It’s not everyday that you get to feel like a mighty lord of a castle or a regal dutchess as you walk through the magnificent corridors of a stately palace (or what remains of one). For many people, castles, palaces, and their ruins are synonymous with mysticism. These traces of past eras transport us back to these times gone by, even if you’re not such a history buff.
The Castles and Palaces Trail through the Mühlviertel in Austria takes you to as many as 15 of these historic buildings (or 19, I’ll explain more below). On a total of 200 kilometres (124 miles) spread over seven stages, you hike through this wonderful region to Budweis, a city just across the border in the Czech Republic.
So what awaits on your journey? As I mentioned at the beginning, you encounter magnificent castles, mighty fortresses and mystical ruins. They pop up time and time again along the entire route, impressively enthroned by spectacular nature and often perched atop huge rocks. You can explore many of them on your own whilst some offer guided tours. Some are privately owned and can only be admired from outside. One thing is certain: these historical Tours will make you watery-eyed. All castle lords and ladies, regardless of their regal expectations, will be impressed.
You can walk the route in both directions and extend, shorten or divide up the seven stages I have suggested in the way that suits you best. The itinerary suggested here requires you to have good stamina and endurance. You can easily reach Grein municipality and the city of Budweis, the start and endpoint, by train.
Tip: to extend this fun adventure and visit even more castles and palaces, you can follow the southern route of the Castles and Palaces Trail from Unter Sankt Thomas. This trail is a good 53 kilometres (33 miles), which makes it ideal for two or three additional hiking days. You rejoin the original route halfway through stage 3 in Gutau.
All that remains is to say – have fun exploring! Oh, and don’t lose yourself entirely in the history, even if these mysterious buildings tempt you to forget space and time...
Stage 1 of the Burgen- und Schlösserweg leads you from Grein to Bad Kreuzen and presents you with three wonderful castles along the way. Almost 23 kilometers through the wonderful Mühlviertel are in front of you.You start in the heart of Grein, which you can also easily reach by train (fahrplan.oebb.at). Once you arrive, the first historical highlight awaits you before you even set off: Greinburg Castle is the city's landmark and is always worth a detour. So if you like, you can pay him a visit to get in the mood for your long-distance hike. Then it's off.First the path leads you a bit along the Danube, then you turn your back on it. Via the villages of Unterhornbach and Oberhornbach you will reach Klam after a few kilometers and with the village also its mighty castle. For this you accept a decent increase. Don't worry - from now on it'll be a little more comfortable. And the next castle - Burg Kreuzen - awaits you less than ten kilometers later. It is enthroned a little higher with a view of the city of Bad Kreuzen. Incidentally, this is your destination for today. There are several options in the village to find a warm bed for the night. Yes, you can also sleep right in front of the old walls of the castle if you wish. You can find all accommodation here: oberoesterreich.at/oesterreich-ort/unterkunft-liste/430001071/bad-kreuzen.html?q=Kategorien:(%22Unterkektiven%22.
Let's go on - the castles are waiting! Stage two of your adventure is about to take you to the walls of two impressive ruins. Almost 30 kilometers are also on the program. You march in steady up and down from Bad Kreuzen to Schönau im Mühlkreis.And so you start yesterday's stage goal. First of all, it's relatively leisurely, even a short descent awaits you. Until the first highlight of the tour, the so-called Bucklwehluck’n, you have to master two crisp climbs. It pays off: The view from this very special place of power is unique. A few kilometers later you will be greeted by the first of the two promised ruins. The good news is soon to follow - things are going downhill again.You hike into the idyllic Naarn Valley and immediately dive into a wonderful world full of picturesque resting places. To strengthen yourself here and to stretch your feet for a short moment (maybe even to cool off in the Naarn) is a good idea. Because one last climb is still ahead of you. At the top you can expect - how could it be otherwise - another castle ruin. It's only a little more than five kilometers from the Ruttenstein ruins and you're already standing in today's stage destination called Schönau im Mühlkreis. You can find your preferred night accommodation here: oberoesterreich.at/oesterreich-ort/unterkunft-liste/430000956/schoenau-im-muehlkreis.html?q=Kategorien:(%22Unterkektiven%22.
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Today you take on stage 3 of the Burgen- und Schlösserweg. You have been able to admire quite a few of the former in the last few days. So that the path fully lives up to its name, it brings you today in front of the gates of two magnificent castles. Yes, and of course a ruin is there again.From Schönau im Mühlkreis you head towards Gutau, where you pass the so-called Herrgottssitz. The name fits - the climb up there is a tough one. For that, it goes downhill again and shortly after Pehersdorf the first ruin, the Prandegg Castle, is reached. You only pass by Gutau, but - shortly before you have left the village behind you - you take a beautiful castle with you on the edge.From now on the route runs rather leisurely and through a lush green landscape. For the next few kilometers there is no longer a castle in sight, but the Elzer Stub’n, a grandiose inn that invites you to rest. Then it says: One more time. A few kilometers after your well-deserved break, the Weinberg Castle opens up in front of you before you finally arrive at your stage destination. Because it is so convenient, I will take you on this tour directly to the “To stop” inn (gh-stadler.at). In any case, you should reserve in advance to stay here. Of course, you can also hike further into the center of Lasberg and look for accommodation there (oberoesterreich.at/oesterreich-ort/unterkunft-liste/430000946/lasberg.html?q=Categories :( % 22Accommodation% 22).
Before you cross the border to the Czech Republic tomorrow and see how the lords of the castle and their ladies lived there, you will stay in Austria today. A long stage lies ahead of you: 31.5 kilometers to be precise. Most of the vertical meters are limited to just two short climbs.The first of today's two ruins is not far from your quarters in Lasberg: The Dornach castle ruins are located in Lasberg's municipal area and proudly sit enthroned on a slope. So you have to accept a small climb to see them up close. Then you walk across Lasberg and head towards Freistadt. You may be familiar with the name. If so, then you probably also know the town's castle. It's not just nice to look at from the outside - it's also home to a museum where you can learn more about the history of the region. Maybe you combine your visit with a stop in one of the local inns and cafés?But don't dawdle too long. A decent piece of the tour lies ahead of you. For now you dive into the wonderful Thury Valley and let the Feldaist guide you through the idyllic landscape. Via the village of Rainbach im Mühlkreis and once around the Reisingerberg, you finally reach today's destination Windhaag near Freistadt. Find accommodation (oberoesterreich.at/oesterreich-ort/unterkunft-liste/430000963/windhaag-bei-freistadt.html?q=Kategorien:(%22Unterkektiven%22) - ideally you have the topic Clarified before you start your hike - and strengthen yourself for tomorrow's border crossing.
There are still three stages ahead of you. And now they will take you across the border to the Czech Republic. As you continue to hike, you will notice that the old castles and palaces there are a little more old than it might be in Austria. But that doesn't make them any less impressive.You leave Windhaag near Freistadt behind you and head straight for the border. Behind it you will first find a lush green landscape and soon - who would have thought that - the first castle ruin. Tichá is her name, it has been a protected cultural monument since 1958, stands in the middle of the green and what it used to be today is only reminiscent of the square main tower.Go on! The landscape remains for the most part wonderfully untouched and soon you will meet the Maltsch, which will accompany you for a large part of the rest of your tour from here. So you march to the next ruin - Louzek. Here, too, your imagination is required, because only remnants are left of the once mighty building. But it is always interesting to look at. And it’s not far from here to your today's destination. A good seven kilometers of easy ups and downs are still ahead of you. Then you are right in the middle of Kaplitz. You can check in for the night here, you can find a list of local accommodations here, for example: hrs.de/hotel/tschechien/kaplice. Tomorrow, on day 6, the penultimate stage of your adventure will be on the program.
You stay on Czech soil - stage 6 takes you on a comparatively relaxed 24.9 kilometers from Kaplitz to Weleschin. As always, two historical objects are waiting for you here. But first things first.Leaving Kaplitz behind you, you first hike back out into nature. The next few kilometers are very watery, so a river is constantly babbling near you and you even pass a lake. After another stretch directly on the bank of the Cerna river, it will open up in front of you: the Sokolčí ruins. A mystical place in the middle of the forest that you should allow a few minutes to explore.Over the village of Oemau, past a small lake and thus back in the company of the Maltsch, you march a few kilometers in a leisurely up and down way until you reach the next highlight, the Pořešín ruin. And it's pretty well preserved compared to its predecessors. Boardwalks and bridges allow you to explore them up close and a board shows you what the facility once looked like. You can then master the remaining eleven kilometers to your stage destination Weleschin without major climbs. Once you have arrived in the village, you can, for example, make yourself comfortable in the “Penzion Vintage” (penzionvintage.cz). Tomorrow is the final sprint!
Stage 7 again has plenty of water and greenery, one last historical ruin and at the end a popular Czech city - the largest in South Bohemia - for you. Is it already tingling in your legs? Then let's go!From Weleschin you walk a short distance back, to then cross the Maltsch and get to Velešín Castle. It must have been one of the first stone castles in Bohemia. Accordingly, little is left of her. But the nature and the panorama all around are twice as beautiful.From now on it's heading towards Budweis. Because you are spared major climbs and because nature shows itself from its most beautiful side here too, the next few kilometers just fly by. Again and again you cross or pass smaller and larger towns. Some of them in turn have historical buildings such as small chapels or churches ready, which you are welcome to take a closer look at.As promised a few stages ago, the Maltsch won't leave you alone anymore. You cross it a few times, then you are in your destination: Budweis is the capital of the South Bohemian region in the south of the Czech Republic. Its unique architecture and the many colorful cafés and restaurants invite you to linger. Maybe you plan to spend another night - including a nice glass of Budweiser - so that you can see everything in peace before you leave tomorrow? Oh and by the way: Congratulations! You have mastered the Castle and Castle Trail.
If you have a particularly ambitious historian slumbering in you, you should consider this option. She extends the tour one more time. For this you take four more castles with you. Ready? Then you can start.As far as Unter Sankt Thomas you stick to the original route guidance of stage 1 (komoot.de/tour/306651786) and 2 (komoot.de/tour/306655474). Then you leave the original path and take the south route. It leads you past the Saxenegg ruins to the village of Windhaag near Perg, again with an impressive castle ruin. Passing Zellhof Castle, you cross Tragwein and after castle number four - Reichenstein Castle - you will find the original route again near Gutau (komoot.de/tour/306665984).With a total length of over 53 kilometers, you should split this variant over at least two days. Places that are ideal for an overnight stay are, for example, Windhaag near Perg, Rechberg, Bad Zell and Tragwein. You can find suitable accommodation here: oberoesterreich.at/unterkunft/alle-unterkuenfte-in-oberoesterreich.html.