The only available seat I could find was a tree stump. I sipped my Maredsous Bruin from a plain ceramic mug. The sound of revving motorcycle engines filled the air with their arrogant turbulence as one-by-one or two-by-two, they came and went; joyriders out on a sunny Saturday afternoon. All around, outdoor tables were buzzing with people, families with their kids, groups of cyclists, old couples having their monthly dose of excitement. I hungrily waited for my lunch order. The current order number flashed up on the outside screen and it was clear I would be waiting a long time. I looked helplessly at my receipt. The fourteen euros were spent, and the beautiful late October weather was not going to wait around forever. I calculated the time and distance left to hike. The scene outside the Maredsous Abbey was quickly becoming a Hieronymous Bosch painting. Horrific sinewy legs and arms glistening with sweat protruding from spandex advertisements of all colors. Black leather-clad bearded ogres and their tattooed brides gathered like war clans looking more at home in a Texas Roadhouse than in the Harry Potter-esque ambience of this Ardennesian fairyland. The constant click-clack sound of cycling shoes walking on stony paths or pavement grinded against my nervous system. It was like some old movie dream sequence where eerie faces leer and loom and smile with long, crooked, rotten teeth taunting me. You spent fourteen euros… Where is your food… Waiting, waiting… tick tock, tick tock… Such was the atmosphere at the Maredsous Abbey, feeling about as medieval and quaint as Times Square in New York City. I took the last sip of my bruin, tossed my receipt into the trash, and headed back into the forest…

Maredsous Abbey remains one of my top must-visit destinations in Belgium for a sunny afternoon bike ride or hike. But it can get busy. Very busy, in fact, on the day of this hike. And it should be no surprise. The area around Maredsous Abbey is rich in scenery, small hidden storybook villages, castle ruins, and it is all made accessible by plenty of paths, farm roads, and re-purposed old rail lines called Ravels. There are so many ways to explore this area, that I always have the feeling that I am missing something. It is just not possible to connect with it in one adventure. Even as I sit here and write, it calls me back. I previously wrote about a bike route I took back in 2018 which is still one of my favorite bike rides and one of my favorite posts.

Of all the times I have been here, it has never failed to pique my curiosity that there are actually two abbeys here. While Maredsous is overrun with motorcycles and daytrippers, just down the street is an abbey which retains its peaceful integrity and mystique. Strolling couples come and go peeking inside its quiet walls, whispering and respectful. It hides in the trees and is surrounded on all sides by a fortress-like wall except for the archway entrance. No sign of commercialism in sight. This is Maredret Abbey; the home of Benedictine nuns. When I come across any abbey in Belgium, my natural instincts are to wonder if it has been integrated into the abbey beer culture. Nuns in Belgium typically leave the beer brewing up to the monks. But these are no longer medieval times and abbeys run by nuns are just as likely to get leaky roofs and need repairs. So in June 2021, in cooperation with the John Martin Breweries, the nuns put on their beer-brewing britches and released two Maredret beers, the Altus and Triplus. This was great news on multiple levels. One, the nuns could pay for abbey maintenance and Two, I had a reason to plan another beer adventure. This time, rather than revise my previous bike ride, I chose to do a hike and get a little closer to the scenery.

Maredret Abbey

Beer & Hike Details

I chose the parking lot of restaurant La Calabria in Onhaye to start the hike, hoping to enjoy a pizza at the end, but to my dismay and growling stomach, it was not open the entire day. Don’t let that deter you. The pizzas in Google Maps look pretty good.

Starting/Ending PointLa Calabria parking lot
Distance15.4 km
My Moving Time3h 7m

It’s Not Just a Beer, It’s a Journey

The first thing that stands out about the parking place is the neighboring ruins of the Chateau de Montaigle. These ruins have stood here since the castle was destroyed in 1554. That’s right… 1554.

The restaurant and chateau sit adjacent to the Ravel Ligne 150A. It is a beautiful route which I featured in the above blog post.

You could get to Maredsous by following this Ravel by bike.

The hike then heads up to some rolling plateaus covered with gorgeous farmland.

Heading uphill to a farm road
Following a farm road across the upper plateau

The first view of Maredsous.

Maredsous Abbey in the distance

What would a post of mine be without a double track road leading into the horizon. My favorite kind of shot.

Another distant view of Maredsous Abbey

The farm road leads down into the hideaway village of Falaën.

Falaën is on the list of Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie. It is the kind of village that always feels elusive to me. I pass thru it by foot or by bike, never fully soaking it in or appreciating its character. It is the perfect place to rent a B&B for a long weekend and spend each evening at one of its rustic restaurants.

Coming into Falaën

After Falaën, it is back into the rolling farmland.

Finally arriving at the walls of Maredret Abbey.

The obligatory beer picture is secured.

And then my infamous visit to the Maredsous Abbey Cafe which started off this post. You will not get any food shots in THIS post.

The iconic twin towers of the abbey church

Back into the forest. I briefly hook up with the Ravel Ligne 150A before crossing and heading up onto another plateau.

Heading up to another plateau

Here we get the best view of both abbeys.

Maredret and Maredsous Abbeys
More beautiful late Autumn farmland

Following the route back to the beginning.

The way back to the beginning

Final Words

If you look at the map above, you will see right smack in the middle a village named Sosoye. Like Falaën, Sosoye is also an ideal destination to get away for a weekend to explore the area. It lies right along the Ravel Ligne 150A and is therefore well-suited as a cycling hub. I regretted not being able to include it in this hike. I am already anticipating the rebirth of Spring and finding new routes to explore this part of Belgium. I will again stop by Maredret and say hello to the enterprising nuns dabbling in the brewtiful world of Belgian abbey beers. There can never be enough of them. And yes, I will revisit Maredsous Abbey to enjoy one of their delicious brews from the tap. Maybe by the time I get there, my food order will finally be ready.


2 thoughts on “Beer & Hike: Maredret

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