Discover historic Hesdin and the 7 Valleys
The historic town of Hesdin is at the heart of a lush green area known as the 7 Valleys. This is a land of rivers and streams, of wooded valleys and ancient turf bogs. Charming and unspoiled, you’ll find a wealth of cosy cafés and tasty bistros where authentic home-grown cuisine takes pride of place. Soak up the rich culture and history and enjoy a feel-good break with a refreshing mix of relaxation, fresh air, historic sites, enchanting villages, fabulous street markets, wide open spaces and glorious countryside crisscrossed by traffic-free roads, cycle paths and walking trails…
Hapsburg history in historic Hesdin
Start your visit in the cobbled main square, Place d’Armes, dominated by its UNESCO listed belfry. Here you’ll find the tourist office, animated shops and cafés and a 16th century palace, now the town hall, built by then ruling Hapsburg Emperor Charles V for his sister Marie of Hungary. The sumptuously ornate entrance porch is topped by the Imperial Eagle of the Hapsburgs, and above the sculpted balcony is the royal arms of Spain, added by his successor, Phillip II of Spain. Legend has it that Niagara Falls tightrope walker Blondin, was born in a circus tent on this square in 1824. On Thursday mornings a lovely market spills off the square and into the side-streets.
With a tablet-guide from the tourist office, discover the cobbled streets and cross bridges over the Ternoise and Canche rivers. Maigret fans will recognise the quintessential Gallic charms of Hesdin from the TV series.
Ancient forest of Hesdin
The centuries old Hesdin forest to the north of the town is crisscrossed by footpaths which lead you along walking, horse riding and cycling trails beneath a leafy canopy of oak and sycamore trees. There’s plenty of wildlife such as colourful pheasant, buzzards, woodpecker and deer and magnificent views over the Valleys of the Canche, Ternoise and Planquette. In spring the forest floor is a sea of bluebells and the quiet tranquillity of this flora and fauna filled tranquil haven is perfect for a picnic among the wildflowers.
Hesdin forest © Yannick Cadart-CD62
Azincourt 1415 Centre © Maïlys Torond
If you only have a short time to spend in the 7 Valleys don’t miss:
Battle of Agincourt Visitor Centre near Hesdin
25 October 1415 saw one of the bloodiest battles of the Hundred Years War take place. The Battle of Agincourt where English King Henry V and his soldiers defeated the French, is legendary. Celebrated in film and literature, Shakespeare’s rousing royal speech “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” on the eve of battle, has long influenced how history has viewed this epic battle. Next to the battlefield, now peacefully agricultural, the updated (reopened in 2019) Agincourt visitors centre brings the great battle magnificently back to life and sheds light on the true story.
Heritage villages of the 7 Valleys
Perfect for touring on traffic-free roads where the only gridlock you’ll encounter will be from tractors or occasionally cows crossing, the glorious countryside of the 7 Valleys is peppered with picturesque villages, farming hamlets and historic towns. This rather secret and hidden part of northern France has beguiling scenery, inspiring you to explore its hills, forests and marshlands, stopping en route to discover little gems. Discover the heritage villages of the 7 Valleys and neighbouring Ternois, each of which has marked walking trails ranging from 45 minutes to 1 hour 30. Or take a road trip to visit them all by bike or car, stopping en route to discover the many jewels of the 7 Valleys.
Craft & ethical shopping near Hesdin
There are many gourmet food shops in the 7 Valleys from the quirky bee store in Bouin Plumoisin on the edge of Hesdin where you can buy all sorts of bee products from pollen to candles while visiting their bee museum, to the delectable Tea Room at Saint Rémy au Bois. Here you can buy world famous artisan organic jams, a favourite of top chefs and the best hotels worldwide and indulge in a traditional cream tea.
At the street markets you can buy all things French from baskets to clothes and homeware plus the freshest fish and mussels from the nearby Opal Coast and locally grown fruit and vegetables and cheeses like tangy Sire de Créquy made to traditional methods near Agincourt.
And then there’s the food… From authentic, home-cooked country cuisine at cosy cafés, farm inns and estaminets (Flemish style eatery), to bistronomique brasseries and Michelin-starred restaurants – you’ll find it all in the 7 Valleys. For a true taste of the countryside, head to Valerie Magniez’s goat farm in Hesmond for the most mouth-watering cheeses.
This isn’t wine making country but there are plenty of excellent shops where you can buy the best French wines and in Loison-sur-Créquoise, Hubert Delobel makes Le Perlé sparkling wine from raspberries, strawberries and red currants – the 7 Valleys favourite aperitif. Beer fans will love the artisanal brewery Brasserie Artisanale White Star on the outskirts of Hesdin where you can enjoy a tasting and buy a variety of ales.
Perlé de groseilles © Benoît Bremer
Treasures of the 7 Valleys
The joy of the 7 Valleys is its exquisite tranquillity and the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon a place filled with pickled-in-the-past villages and friendly folk. Experience the feeling of stepping back in time at the medieval hilltop town of Montreuil-sur-Mer which inspired Victor Hugo to write Les Misérables, and on its outskirts, pause at Montcavrel and buy strawberries from the imposing historic farm of Montéchor.
Break for lunch at the Auberge d’Inxent inn where the Duke of Windsor came to visit his mistress, Wallis Simpson, far from prying eyes, go fly fishing on the river Cours, and admire the ruined 15th century castle of Fressin with its underground tunnels and rooms and pretty medicinal gardens.
Indulge in a delicious pancake at the Moulin de Maintenay where flour has been milled since the 12th century and cross just over the border into the Somme department to visit the 18th-century exuberant Baroque style Abbey and gorgeous gardens of Valloires in the neighbouring Somme département..