Echternach is only 35 km from Luxembourg city and the three circuits that make up the Mullerthal Trail offer great hiking, particularly when your luggage is transported from hotel to hotel.
It's such an obvious idea - map out a series of walking trails, gather a group of relevant hoteliers together and get them to sign up to a blueprint for hiking. Along with the obvious things like a varied and healthy breakfast, they must provide drying and washing facilities for clothes and shoes, accept bookings for a minimum of one night, and transport your luggage to the next hotel for a small fee. Even better, some of them even allow you to create your own packed lunch from the breakfast buffet and supply tea or coffee for your thermos.
The Mullerthal Trail runs to more than 110 km of signed paths and comprises three circuits. The routes are all connected but can also be hiked separately. I'm here to explore Route 2 which passes through the heart of Luxemburg's Little Switzerland, with its distinctive rock formations, and then join Route 3 which follows a stream valley to the castle of Beaufort. It's only around half an hour from Luxembourg's spanking new airport to my first hotel, the Grand Hotel in Echternach. The rooms are particularly spacious and I notice there's a plastic tray where you can leave your muddy boots. Food here is spectacular and next morning I'm ready to hit the road, on a trail which the leaflet describes as challenging.
In fact the only tough part is the thick mud which coats the path as I trudge uphill but soon I arrive among the rocks and everything is dry. Huge boulders are scattered across the landscape, as though tossed by some angry giant, and the trail leads through narrow gaps through overhanging cliffs, aptly named the Labyrinth. This is Luxembourg's Little Switzerland and is quite unique.
I follow through the Wolfsschlucht, the wolf canyon, where legend has it these animals found shelter in former times, and continue along the Aesbach brook to reach Hohllay. The cave here was a source of millstones and you can still see where they were cut from the rocks. Close by is a natural amphitheatre, used for theatrical and music performances, and I pause here for a morning snack. The village of Berdorf is famous for its cheese but I push downhill through the Schnellert forest towards the village of Mullerthal which is the night's destination.
I'm ready for the excellent late lunch at Heringer Millen, and visit the mill, recently restored to grind its own flour, before dumping my pack at the Hotel Cigalon. A late afternoon stroll takes me up to the pretty waterfall of Schiessentumpel, and I'm now looking forward to dinner. The chef owner of the hotel, Philippe Stoque-Kunnert, is from the Auvergne and his food is excellent. Standouts include a ring of asparagus stuffed with smoked salmon and an excellent duck breast with mango and ginger.
It's a pleasant Sunday morning's walking along the Ernz Noir stream towards Beaufort, crossing the beautiful valley of Hallerbach. I climb gradually until I reach the Château of Beaufort, an impressive ruin, constructed between the 12th and 16th centuries. A visit also involves tasting their famous Cassero, a blackcurrant liqueur produced from fruit grown in the grounds. It makes an excellent aperitif before tucking into a plate of home-made Wurst at Auberge Rustique, just up the road. They also have rooms, just in case you want to linger.
Luxembourg is not somewhere you automatically think of as a gourmet walking destination, indeed it's a country made famous by a long gone radio station, rather than its natural beauty. It's also often dismissed as a tiny place hemmed in by Belgium, France and Germany, without its own identity. But, on the evidence of my ramblings, and copious consumption of its unique food and drink, hiking without luggage on the Mullerthal Trail is a pleasant way to spend a few days. The trails, across the wooded hills and valleys, supply enough excercise to guaranteee a healthy appetite in the excellent restaurants. Even better you can combine the walking with a city break in Luxembourg City and taste the best of both worlds.
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