For centuries, mills were probably the most important machines in Germany. Powered by nature by wind, water or even horses, they enabled people to process grains, oil and much more. They were essential for grinding and drilling too. Industrialisation led to the disappearance of most of the mills in Germany. However, in one district in northwest Germany, a large number of historically important mills survived and have been maintained to this day. In the district of Minden-Lübbecke, which is also known as the mill district (Mühlenkreis), 42 restored wind, horse and water mills still stand. One of the most impressive mills is probably the ship mill in Minde, the only grindable ship mill in the whole of Germany.
Following the five stages of the official Mühlensteig, you can get to know these historical buildings set amongst the beautiful landscape of the Mühlenkreis. The route takes you to 13 impressive mills as it winds through lush green landscapes and the dense beech forests of the Wiehen and Weser mountains that are home to numerous protected animal species such as the eagle owl. The Mühlensteig runs 100 kilometres (62 miles) past the historic mills and through the Terra.vita Nature Park, Germany’s first UNESCO Nature and Geopark. At times, you walk parallel to the Wittekindsweg (komoot.de/collection/1121065), which is probably the best-known hiking trail in Westphalia.
During your mill Tour, you explore various nature reserves, unique geological history and other exciting highlights such as the Kaiser Wilhelm Monument and the Kleinenbremen Visitor Mine and Museum. To reach the ship mill in Minden, you can also travel part of the fourth stage on a ferry across the Weser River.
You can plan the stages of the Mühlensteig as individual day Tours or complete the whole trail in five days. Each stage destination has accommodation options. Officially, the trail is divided into four stages, but I present the long-distance trail in five in this Collection. A few mills that are located off the trail are worth seeing and with an extra day, you have plenty of time to visit them.
Along the trail, there is a great shuttle bus service that can take you back to your starting point from the destination. You should reserve in advance by calling the SRJ-Mühlenkreis Guest Service on 0571/8891900. Bad Holzhausen, the starting point, can be reached by train and there are plenty of parking spaces for those arriving by car.
It is also important to know that most mills are only open to visitors from April to October when they hold baking, grinding days and other events. It’s best to plan your Tour around these dates. On the open days, you can experience how life would have been at the mills up close and even often take part. You can find the exact times of these days on the websites of the respective mills. The website of the Minden-Lübbecke Mill Association is also a good source of information.
The mills have been the landmarks of Minden-Lübbecke for decades. They are the pride and joy of the locals and are looked after and maintained accordingly. Nestled amongst the region’s hills and nature, every single historic building takes you on a journey through time and is sure to amaze you.
Your starting point on the first stage is the romantic health resort Bad Holzhausen on the northern slope of the Wiehengebirge. The first mill on your way through the mill circle is right in front of you: The Gutswassermühle Bad Holzhausen is a half-timbered building and is located next to the guest's house. Inside you can see the small mill museum and start your journey into the world of mills.After visiting the Gutsmühle, you leave the small village of Bad Holzhausen and make your way to the Rossmühle in Oberbauerschaft. To do this, you follow the Mühlensteig, whose path sign is of course a millstone, up the Wiehengebirge on the wooded ridge path that leads you to Oberbauerschaft. In between you can always enjoy the great view.The Rossmühle is located on the Meyer zu Kniendorf farm and is unique in its East Westphalian design. Guided tours through the mill are possible there by arrangement with the owners.
If the mill fever really grabs you after the first stage, then the right stage follows today: Because there are four mills for you to discover. For this purpose, two small swings are planned in the northern and southern valley of the Wiehengebirge.Use the first three kilometers to arrive: The Mühlensteig leads you on quiet paths into the heart of the Wiehengebirge. The roof of the forest rustles above you and you can be sure: Most of the time you have nature almost all to yourself here. Your first destination is Eilhausen. From kilometer three, follow the path out of the Wiehengebirge.With its two mills, Eilhausen is a real mill town. The Eilhauser Königsmühle and the Eilhausen watermill are only a few meters apart on the same street. The stone Königsmühle is the oldest of its kind in the mill circle, while its little sister is a water mill.
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You can approach the fourth stage of the Mühlensteig in different ways, because today you go to the ship mill in Minden, among other things. You can not only reach it on foot, you can also cover part of the way with a ferry across the Weser.After your overnight stay in Porta Westfalica, you get on the ferry towards Weserpromenade Minden. From there you can walk to the Minden ship mill. This mill is a real specialty on your tour, because it is unique in Germany and was built according to plans from the 18th century. The watermill is still functional today and as a visitor you can see how the grinding process took place almost 300 years ago.If you prefer to hike the entire path on foot, it will also lead you along the Weser to the ship mill.