Legends – Heroes – Adventures: Castles in the Hunsrück


Mighty suits of armour and colourful frocks, sharp swords, shields, bows and arrows, lofty towers and mighty walls – the fascinating lives of the people of the Middle Ages provide plenty of fodder for myths and legends. The stories of princes, bishops, robber barons and damsels in distress have fuelled imaginations of all ages, and with nearly 60 castles and mystical medieval ruins, the Hunsrück really is a place where dreams can come true. These castles were painstakingly constructed many centuries ago in order to protect the valuable resources under the ground. The walls still whisper fascinating tales of war, honour and intrigue today. You just need to listen in closely to hear them.

One of the many chivalric tales of the Hunsrück is all about Kastellaun Castle, which, like many others, was destroyed by the Sun King, Louis XIV, during the Nine Years’ War in the late 17th century and is now an imposing ruin towering above the town of the same name.
Kastellaun Castle was once one of the most important complexes in the Hunsrück. It was built in the 13th century by the Counts of Sponheim, then the rulers of the whole region between the Rhine, the Moselle and the Nahe. The rocky outcrop from which the castle still towers over the town is formed from typical Hunsrück slate. Initially, the triangular mountain plateau on which the castle now sits simply boasted a wooden defensive structure. But the wooden houses were gradually replaced by stone buildings to reflect the increasing power of the counts and status of the castle.

Sunset at Kastellaun Castle, Hunsrück

Sunset at Kastellaun Castle, Hunsrück

Count Simon II and his wife Elizabeth took up residence in the early 14th century. They extended Kastellaun Castle into a residential castle with a keep, a perimeter wall and a small hall, perfect for any castle lord and his loved ones. They also brought wealth to the town, which was awarded a market charter allowing it to hold a market every Wednesday, a tradition that lives on to this day. You can now conquer the old castle ruins on any day of the week! The neighbouring regional history museum is an interactive insight into life at the castle, and the little ones can even dress up as knights or damsels. There are also fantastic play areas and an exciting museum mystery to solve to ensure that any visit to Kastellaun Castle is an adventure for all the family.

Interior view of the Balduinseck castle ruins near Mastershausen, Hunsrück

Interior view of the Balduinseck castle ruins near Mastershausen, Hunsrück

The next chapters in the story of Count Simon and his wife Elizabeth are something of a soap opera, and the increasing wealth of the Hunsrück region did not go unnoticed by Balduin of Luxembourg, the Archbishop of Trier. In 1320, he had built the impressive Baldenau Castle, the only moated castle in the Hunsrück. The story goes that he wanted to keep the Counts of Sponheim at bay.
Just a year later, the Archbishop was in warring spirits and besieged Kastellaun Castle. So it was a good thing that Elizabeth of Sponheim was related to Balduin and that she was a sensible woman: she pleaded for mercy and negotiated a peaceful settlement. A few years later, he built Balduinseck Castle just six kilometres away. Clearly the ambitious cleric had not gained that much of a taste for peace.

Like Kastellaun Castle, Balduinseck and the moated Baldenau Castle are now mere ruins, stone witnesses to a chequered past that are steeped in legend and that make for a particularly eerie sight on misty days. You can nearly always combine your visit to this magical world of unspoilt forests and mystical ruins with a good walk. You can pick the route and the experience based on your level of fitness. One example is the adventurous ‘Schinderhannespfad’ between Kastellaun and Gemünden. The famous, or perhaps infamous, robber baron wreaked his mischief here, and his spirit is still said to haunt the region!

Or you can pluck up your courage and attempt the Saar-Hunsrück Trail from the Geierlay suspension rope bridge to Kastellaun, although you will need a good head for heights to brave the bridge. Once you make it to the other side, you can walk on through thick woods and past steep slate cliffs to the ruins of Balduinseck Castle. Perhaps you could even dare to tackle the day’s walk from Kastellaun Castle to the wild Baybachklamm, with its steep uphill sections and downhill scrambles, including some climbing on the Hunsrück slate with the Baybach bubbling deep below. It is a real challenge for hardy adventurers of all ages!

The Geierlay suspension rope bridge in the Hunsrück: 360 metres long and 100 metres high

The Geierlay suspension rope bridge in the Hunsrück: 360 metres long and 100 metres high

Hike through the forest past slate in its most pristine form, Hunsrück

Hike through the forest past slate in its most pristine form, Hunsrück

The adventurous Hunsrück circuit


Today, Martin Seidler takes you on an adventurous walk to the Layensteig Strimmiger Berg loop in the Hunsrück. With every step, you can sense unspoilt nature all around and you can even spot toads, lizards and other wildlife. There are ladders, climbing step irons and grab ropes to help you through the spectacular climbs near the rugged slate of the Hunsrück, or you can brave the depths of the disused mine tunnels. It is a captivating experience.

More travel highlights for nature lovers in the Hunsrück region


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