of the cross that lead to the chapel at Kahlenberg, before heading through the forest and a climb up “Heischel”. The route then descends towards the village of Hovelange and follows the cycle path through meadows back to the starting point. This video self-guided walk is intriguingly entitled “The mist, the corner of paradise and the werewolf” and provides some flavourful commentary on the walking circuit (in French with English subtitles).
A shorter 9.2km trail starting in Elvange/Hovelange near the church passes by the tiny Chapel Saint Remacle on the outskirts of Schweich, before ascending up to a beautiful forest trail to Hölzknapp and passing through the forests of Houbierg and Miltgeknapp to arrive back in Hovelange.
A pedagogical farm in Hovelange keeps Andean alpacas and you can take them for a trek or hand feed the Galloway cattle.
The Jhangeli West tour is an 11km circular, family-friendly cycle route that takes you through five villages with panoramic views across the countryside, and passes by the old railway station, starting and finishing at the mill in Beckerich. The 7+2 mills circuit is 21km and takes cyclists on a tour of the old mills in the municipality. You can find a map of the cycling paths and routes in the west of Luxembourg here.
Famous for the wild-looking Kropemann, Redange is also a pretty town and a commune with several nice villages.
The Kropemann festival is usually held the last Sunday in September, and in addition to an appearance from this mythical creature, there is live music, food stalls and a market. Legend tells that Kropemann, an underwater spirit, is the mythical guardian of the landscape and nature, who in ancient times, ensured the water in the village wells did not get contaminated. A statue of this local icon can be seen rising from the waters of the pond at Worré Park.
Walking and cycling
An 8.1km circular walk starts in the town hall square and travels past the Kropemann statue before heading towards Niederpallen and then into the Wëldbësch, crossing back and forth over the River Attert to Ospern before returning to Redange.
Ambitious cyclists can try the 36km Redange route that takes in the villages of Rambrouch, Koetschette, Arsdorf, Wahl and Ospern, amongst others, stopping at Rindschleiden, the smallest village in Luxembourg, and home to the rural museum Thillenvogtei. The village church was consecrated in honour of Saint Willibrord, and has impressive frescoes. You can download a map of the route here.
For museum fans, the International Police Museum in Capellen has objects from the police and gendarmerie, including original kepi hats and badges, uniforms from the 19th century, and it details the historical evolution of the two forces since 1795. Open on the third Sunday of each month from 14.30 to 18.00.
The Kehlen Distillery Museum is the initiative of Robert and Suzy Adam, and has objects from a number of Luxembourg distilleries now closed as well as exhibits from yesteryear country life. It's located at 13 rue Ollmer and open on Thursday from 14.00 til 18.00 and Saturday 10.00-17.00. At the end of your visit you can taste and purchase the different spirits and liqueurs produced on site.
Valley of the seven castles
Though either in ruins or in the process of being restored but mainly not open to the public on a regular basis, you can still take a look at the castles in Mersch, , Ansembourg (old castle), Schoenfels, Septfontaines and Hollenfels, by driving or hiking the route of the Valley of the seven castles, all located within a 24km radius.
According to legend, the devil walked through the valley carrying a bag of seeds, and when the bag sprung a leak the seeds scattered and grew into castles. In reality they were built by the nobility mostly in the 12th and 13th centuries when Luxembourg was experiencing relative prosperity.
You can take a 25km scenic drive that starts in Mersch and finishes in Koerich, with its newly renovated 12th century castle.
Most of the castles date back to the Middle Ages apart from the 17th century one at Ansembourg (new castle) with its French gardens complete with statues. You can visit the manicured gardens, but check their website for details of dates and times. On 7 August the castle and gardens will be open from 11.00 to 18.00 for the Fête du Château.
It will also be an opportunity to learn more about the history of the site on a guided tour, and also to discover in a creative and fun way, some good practices to better protect the precious ecosystem that secures our future.
Although the castle at Septfontaines and the old Castle Ansembourg are privately owned, you can still take in some stunning views of them from the route.
You can cycle the scenic drive route as captured by An American in Luxembourg:
Luxembourg’s national hiking trail for the valley of the seven castles is 39km long, but rated at a medium level of difficulty. The footpath leads through the idyllic valley of the River Eisch among meadows and forests. Walkers can stop overnight around the halfway mark at Camping Simmerschmelz (which also rents log cabins) or Apart-hotel & Restaurant Gwendy in Bour.
There’s even another castle out west that you can visit (not one of the seven) on a self-guided tour at Useldange. Located in a picturesque village with a weir, the castle dates back to the 1100s. A trail leads around the castle and inside the tower with 20 information panels detailing the castles history. A culinary itinerary gives information on local wildlife and there is a herb garden. Information is provided in braille and audio for partially sighted visitors.