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Forests of the Ardennes

At the northern tip of France and crossing into Belgium and Luxembourg, the Ardennes basks in natural splendour and a relaxed pace of life. Many of its towns and villages hark back to times past and feature elegant and refined architecture. One of the most distinctive of all the attractions of the region, however, is the rolling forest that is so iconic of the Ardennes landscape.

An enduring reputation

Formed from the Ardennes mountain range and the Moselle and Meuse river basins, the forests of the Ardennes have long played an integral role in the stability and success of the region. As a location of huge tactical importance, it’s no surprise that the area was of great interest to invaders over the centuries. Perhaps most significantly, the forest was declared the ‘greatest forest in all of Gaul’ by Julius Caesar, cementing its reputation of enduring magnificence.

Forest legends

With such a legacy, enthralling legends featuring the Ardennes forest are prolific; one of the most fascinating includes Charlemagne and a quest for a precious jewel. According to the story, Charlemagne sent his knights into the forest to pursue the invincible knight of the Ardennes to recover the gem, with the knight Milon accompanied by his 15-year-old son, Roland.

As Milon slept, Roland donned the armour of his father and came face-to-face with the invincible knight, slaying him and taking possession of the jewel. Returning to Charlemagne to recount the story of the jewel, the young hero was subsequently knighted and invited into the senior ranks, going on to become one of the most renowned knights of the time.

Wartime conquests

While the extensive forest may have hindered invaders in times past, the machines of the Nazis during the Second World War could not be held back, and the seemingly impenetrable Ardennes forest would be broken by force. Such is its size, the Nazis were capable of exploiting the cover provided to launch the Invasion of France in 1939/40, surprising the Allied troops and crossing the Maginot Line into the nation.

The importance of the Ardennes forests has been apparent to the local people for centuries, offering protection from outsiders and giving rise to legends that have become part of the attraction. Discover this region of majestic forestry today and experience unspoilt nature at its best.