Walk near Loonbeek, South Dijleland via walking junctions

There is still plenty of room to relax between Brussels and Leuven. The sea of greenery that connects the two cities offers many opportunities to relax. South of the E40 Brussels-Li├Ęge motorway lies the Zuid-Dijleland walking network. This network of nodes extends from Leuven to Tervuren and even flirts with the language border several times. The walker explores a part of Flanders that flows seamlessly into Wallonia and tastes a bit of Belgian diversity. This makes it possible to explore the IJsevallei and its rolling flanks around the village of Loonbeek.

Choose walking junctions in the green edge of Brussels

Planning your own route not only has the great advantage that everyone determines the distance themselves, but the starting point can also be freely chosen. The South Dijleland walking route network has approximately 300 kilometers of paths. Exploring the entire network in a single day is therefore impossible. Anyone who starts in Loonbeek can expect a spicy combination of water and forest.

Details of the described walking route

  • Starting point: Sint Jansbergsteenweg 28, 3040 Loonbeek
  • The junctions to follow: 216-215-220-219-223-25-26-24-23-203-204-217-216 (Online route planner Zuid-Dijleland)
  • Distance: 12 kilometers


Map route with most important locations

A . Watermill Loonbeek
B . castle Loonbeek
C . Margrijsbos
D . Western flank Ijse
E . Start/end point route

Rest along the IJse

When leaving the parking lot, the main road must be crossed. The bridge over the water leads to the start of the route on the IJsepad, an easily accessible gravel path along the IJse. This clear river rises south of Brussels in the Sonian Forest and flows into the Dyle just past Loonbeek, in neighboring Neerijse. The Loonbeek watermill is located right at the start of the walk.
Source: LHOON, Flickr (CC BY-SA-2.0)

Van der Vorst Castle, heritage along the water

The mill, whose water wheel was replaced by a turbine in 1952, is part of Loonbeek Castle, also called Van der Vorst Castle. The manor of Loonbeek was purchased in 1500 by chancellor Jan van der Vorst. Although much of the stronghold was destroyed by fire in 1579 during the religious war, the entrance gate with the coat of arms of the Van der Vorst family was preserved. The domain was owned by this family until the nineteenth century. The restored castle today serves as a tenant farm. Both the castle and the watermill are protected as monuments, the surrounding area enjoys the status of a protected villagescape.

‘Zwette Jean’, faded glory in the green landscape

Anyone walking along the IJse will come across the remains of an old tram line. Zwarte Jean, or Zwette Jean in the local dialect, was a steam tram that transported passengers and goods between Vossem, near Tervuren, and Tienen. It was put into use in 1905 and ran its last ride in 1957. The rails may have disappeared, but the route is still clearly visible among the greenery. Regional Landscape Dijleland vzw set out a 13 kilometer long walking route along the tram bed, ‘In the footsteps of Zwarte Jean’.

The Margrijsbos, a gem on the eastern flank of the IJse

It is no punishment to leave the banks of the IJse and walk a bit higher. The Margrijsbos is located on the eastern flank. This forest area is a remnant of the Old Coal Forest, a primeval forest that was originally spread over a large part of Flanders and was severely fragmented due to intensive exploitation. The historic Margrijsbos, with its sometimes steep slopes and deeply cut sunken roads, is a pleasant variation on the flat path along the IJse. In the spring, some flanks are covered with bluebells. These slopes then turn completely blue. This is an additional tourist asset for the South Dijleland region.

Varying landscape around Loonbeek

The western flank of the IJse requires less climbing and is not as wooded. At the top of the plateau there is a beautiful view of the rolling landscape and the wooded slopes all around. The municipality invested in the construction of a paved concrete path here so that the natural beauty is also accessible to people with a wheelchair or a mobility scooter. The descent runs through the built-up area of Loonbeek. At the bottom, there is a final stretch along the IJse to end at the departure and end point.

South Dijleland, a region with a versatile character

The IJsevallei with its vibrant nature and heritage is only part of the South Dijleland region. The walking network offers the opportunity to discover the entire area. The Eastern part takes the holidaymaker to a part of the green belt around Brussels and takes him through the grape region. Grape growing has played a leading role for centuries. More to the west, the wooded areas below Leuven are entered. For example, the Meerdaalwoud, like the Margrijbos, is seen as a remnant of the primeval forest. There are many options for those who want to put together a beautiful walking route in South Dijleland.