Slung along the River Meuse beneath craggy green cliffs, DINANT, 30km from Namur, has a picture-postcard setting, its distinctive, onion-domed church of Notre-Dame lording it over the comings and goings of the barges and cruise boats. The Romans were the first to put the place on the map, occupying the town and naming it after Diana, the goddess of the hunt, but the town’s heyday came much later, in the fourteenth century, when it boomed from the profits of the metalworking industry, turning copper, brass and bronze into ornate jewellery known as dinanderie. Dinant’s prosperity turned rival cities, especially Namur, green with envy, and they watched with some satisfaction as local counts slugged it out for possession of the town. They may have been even happier when, in 1466, Charles the Bold decided to settle his Dinant account by simply razing the place to the ground. One result of all this medieval blood and thunder was the construction of an imposing citadel on the cliff immediately above the town, and, although Dinant was sacked on several subsequent occasions and badly damaged in both World Wars, the fortress has survived to become the town’s principal attraction.
Nowadays, Dinant makes a healthy living as a base for the tourist industry on the rivers Meuse and Lesse, its cruise boats, canoes and kayaks providing watery fun and games for thousands of visitors – though frankly the scenery is not nearly as wild as you’ll find deeper in the Ardennes, whilst the town itself is quickly exhausted.