Exploring castles is always a favourite activity when we are travelling in Europe and our visit to Slot Loevestein, a medieval castle in the Gelderland region of the Netherlands, was no exception.
We had hoped to use one of the free camper van spots in the castle car park – the location was beautiful with horses grazing nearby and lots of walking tracks.
Unfortunately, the four spots were already taken and as there was a hefty fine for parking illegally we decided to head for a local campsite just a short distance away in a town called Woudrichem.
When we finally found the site (roadworks sent us on a diversion and we ended up lost at first!) the nice guy who ran it told us that they had closed for the season that day. However, he said that we could park outside the gates and that no one would move us on.
That evening we were delighted to find we had parked just along from a small harbour filled with beautiful sailing barges modelled on the working boats that once plied the nearby rivers.
What a lovely place we had inadvertently found ourselves.
As we walked along the grassy medieval ramparts that ring the charming ancient village of Woudrichem, we came across some delightful sculptures depicting characters from the town’s history.
We sat by the river and watched the massive barges loaded down with containers chug slowly by. There were rain clouds in the sky but the sun was shining and soon we saw a beautiful rainbow.
We felt like we were sitting in the middle of one of those typical old Dutch paintings, with a windmill on one side, sailing barges on the other and a brooding light in the leaden sky. Fabulous!
The next day we wandered around the old town, admiring the 17th century houses and the cobbled streets.
We came upon a fabulous but small museum that displayed exhibits connected to the life of the river – fishing equipment, model boats and old photographs.
In the afternoon we drove back to have a look at Slot Loevesteen built where the Meuse and Waal rivers converge.
This 14th-century moated castle was originally built as a place from which the knight Diederic Loef of Horne could levy tolls from trading vessels using the rivers. Later it was expanded to become a fortress surrounded by earthen fortifications with stone bastions and two moats.
There was an interesting museum in what we imagined had once been the barracks and afterwards we could wander through the castle itself, starting in the dungeons and up winding staircases into various bedrooms, a chapel, reception rooms, kitchens and a massive dining hall.
There didn’t seem to be too many visitors that day and we were impressed by the way the management organised a route and staggered the numbers – allowing only one family into a particular area at a time and leaving hand sanitizer in strategic locations.
It was amazing to think that when it was built, no one could have anticipated this great big impressive fortress would one day be taking action to defend itself against a microscopic virus as opposed to human invaders!