Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A Visit to Waterloo

So following on from our brief visit to Azincourt we headed North into Belgium for the big visit to Waterloo.

I had previously booked to stay in the 1815 Hotel - a small but comfortable 3 star hotel which sits about 200 yards from the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte. Indeed it probably sits very close to the centre of the British Lines.

 I can strongly recommend this venue as it is not only very reasonable (We paid £160 all in for two nights for a twin room including breakfast) it also boasts a fantastic restaurant which is very popular with the locals. We ate here both nights.

The Hotel 1815 (our room was called Ney) - top left window

The battlefield is spectacular and just as I imagined it. The field is dominated by the Lion Mound (a celebration of the Allied Victory) which I understand was constructed using the ridgeline defended by the Allied forces. So although some of the topography has changed the atmosphere and sense of history is all pervasive.

The Lion Mound - the building to the right holds the panorama

A quick recce of the area revealed that you could buy a day pass for 19 Euros to visit the museum, the panorama, a climb to the top of the mound plus entry to  Hougoument on the British Right flank, the farm that Napoleon slept in on the night before the battle and Wellingtons general HQ in the village of Waterloo (some 4 miles from the battlefield. All these points can be found on the N7 (the main road that traverses the battlefield) and the one that takes you into the heart of Brussels.

So the following morning we headed down to the museum and bought our day tickets. We entered the museum.

The first part focussed on the events leading up to the battle with plenty of memorabilia. It did strike me that if you didn't read the notices present or were uninitiated with the battle you might have surmised that Napoleon had won ! It really was very French !

From the first hall you moved into a corridor exhibiting the uniforms of the day...

Having passed through the museum, including a rather interesting 3d experience, you find yourself entering the rather splendid round building alongside the mound. This houses the panorama. We'll come back to this shortly.

Because from the panorama building you find your self at the bottom of a very long set of stairs to the top of the mound. This is a steep staircase !

FRom the top the views are spectacular - I am looking North in the picture below and you can see the town of Waterloo in the distance.

The Old Man decided to stay at the bottom and smoke his pipe - he seems to have met a re-enactor

This is the view south from the mound - the farm buildings in the top centre are La Belle Alliance and to the left is La Haye Sainte.

La Haye Sainte

The Hotel & Other buildings - top of British Line (centre)

Having navigated my down the steps from the mound - not that easy ! We entered the panorama building. Commissioned for the centenary (1915) this circular building housed a picture of the engagement at the height of Ney's cavalry charges in the afternoon.It was truly spectacular and I imagine a hundred years ago this would have been a lot brighter and more vivid.

I believe it was finished in 1913 before the Great War broke out.

From the Panorama we hopped in the car and drove round the back of Wellingtons ridge to Hougoumont. This has been restored over the last few years and is a fitting memorial for the men who fought here.

The view below is from the North of the Chateau looking at the Northern Gate...the one the French stormed and opened. Only for the guards to rally and close the gates. This has been captured in bronze...a fine statue

The farms as I said has been restored and I think looks too pristine. I doubt it was this clean and tidy on the eve of the battle.

The small chapel used as a nursing station during the battle.

The gate into the chateau

The Barns complete with a 4D show....

The gate from the chateau into the orchard and walled garden

If you look carefully in the above picture you will see three old trees (elm I believe) in the top right  that are virtually dead. These trees were alive and full leaf on the day of the battle. Their trunks are scarred and punctured by hundreds of musket balls.

From Hougoumont we returned to the centre of the field and headed south along the N5 for about three miles.

Eventually we arrived at Bonapartes resting place the night before the battle.

Don't you love the bayonet gates !

FRom here we drove back North up the N5 and found La Hat Sainte. Sadly this is a private residence but still bears the scars of the battle. The gatehouse reminds me so much of the old Airfix kit.

By turning around 180 degrees at this point you can see the landscape of Wellingtons left flank. The buildings in the distance are not Papelotte (i think)

Of course no trip top France can be left without a visit to a booze store. This was one of three trolleys !

This was a fantastic weekend, two iconic battle fields, a chance to spent some time with my father and some great food and wine...

where to next...??


  1. Thinks for sharing such a splendid trip.

  2. Fantastic write up and great photos. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I am so jealous. Some fantastic photos especially of Hougoumont. I know it looks slightly over-restored but given that it was close to collapse a few years ago it is good to see it has been saved. I remember speaking to some Belgians once who couldn't understand all the fuss the British made about Waterloo and would happily have bulldozed anything to do with the battle (see Quatre Bras).

    The really telling shot is that showing how steep the hill is that La Haye Sainte is built upon is. You always see wargames models of it on a flat piece of ground.

  4. The day I went I could not even take a photo, it was blowing a blizzard with torrential rain, not a happy chap, will have to go back, nice post.

  5. Great pics, thanks for sharing

  6. Really sounds like a wonderful trip. Thank you for sharing your pictures.

  7. Thank you! Looks like a wonderful trip. It reminded me of what Wellington was reported to have said on returning to the field years later. "They have altered my battlefield!".

    There was a similar painting-in-the-round done for the Battle of Bunker (Breed's) Hill, probably close to the same time (same artist?). It was part of something called the Boston Cyclorama. Sadly, it is no longer believed to be in existence, though one still sees photos of portions of it at times.

  8. What a wonderful trip!
    Thanks for sharing your experience.