I did not intend to stop at Larochette during my June 2003 tour of eastern Luxembourg. In fact, it wasn't even on my original route -- I was planning to go due north from Luxembourg City towards Ettelbruck, my first intended stop. But I had to deviate because of immense construction activity on the still-uncompleted Luxembourg Autobahn 7, so I took the scenic drive instead. But when I reached Larochette, a mere dot on the map along route 14, the sight of the Castle Larochette perched invitingly on the hill made me instantly change my mind. I pulled off and explored... and I'm glad I did.
Larochette is indeed a mere dot on the map, a one-road wide village on a one-mile stretch along a densely-forested deep river valley of hardened sandstone. The center of town resides at the junction of two draws, one on each side, where side roads now follow. The ruins of Larochette Castle (first photo) sit precariously on a high sandstone bluff almost on top of the village, seemingly ready to fall over in the coming years -- but don't worry, it won't anytime soon.
I began my tour in the downtown, starting at the center square then following the full length of the town along 14. I figured out that the town thrived on tourism, probably as a scenic stop on the way to or from Diekirch, based on the fact that there were several large (and very beautiful) hotels and a half-parking lot devoted to buses. The Hotel de la Poste at the main street corner was the most impressive of them, and appeared to be the oldest. The center square was extraordinarily decorative with lots of flowers, a showy gazebo, and numerous cafés and bakeries. The most prominent structure was the magnificent town church, shown in the second photo, located on the main road in the precise center of town.
Of course, my main focus was the Castle, and to get all the best photos, I had to do two climbs. The first one was to the small stone tower shown in the third photograph, on the opposite hill. The pathway to the tower was very steep, with a winding rickety staircase built within the crevices of the sandstone. The views of the castle and the downtown were wonderful. There was a walking path following the ridgeline along the draw that perhaps at one time provided more great views, but unfortunately the hillsides have become so overgrown with new greenery I had to hold the camera over my head to get a decent shot.
I concluded my tour at the castle, which was actually a full complex at one time hosting a number of manors and other structures. But until only a couple decades ago, the entire place lay in charred ruins since a 16th-century fire. A thorough renovation project is still underway, but has progressed plenty enough to allow for an enjoyable and safe viewing.
The most visible building was the big square one in the first photo, the Créhange Manor, that was perched at the front edge of the sheer bluff. The interior has been renovated, but remains empty, devoid of furnishings. Instead, some of the walls have watercolor paintings of how the interior might have looked. Créhange had three floors. The ground floor was a combination banquet hall and chapel, with the nave of the chapel clearly imprinted in one of the walls. The first floor contained several rooms with a low ceiling and a balcony which gave a great view of the downtown (this was from where I took the fourth photo). The top floor was a bare A-framed room with an extremely high ceiling (perhaps this meant that there were more floors in reality that were not restored).
Much of the rest of the complex was still purely ruin, but they were cleaned up and supported enough to be safe to wander through. The broken walls to the left of Créhange in the first photo were part of Homburg Manor, another large house on the complex. Homburg's basement is accessible, a room that looks like a wine cellar with numerous stone arches and columns over an uneven stone floor. The majority of the construction work is now towards the back of the castle grounds, where the outer wall was constructed. Portions of the wall now hold a restaurant and a couple souvenir stands.
However, the place is not just about tourism. An active archaeological dig is also going on there, seeking to reconstruct the story of the Caslte.
On the way back down, I walked through a couple of the tiny residential streets directly beneath the castle, and found them unbelievably tight. The road was barely a car wide, with the entrance stairwells to the houses jutting well out. The residents' cars were parked in between these stairwells, and I wondered how the heck they got in there!
Renovation projects on the village's oldest buildings went beyond the castle. In the two blocks directly under the Créhange Manor, a major reconstruction project was taking place to rebuild some of the original residential buildings (at least it appeared they were reconstructing them in their original form, they did not appear to be new modern facilities).
Larochette is a worthy stop, but that's about it -- once you're finished with the Castle, you've pretty much seen it all. But certainly I recommend taking advantage of the cafés below as I did before continuing the journey. If there was one thing I learned, though, sometimes it's a good idea to take the scenic route. You never know what you might find.
Trip taken 21 June 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin