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Ardennes shoe bath

I recently headed north of Luxembourg City to the enchanting Ardennes district - a region rich in nature, fairy-tale castles and villages crammed with character and charm.

A good starting point is pretty Esch sur Sure, home to the country’s oldest castle (927) and gateway to the Upper Sure Nature Park with trails, walks and even a solar powered boat for a guided tour of the reservoir. I stopped off at the slightly eccentric but enchanting Hotel de la Sure which has a large terrace at the foot of the castle with great views. Its Restaurant Comte Godefroy serves up hearty traditional Ardennes platters and if tempted to stay the night, its unusual rooms include one with a swinging bed and the hotel’s Rock Spa is home to a shoe-shaped bathtub.

At nearby Clervaux we find another castle, built in the 12th and enlarged in the 15th century. It is home to three museums, one being the famous ‘Family of Man’ photographic exhibition compiled by Luxembourgian Edward Steichen and first shown in New York in 1955. Comprising 503 photographs by 273 artists, from 68 countries, this is a moving collection of images showing all aspects of humanity. Having been exhibited in over 150 museums worldwide, the final integral version of the exhibition was permanently installed in Clervaux Castle in 1994. Since its creation, it has attracted over 10 million visitors and in 2003 the collection was inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World register. It is difficult to come away untouched by this exhibition.

Known as one of the largest and most beautiful feudal residences of the Romanesque and Gothic periods in Europe is the commanding Vianden castle, built between the 1th and 14th centuries on the foundations of an old Roman fort. Restored to its former glory and under state ownership since 1977, the castle is best explored with the help of one of the excellent guides here, or with an audio guide, but be warned hundreds of stone steps and winding staircases are not for the infirm! Don’t miss the inspiring banquet hall, the tapestry draped Grand hall and the Knights’ hall where there is a medieval festival in July there is a medieval winter market here in December and an atmospheric Halloween party for children in October. Youngsters will also enjoy the adventure park Tree Climbers next door.

Before leaving Vianden, take a tour round the town, the smallest in Luxembourg which lies on the border with Germany. Here one finds the one time home of Victor Hugo, now a museum and the Trinitarian Church with its lovely cloisters. The town is noted for its abundance of walnut trees and has a Nut Festival every October.

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