The River Meuse at its best
The International Meuse Cycle Route is a great route for cyclists of all proficiency levels as it follows the banks of the River Meuse. It starts at the river’s source on the plateau of Langres region and passes through Belgium into the Netherlands. From source to mouth, the entire Meuse Cycle Route is around 1,000 km long. This attractive and varied route offers ever-changing scenery, with charming towns and villages on both banks of the river, plus there are plenty of cultural heritage sites and culinary treasures from beginning to end.
The source of the Meuse lies in Pouilly-en-Bassigny, a village close to the fortified town of Langres in the French département of Haute-Marne. It is here that the International Meuse Cycle Route starts. Further along the route you will pass the foothills of the green and mountainous Vosges region. After Neufchâteau, you arrive in the birthplace of Joan of Arc, the ‘Maid of Orléans’ and a French national heroine. Further downstream are Verdun and the Argonne region, famous for the Battle of Verdun during the First World War in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers lost their lives. Moving further north, the Meuse flows into the French Ardennes. Here, you pass through Sedan which has the largest mediaeval castle in Europe (35,000 m²), Charleville-Mézières with its 17th-century Place Ducale square and, on the border with Belgium, Givet with the Fort of Charlemont.
You then enter Belgium or-more precisely- Wallonia, its French-speaking region. In a magnificent setting characterised by rock faces, you follow the Meuse along various citadels. In Dinant, the citadel towers above the onion dome of its collegiate Church. The next citadel is in Namur, the capital of Wallonia, at the confluence of the rivers Meuse and Sambre. Slightly further afield, you see the fort of Huy that towers above a 14th century collegiate church, famous for its rose window and its internationally renowned treasure chamber, You finally arrive at the citadel of Liège, the 'ville ardente', with its impressive train station, designed by the famous architect Calatrava, its rich historic past you may discover in the old historic heart, where numerous musea make you discover a city where celebrating is a key word. After passing Visé, you have the choice to continue either on the east bank or discover Belgian Limburg along the charming west bank of the Meuse.
From the rolling hills around Maastricht to the Dutch town of Maasbracht, the Meuse winds over shallow gravel banks, fast-flowing and virtually unnavigable. As a result, you won’t see any barges on this section; they all sail on the Juliana Canal that has been constructed parallel to the river instead. The area of the Maasplassen lakes in Central Limburg is openly connected with the Meuse. The flat terrain here makes it ideal for cycling. You then pass through the attractive dune landscape in northern Limburg to reach one of the Netherlands’ most glorious cities: Den Bosch. No visit to this city is complete without sampling the sweet, sticky treat that is a Bossche Bol. Leaving the province of Brabant, where life is always good, you arrive in South Holland – home to Dordrecht, a charming town with a rich history. As the Dutch saying goes: ‘Hoe dichter bij Dordt, hoe mooier het wordt’ (The closer you are to Dord(rech)t, the nicer it gets). Another ‘must see’ in this typically Dutch landscape of rivers and dikes is Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Alblasserwaard. This unique collection of 19 authentic windmills dating from the 18th century played a crucial role in water management. Finally, via the cosmopolitan city of Rotterdam, you reach the mouth of the Meuse at Hook of Holland.
Will you take up the challenge of the whole route, or would you prefer to spend just a day or so pedalling along the riverbank? The route can easily be divided into one-day sections. Simply keep the Meuse to one side of you and enjoy the fresh air! The Meuse Cycle Route is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. The route is clearly marked by special signposts*. For more information about tourist attractions, places to say, culinary highlights and practical matters such as e-bike charging points, see: www.meusecycleroute.eu
*Image: Meuse Cycle Route signposts