Walk: Franchimont Castle
A 10.50 km walk, offering the most impressive views of the region (of course at the cost of some steep climbs) and passing by a wonderful castle.
Not suitable for inexperienced walkers, baby carriages and the less able-bodied.
The route can be muddy in places.
Halfway through the walk you can have a meal at the "Brasserie de Franchimont" opposite the castle (open in high season from Wednesday to Monday inclusive and in low season from Thursday to Sunday inclusive).
Park your car at the "Saint-Jacques church" in Polleur. The oldest parts of the building date from the 15th century. The semi-helical shape of the tower is remarkable.
The walkway has been fitted with red rectangles with a small white block along its length. You will discover the first one nearby a hexagon sign with the words "Route des Sources".
The names of the streets in the village recall fallen war heroes and resistance fighters, but the road leading out of the village refers to the "Congrès de Polleur", which took place on 16 September 1789 at the Franchimont Castle, where the walk will later pass. It was on the initiative of a local lawyer, Laurent-François Dethier, that the four "bans" of the Marquisate of Franchimont convened this "Congress" to sign their own version of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen", purely out of admiration for the original which had seen the light of day in the United States of America a few months earlier.
The clues help you to leave the village centre, guide you to the asphalt road and invite you to go up towards the motorway. At the cross on the small hill to your right, you enter the forest path, which ends at leads the same road. You go to the right for a moment and pass under the bridge to cross the motorway. Try to ignore the noise because the views will more than compensate for the effort.
After the bridge you choose the rural path on your left. A little further on to the right. On the signs appears a complementary word "aller", which makes you assume that you will end up here later and then follow the signs with the word "retour".
You walk between the pastures and after a few hill ridges you already have a taste of the panoramic view behind the walk: straight ahead of you is the "window of Theux". The word "window" is used by geologists to identify a very specific phenomenon. Millions of years ago two tectonic plates were superimposed and then the upper tectonic plate slowly disappeared by the force of erosion. This created a depression in the landscape and an opening to the lower plate, hence the term "window". During the construction of the motorway, geologists had the opportunity to study the earth's layers themselves and were able to prove the reality of the theory surrounding this exceptional natural development.
Eventually the country path bends to the right and then you go even higher up a narrow path dating from antiquity, which leads to a path dating from the same period but wider, where you turn right. These paths were part of a Roman road network. Now the climb becomes arduous but once you reach the top, your effort is rewarded by the view of the hamlet of Fays and its small castle with its oxblood red colour.
Thee hamlet "Fays" owes its name to the Latin word "fagni" which means "land of beech trees". The castle dates from the 18th century and was owned by a wealthy family who made their fortune in textiles.
The rural path leads to a plateau overlooking the surroundings where you walk to the left. Here the wind has free rein, but you have a unique 360° view.
When you finally reach the fork in the path, you take the path to the right, which takes you down to the hamlet "Sassort". The clues accompany you for a while on an asphalt road and then send you for a short stretch to the left in the direction of Theux and Franchimont on a wider road.
Fortunately you have the possibility a little further on to turn left again and go up to the castle of Franchimont. A visit is well worthwhile, firstly for the spectacular view from the top of the donjon and secondly for the casemates (vaulted underground passages in the fort). The foundations of the castle date back to the 11th century and its defense was regularly reinforced over the following centuries. The castle has never been taken. The fact that we see a ruin today is due to its nationalisation under Napoleon and its exploitation as a quarry by the new owner...
It's time to take a break on the beautiful terrace of the "Brasserie de Franchimont" with a view of the castle.
Afterwards you go back down the stairs. The small signs send you to the left into the woods and you now descend slowly with the lapping of the Hoëgne below you in the valley. Once you reach the edge of the valley you no longer follow the path but are directed to a turnstile which gives you access to farmland. Depending on the season, you will cross a meadow or a cornfield... Pay close attention to the small signs! You are now literally in the "window of Theux", which you already had a view of at the beginning of the walk. Look behind you regularly to get the most out of the landscape. Go through a second small gate to the next meadow and then find a final small gate that will allow you to leave the meadows. This last gate is not too visible because it is a bit hidden in the greenery of a double hedge, where you have to pass between the two rows.
And so we start climbing again (but not too fast), through meadows and forest, through Sasserotte and then along a rural path that will become the Roman road, which you took earlier and finally you will find yourself at the fork in the road you encountered on the way out. You continue your walk between the meadows in the direction of the motorway, but when you reach it, this time you will turn right instead of left to pass under the monumental viaduct.
Before returning to your car, it is worthwhile to go and admire the "old bridge" over the Hoëgne in the centre of Polleur. A first bridge was already built in the time of the Romans, as an important element in their connection Trier - Liege - Tongeren. Every two years, the "Cuckoo Festival" is celebrated here. In the distant past, a terrible monster roamed the nearby forest of Staneux. The men of Polleur decided one day to eliminate the monster by joining all available forces, and set off towards the forest. But the last newly married man in the village preferred a confrontation in bed with his new wife... The brave men managed to subdue the monster, which looked like a centaur: half woman, half horse with a lion's tail. On the way back to the village they wanted to teach their unsocial co-villager a lesson. From the bridge they threw the groom into the Hoëgne. This legend, which dates back to at least the 15th century, has given rise to a popular tradition, which recalls the story through a folkloric fight with "the Beast" and where the most recent Polleur groom is thrown into the Hoëgne.