Dark places of the Mullerthal

Luxembourg’s gorgeous “Mullerthal” region is a natural adventure playground waiting to be explored by kids of all ages… especially those with a flashlight.

With its towering sandstone rocks, fairy-tale forest, evocative castle ruins and timelessly babbling streams, the  “Mullerthal” is generally acknowledged as being the prettiest region of Luxembourg. But where there is sandstone, there are also caves. Thousands of them, in fact – tiny caves, enormous caves; famous caves, undiscovered caves; caves accessible only with full climbing gear… and caves lying waiting to be explored by all in possession of a pocket torch and a modicum of adventurous spirit, even children.

On a bright autumn morning I gathered together my two explorers-in-chief (Child #1 and Child #3), and we headed off into this enchanted forest in search of… darkness.

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1. Keltenhiel

Our first stop, the Keltenhiel (“Cave of the Celts”), is the least known but most “classic” of the five caves we visited. Descend on foot down the narrow, almost hidden, entrance and you quickly find yourself in a surprisingly large cavern, 10-15 metres long and several metres high.

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It’s a perfect natural refuge, and evidence has been found inside of human habitation many eons ago. I’m not sure that Child #3 would fancy living here, but she was clearly enjoying the thrill of underground exploration. And this was only the beginning…

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Location: About 1km north-east of the hamlet of Mullerthal, on the Mullerthal Trail 2. Parking within 300 metres. Not signposted.

Tip: Suitable for all ages. Be careful of loose rocks at end of cave.


2. Kohlscheuer

The short hike from Consdorf Millen through the “Kohlscheuer” is our kids’ favourite local jaunt, and is always a huge hit with our visitors too. Here, the magnificent Mullerthal Trail 2 rises gracefully over the valley floor, tentatively at first, then gathering enough momentum and confidence to take on three mighty crevices in the rocks:  the “Rittergang“, the “Déiwepëtz” and – the grand finale – the “Kohlscheuer” itself.

We like to do them in ascending order of scariness, so we start with the mild “Rittergang” (which is never fully dark), then squeeze our way through the “Déiwepëtz” before finally tackling the awesome, pitch-black “Kohlscheuer“. The crevices are generally around 60-80 cm wide (sometimes narrower – rucksacks off!) and the “Déiwepëtz” is over 50 metres long.

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Child #1 near the entrance to the “Kohlscheuer”

But that’s not all: the surrounding landscape here is extraordinary, with ferns and boulders sheltering in the shade of arrow-straight conifers, mighty beeches and ancient oaks. These trees grow wherever they can amidst a chaos of rocks and cliffs, with some hair-raising paths leading to viewpoints over the stream flowing peacefully in the valley below.

It is, in a word, idyllic.

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Location: Park your vehicle at Consdorf Millen (1km west of Consdorf, direction Larochette), then walk south on Mullerthal Trail 2. Hiking trail well-signposted.

Tip: Suitable for ages 3 and up, but exercise caution: some paths are near cliff edges.


3. Hohllay

The largest, least dark and definitely most bizarre of the caves we visited, the “Hohllay” (“Hollow cave”) is a darling of the Mullerthal tourism industry, frequently adorning brochures and guide books in the shops of Echternach, Beaufort and Berdorf. And it is easy to see why:

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But how was this geological oddity formed? Not as you may expect: the brilliant Atlas Obscura observes that visitors:

“might be forgiven for thinking that it was once home to an order of druids or some other ancient sect thanks to strange markings covering the cave walls. But really it’s just mining scars.”

That’s right, mining scars. “Mullerthal” translates as “Millers’ Valley”, and the Hohllay has been almost entirely artificially created by the quarrying of millstones, clefted from the rock here since the middle ages (and perhaps even from Roman times). But the old quarriers appear to have been artists as well as workmen: what they left behind them is undoubtedly very beautiful indeed.

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Location: 1km south-east of Berdorf, beside the “Amphitheatre”. Ample parking onsite.

Tip: Suitable for all ages. Common sense required.


4. Hölle

Child #1 had been looking to forward to this all day. “Hölle” (“Hell”) is a narrow 55 metre long dead-end crevice near Berdorf. It’s brilliant.

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This is a veritable obstacle course of a cave for kids and adults alike. After a gentle descent on foot into the darkness, the adventurer has to first get down and crawl through some sandy cave grime. Then, about 40 metres in, it is time to stand up straight and climb up, over AND back down a 2.5 metre high rock.

Child #3, to her immense credit, did the crawling and climbing very well. Then, perched up high, she came to the startling realisation that she was stuck on top of a rock in a narrow, dark cave. This is, admittedly, probably rather scary when you’re five.

But with a little gentle encouragement and quite a lot of cave gymnastics, I was able to hoist her back down to safety. She admitted later that it was a grand little adventure, and wants to give it another try soon.

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The immediate region surrounding the “Hölle” is the Mullerthal at its most dramatic. From a spectacular viewpoint way up on the plateau, the Gorges de Reitzbach take the adventurer on a descent through a veritable labyrinth of narrow, interconnecting crevices.

To date, I have found three ways out of this natural playground: one down a ladder towards the “Hölle”, one towards the valley floor and another leading down some perilously winding steps towards our final dark place of the day – the Reiberhiel.

Location: Park your vehicle at the “Maartbësch” centre on the north-west edge of Berdorf (signposted). Walk to the viewpoint, then descend through the Gorges de Reitzbach. At the bottom, keep left on Mullerthal Trail 2 and watch out for signposts.

Tip: “Hölle” Cave suitable for ages 7 and up; Gorges de Reitzbach for 4 and up.


5. Reiberhiel

OK, I have to admit that this cave isn’t exactly suitable for kids, but since we were exploring the area, we checked it out anyway. It starts off innocently enough, with a low non-descript entrance and a narrowing passage forcing the adventurer into a short stint on hands and knees. But then it opens up again, and by this I mean – literally – UP.

Two fixed metal ladders inside the cave point the way to a second entrance, seven or eight metres above the cave floor, and invitingly illuminated by the streaming natural light. We scaled the first ladder, but the second was simply too high to safely climb with a five-year old. Child #1 posed for a photo before I quickly shooed him back down to safety again.

Location: As for “Hölle”, but keep right at the bottom of the gorges.

Tip: Ladders not suitable for children.


And with the adrenaline still pumping through our veins we returned home, where Mama was promptly told all about our adventures. Well.. maybe not all… the kids may have accidentally skipped the bit about Child #3 getting stuck on the rock and climbing dangerous ladders, and there may or may not have been some bribery involved. But Mama doesn’t need to know every little “dark” secret, does she?

(c) 2017 Jonathan Orr

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Two Traveling Texans
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Suitcases and Sandcastles

Author: daisythebus

Father-of-four based in Luxembourg. I write about "off the beaten track" travel adventures with my family. Expect to read about nature, outdoor activities, the arts, authenticity, and alternative ways of discovering the world around us.

49 thoughts on “Dark places of the Mullerthal”

  1. What a fabulous experience and your children so adventurous. I’m not sure I’d have faired so well in the Hölle or handled cave ‘grime’ that well either. Luxembourg is intriguing me more and more! #fearlessfamtrav

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    1. These are all great caves to visit, but if a visitor to the region has only time to visit one then – indeed – I would advise going to #2 (the “Kohlscheuer”). Not only are the caves and scenery wonderful, but there is a perfect spot for a picnic – in a shelter overlooking a picturesque series of ponds. It’s probably my favourite spot in all of Luxembourg. Thanks for reading!

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  2. These look spectacular, though like some of the other commenters, I unfortunately suffer from claustrophobia so not sure how that would pan out! But some of them I know I could do – they look too amazing to pass up. #fearlessfamtrav

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  3. Brilliant. That’s one brave family you have there, especially your 5 year old, going to Holle and back! I loved the detail about Hollhay being formed by miners. I wonder how many other beautiful places in the world we have to thank them for?

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  4. This was fun to read! Our toddler is a bit too young for most caves but I think that in a year he would totally love it! He can then go with his daddy so I don’t have to know all their scary adventures 😉

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  5. I don’t t do well in small spaces so not sure this is all for me. It looks like you had a great time though and you have yet again shown me somewhere I have never seen before!

    I love the photo with the trees – beautiful lighting

    Thanks for joining the first ever #fearlessfamtrav – hope you can join again next month

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    1. Thanks for the nice comment. In fact, most of these caves are perfectly suitable for a four year old. “Hohllay” and “Keltenhiel” are safe and easily accessible (under normal supervision, of course), “Kuhlscheier” is also fine but some of the paths around it are a bit hairy, and even “Hölle” and “Reiberhiel” can be partially explored. In fact, my wife (a nursery school teacher) has taken a class of 20 three-year olds around the Kuhlscheier (which must be the best nursery school trip ever, no? 😉 ) Greetings from Luxembourg.

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  6. This sounds like an awesome little family adventure. Another fascinating post on Luxembourg, the 2nd I’ve read today, and it’s got me really considering how I can visit this little country this year. Thanks for sharing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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  7. What a fantastic experience for the three of you, you can really see that these two have a real sense of adventure and loved caving with you. Hölle looks like an awesome cave to explore, it’s great that Child #1 got to explore it as he had hoped, and a massive well done to Child #2, I would’ve become very nervous crawling and climbing through that one. Hohllay is a beautiful cave too, you can see why it’s used so regularly for tourism.

    Thanks for linking up with me on #CoutnryKids.

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    1. Thanks for commenting. The Mullerthal really is a gorgeous, gorgeous region – I had never heard of it either before coming to Luxembourg many years ago, and I am surprised why it is still so relatively unknown. Definitely worth a visit!

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  8. I have never heard of these caves put my goodness what a fab activity to do with kids I bet they absolutely loved it. I would love to take mine exploring somewhere like this when they’re a bit older. #countrykids x

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  9. What a great area to explore with or without kids. Both the caves and the forest look beautiful. I am glad that you exercise some caution with the ladder, sometimes it is just not worth it. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    1. It’s funny, but I was looking through a local tourist brochure yesterday called “Hits for kids” which mentions only two of these caves – the Kohlscheuer and the Reiberhiel (the ladder one). I am all for letting kids take some risks but – as you said – sometimes it is just not worth it and those ladders are definitely NOT kid-suitable in my opinion. But, all in all, it was a really superb day out. Thanks for #TheWeeklyPostcard link-up!

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    1. Thanks for the nice comment. I was really surprised how well these photos turned out too – photography is not usually my strong point!! And if you successfully apply for any of the Luxembourg blog trips, do let me know.

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  10. I think I might skip Hell cave as it conjures the lava tubes that we explore in Oregon and I’m cool to head all the way in until there are belly crawling bits. But the rest look so beautiful and mysterious and awesome. Beautiful post – thank you kindly for sharing with #FarawayFiles – this is a wonderful one! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

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  11. I think it is so great that your family is out and about exploring nature. These caves look like the ultimate kids dream for exploring but I was particularly struck by the light in your photo of Kohlscheuer. So ethereal and beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us on #FarawayFiles

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  12. What a fantastic place to have locally. Hölle sounds like my favourite although I’d love to see what’s at the top of the second ladder too. I do have plans to do a caving trip with our kids sometime although it would need to be an organised one – I’m not claustrophobic but worry instead about getting lost underground! #farawayfiles

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    1. At the top of the second ladder is the aptly-named “Eagles’ nest”, a sort of hidden gully in the chaos of rocks. It’s really a superb area to explore, with paths, ladders and gorges leading to all sorts of interesting corners.

      And there is no chance of getting lost underground in these caves – they are far too small for that. That’s why they make excellent mini-adventures for little wannabe explorers. Thanks for reading!!

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  13. Soooo much fun to be had in caves! I love that you went on a cave exploring adventure – some of these look properly scary in a way that would no doubt appeal to my two. Great idea to add to things to do in Luxembourg. It’s on my list. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

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    1. Thanks for your honesty 😉 Yes, I guess this isn’t for everyone. Saying that, our visitors almost universally love the “Kohlscheuer”, probably because it has a distinct entrance AND exit; they know where they are going and are comfortable with that, despite the pitch black in between. But “Hölle” does indeed freak some people out, and is definitely not recommended for those suffering from claustrophobia (nor arachnophobia for that matter…). Thanks for reading. (p.s. my next article, coincidentally, is also about being stuck in dark places (not caves). So you can probably give that one a miss 😀 )

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    1. Yes, they are very different. These are essentially covered crevices caused by the erosion of sandstone rock and the ground supporting it. The famous Slovenian caves (e.g. Postojna, Škocjan) are much, much bigger and formed as part of karst systems (e.g. limestone). There are bigger caves in the Mullerthal than the ones I featured (e.g. the Grotte St Barbe) but even these don’t compare in size to the Slovenian ones. In any case, they are not open to the public and definitely not suitable for children 😉 Thanks for reading!

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  14. This looks amazing and I love your photos. Have you visited the “Elbsandsteingebirge” it has some amazing rock-formations, although they’re a bit short on caves.
    Also, if you’re ever in Berlin and want to do a free bike tour, drop me a line, I work for a tour operator there and we have a standard free tour for bloggers.

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    1. Hi. Yes, I briefly visited this area back in 2010 – it was incredibly beautiful. There are some similarities between the sandstone rock formations there and in the Mullerthal, and it’s an area that I’d love to return to.

      And thanks for the bike tour offer. Sounds very interesting – I may be in touch! Thanks for reading.

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  15. Nice write up. I shall have to see if I can find these with our two. We’ve been to a couple. Always take guests up to Berdorf on the bus and walk back down to Echternach via the amphitheatre.

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    1. Thanks Victoria. Funny you mentioned that, because I had written about the wonderful hike from the “Hohllay” down to Echternach in an earlier draft of this article (I took it out only because I was scared of the article becoming too lengthy). It is definitely one of the great hikes of Luxembourg. Maybe one for a future blog post? ;o) Have fun discovering these “dark places”!

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  16. Wow they did so well so a big well done to them. I have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever considered going to Luxembourg for anything other than maybe to travel through to get to somewhere else. The caves look so fascinating to explore though…even if one of them is called Hell!

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