Crisscrossed by rivers, the handsome countryside around Rochefort provides lots of opportunities for walking, canoeing and mountain-biking. Walkers need the Institut Géographique National’s map, Rochefort et ses villages (on sale at the tourist offices in Rochefort and Han), which lists almost thirty numbered walks, as well as eight routes for mountain bikers and three for cyclists. Kayaks Lesse et Lomme in Han rents out mountain bikes and regular bikes, and organizes excursions involving a combination of canoeing and cycling; mountain bikes can also be rented from the tourist office in Rochefort.
Walks from Rochefort
The Résurgence d’Eprave – Walk 12 – is one of the most scenically varied, a 12km circular route. Take rue Jacquet out of town past the château and the route is signposted to the right, through Hamerenne with its tiny Romanesque chapel of St Odile, and across fields full of wild flowers, to the River Lomme. Follow the riverbank to the spot where the River Wamme emerges from underground to join the Lomme; don’t try to cross the river but double back and turn right for the stiff climb uphill past the Eprave Grotto for grand views over the cornfields. Fifteen minutes’ walk further on, the village of Eprave has a restored mill with a working water wheel and, opposite on rue de l’Aujoule, the Auberge du Vieux Moulin, an immaculate four-star hotel with ultramodern rooms, which makes a delightful place to stay or eat (t084 37 73 18, wwww.eprave.com; €121–150). The restaurant is open daily in July and August, but closes on Sunday and Tuesday evening as well as all of Monday at other times of the year; the menu is firmly nouveau, with main courses beginning at about €17. The walk back to Rochefort from here is rather dull, following the road, and you may want to retrace your steps, or join Walk 4, Grotte d’Eprave, to Han for the hourly bus back to Rochefort. A couple of good shorter walks around Rochefort include Walk 7, Lorette, a thirty-minute climb up through the woods above town, taking in the Lorette chapel and some decent views over the castle. Head up rue de Lorette towards the caves and turn left, keeping to the left where the track is signposted. The 6km Walk 10, Abbaye de Saint Rémy, goes the other way out of town, across the bridge and cutting north off the main road through some thickly wooded scenery as far as Abbaye de St Remy, where they produce Rochefort Trappist beer, before looping back to Rochefort.
Canoeing and kayaking on the River Lesse
To mess about on the river, canoes and kayaks can be rented from Kayaks Lesse et Lomme, near the bridge in Han (t082 22 43 97). They have a few canoes and pedal boats for splashing around town, but it’s much more scenic and fun to join one of their excursions. The shortest (and least expensive) trip is the two-hour jaunt by kayak to Lessive, 6km away, and 4km back by bike (about €20 per person, €30 for two, all-inclusive). The longest is to Wanlin, 19km by kayak and 13km return by bike or bus. You can start the shortest trip anytime between 10am and 4pm; for Wanlin you have start between 10am and noon. Incidentally, in high summer the water level on the Lesse can drop low enough to make canoeing impossible; call ahead to confirm.