Walk: Chateau Reinhardstein
3.5 km long, adventurous forest walk around the castle, with a lot of scrambling and plodding over rocks, tree roots and small waters
can be muddy and slippery
not suitable for prams or wheelchairs
no catering facilities
In the centre of the village of Ovifat, follow the signs to "Reinhardstein" and park the car in the car park. Start walking down the crumbly asphalt road. The castle is a little further on, hidden in the woods.
Reinhardstein is the castle on the highest spot in Belgium. It is built on a rock and overlooks the Warche, 800 m downstream from the Robertville dam. In the past, when there was still a lot of sailing on the Warche, it had a strategic position.
It was Renaud de Waimes who built a fortification in 1354, at the request of his feudal lord Wenceslas, Duke of Luxembourg, to defend his territory. The castle was then passed down through the female line through many famous families, such as Nesselrode, Nassau and Schwarzenberg.
During the 16th century, the castle lost its strategic importance, but it remained the favourite residence of many great lords. Between 1150 and 1812 it belonged to the Counts of Metternich, except between 1795 and 1798, when it was claimed by the French revolutionary regime and fell into ruin. In 1812 it was sold by Count Franz de Metternich to a building materials merchant, who continued the demolition and sold the materials. In 1815, the castle became Prussian property and the demolition was stopped.
After the First World War, the castle, together with the rest of the Eastern Townships, came under Belgian sovereignty, but it was not until 1966 that a proper restoration began. Then it was accidentally discovered by Jean Overloop, a Brussels professor (in diplomatic sciences) with a passion for archaeology and art and with enough money to restore the castle to its former glory. The restoration was completed in 1969, and since 1977 Reinhardstein and its surroundings have been protected.
At the request of the Metternich family, Professor Overloop gave the castle its second name: "Burg Metternich". For the reconstruction, the late Professor Overloop was inspired by old engravings and other castles in the Eifel. He did not completely rebuild the castle: the keep, for example, no longer has nine storeys, as it once did, but only five. For the interior decoration, he put together a rather eclectic collection of furniture and works of art (the andirons in the fireplace in the armoury are the only original pieces he found in the area).
But over the years the landscape has changed dramatically, partly due to the creation of coniferous forests, which hide the castle, and partly due to the construction of the dam, which has turned the Warche into an insignificant stream.
Do not walk to the main gate (unless you want to see the castle up close). On the right before the driveway, a small path climbs steeply (signs: green rectangles, blue squares and red squares, direction "cascade"). The recent clearing of the forest gives you a good view of the castle's location on its rocky point above the Warche.
At the fork in the road, turn left and follow the hairpin bends all the way down, following the GR signs (red and white horizontal stripes) and the green rectangles.
When you reach the Warche, follow the sign for the waterfall, and then turn left. (No more GR signs, but the green squares). Follow the river a little upstream to the bridge where you cross.
Now go straight on and climb up. (At the top you will find a green square). You can already hear the waterfall bursting and soon you will see it too, on the other side of the river. With its 60 m height, it is the highest waterfall in Belgium, much higher than the waterfalls in Coo which are only 15 m high. It is formed by the small river Ovifat, which has its source in the village of the same name and flows into the Warche.
At the fork in the road, keep to the left (no longer following the green squares!) Continue walking upstream along the Warche, until you reach the next bridge. Cross the river, climb the hill and go right, still upstream along the river.
At the fork in the road, go straight on and climb: follow the GR. Only further on does the path become really steep, with rocks and tree roots serving as steps. You will come to a bench, where you can relax and rest for a while.
Just in front of the bench you will see GR signs again. Follow them, so you go up and to the right. Keep following the GR until you reach a staircase on your left. Go up the stairs.
Further on, a path goes up to the right and the path next to it goes down to the right. Go down and keep going down until you reach the bridge, which will take you back to the starting point of the walk.