Ten minutes away from Arras, on the road to the Côte d’Opale, the Heritage Village (Village Patrimoine©) labelled village of Etrun is one of the prettiest places in the Pays d’Artois. The site of a Gallo-Roman oppidum (fortified settlement)and an abbey, irrigated by water from the Scarpe and its tributaries, this is a true corner of Paradise where visitors can discover the history of the area in the midst of green countryside.
Caesar passed through Etrun
So, Gallic oppidum or Roman camp? Undoubtedly a little of both!
This Gallo-Roman fortress, considered the largest in the region, is thought to have been built by the Romans at a strategic point in Atrebate territory. Julius Caesar records having stayed in this sector in 51BC. A few decades later, once the territory had been pacified, the Romans founded Nemetacum (Arras) a few kilometres away. The walk takes you past the remains of this immense 3-kilometre earthen rampart, 6 to 8 metres high, which defended a 42-hectare stronghold!
A village on the water’s edge
The trail then leads you towards the centre of Etrun along some small rural footpaths.
It is green and peaceful and you can hear the murmur of the River Gy although this is far from being the only water course in the village! Etrun is nurtured by the Scarpe and the Fontaine and Ru streams, hence the name of the hamlet Les Trois Eaux (the three waters)! These water courses (Strom in Saxon) also gave the name Estrun, which evolved into Etrun! You will also pass close to a large fish farm, still in operation today, which exploits these waters and was one of the biggest in Europe in 1950!
Centred on an abbey
The large wall you are skirting past is not here by chance.
Because in the ancient villages of the Pays d’Artois, the paths of history frequently intersect. Etrun was home to a Benedictine Convent for women of the high nobility, founded in the eleventh century and well sheltered in the heart of this former Roman fortress. With the strong perimeter walls (Rue du Parvis and Rue Mabilais) the parish church, the Church of Saint-Nicolas, is one of the last remaining vestiges of that great history.
Be a guest at the home of the Bishop of Arras
The French Revolution led to the closure of the abbey in 1792. The estate was purchased in 1815 by Bishop de la Tour d’Auvergne, the famous Bishop of Arras.
He made his summer quarters there. It is said that he could hear the bells of the Cathedral of Arras from here! Today, you can spend an amazing night at the Abbaye d’Etrun gîte, in the former gatekeeper’s lodge. The abbey’s coat of arms (an arm holding a key) is clearly visible on this lodge. Comprising a château surrounded by a superb park, the estate can be visited by request to the owners. In short, the keys to Paradise.
Etrun in practice
- Eating out: Restaurant La Diligence (RN 39), actually located in the municipality of Duisans, but just outside Etrun.
- Brasserue Voisin, 38 rue d’Etrun
- Viewing and interpretation area at the hamlet of Le Mont César, just outside the village on the D55 Beautiful panoramic view over the valley.
- The 2.6km “Circuit Mont César” trail takes you virtually all the way around the village, along the edge of the former Gallo-Roman stronghold. Follow the red Mont César arrows, set on sandstone blocks located at each crossroads. http://www.cu-arras.fr/wp-content/uploads/Visiter/circuit17b.pdf
- The “Sentier des 3 Abbayes” path forms a 16km loop and passes through Etrun, Mareuil and Mont-Saint-Eloi. http://www.cu-arras.fr/wp-content/uploads/Visiter/circuit17b.pdf
Places to stay :
- Gîte Derrière la porte, 2 bis rue Aime Mabilais.
- Gîte de l’Abbaye d’Etrun, 2 rue du Parvis. Contact: Mr Hanard – +33 (0)6 08 57 78 10 – firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit of the park from April to November; groups by request.