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Underground treasures: discover a slate mine

Slate has an important presence in the Gaume and Ardennes. The region is rich with old slate mines where workers broke their backs mining the stone in the 19th and 20th centuries. You still see the results of their hard work, for example on slate roofs.  While the last large quarry in Bertrix closed in the late ’70s, many of these mines are now open to the public. You can visit one of these mines and delve into the fascinating history of the ‘slate strip’. An enjoyable excursion, whether it’s raining or extremely hot outside.

Image of a huge slate wall in Musee de l'Ardoise

Au coeur de l'Ardoise, Bertrix

Descend 25 metres below the ground and walk in the footsteps of the miners. You will discover the narrow corridors and rooms where the ‘scailtons’ – or miners – worked day in and day out, taking various risks to bring the beautiful slate to the surface. During an underground walk of an hour and a half, you will learn all about the slate, the extraction techniques, and the working conditions of the past. Bertrix is special because the stone here was brought up from bottom to top. As a result, some corridors and rooms are filled with debris and can be very narrow.

After your underground adventure, you can relax with a delicious hot or cold cup of ‘Scailton’ in the mine’s café. You can also take a bottle from the shop to enjoy later. Are you visiting in a group? From 10 people, you can book a culinary experience in the mine. Aperitifs with local drinks are deep underground, meals are in a special room in the mine, and you eat dessert on the terrace.

Au coeur de l'Ardoise​

  • Location: Rue du Babibay 1, 6880 Bertrix
  • Distance from Lacuisine: 18 km, 20 min min by car
  • Info:
descending into the slate mine
in the mine

Musée de l'Ardoise, Haute-Martelange, Luxembourg

Just over the border, you will find the slate museum of Haute-Martelange. This museum is a bit further drive from Lacuisine, but it’s ideal if you want to combine it with a visit to Bastogne or a walk in this beautiful region. Here, between 1870 and 1986, 12 million roof slates were mined annually by 600 miners. The big difference with the mine in Bertrix is that slate was mined here from bottom to top. Miners had to bring all the stone, both the usable and unusable, to the surface. As a result, there are now immense underground rooms that offer phenomenal views.

Musée de l'Ardoise

  • Location: Musée de l’Ardoise, Entrée principale, 8823 Obermartelingen, Luxembourg
  • Distance from Lacuisine: 41 km – 45 min by car
  • info:

Slate in Belgium and Luxemburg

Slate is a rock found in the Ardennes. There’s even a “slate trail” that runs through the cross-border Ardennes over a distance of 440 km. You can visit old slate mines along this entire route. In Belgium and Luxembourg, the slate industry was very active in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The slate mines provided jobs for many people and made a significant contribution to the local economy. But the work was heavy, and the conditions were miserable. Workers suffered from joint problems and dust lung. Most mines in Belgium and Luxembourg closed in the ’60s. The last major slate quarry in Belgium, located in Bertrix, closed at the end of the 1970s.

A visit to one of these mines is an ideal outing when it’s raining, as your visit takes place indoors. Or if you want to escape the summer heat. In the mine, the temperature remains a constant 9 degrees, so it’s pleasantly cool. So, be sure to bring a warm sweater or jacket and wear sturdy shoes. The slate museum lends you a helmet during your visit. Wearing this helmet is mandatory, if only to protect yourself against icy droplets or to prevent bumping your head in the sometimes narrow corridors and stairs. You can find more info about the ‘six stages of the slate trail’ here.