One gorgeous Sunday I took a short trip by car out of Utrecht with friends and family to Kasteel De Haar (De Haar Castle). I wasn’t expecting much, as Holland isn’t exactly known for its castles. One sooner thinks of France’s Loire Valley châteaux or Germany’s Disney-inspirational Neuschwanstein.
But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Not only did De Haar turn out to be one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in Holland, it is also one of the nicest castles I’ve ever visited, inside or out.
The approach to the castle is dramatic – you walk down a tree-lined avenue, across a drawbridge spanning a moat, and then through a large arch suspended between two pointed towers.
Once inside the castle grounds, the first building you enter is the stables where the horses were kept. But the building and its courtyard – which now serves as the café, gift shop, and visitors entrance – is so picturesque that at first you don’t even realize its historical function was for horses, not people!
The doors and shutters are all brightly adorned in red and white, the colours of Utrecht province and of the Van Zuylen family, the historical owners of the castle. Since 2000, the Van Zuylen’s passed ownership of the castle to a foundation, but they still spend one month each year (September) in the castle hosting visitors.
Exiting the stables, you walk along a forested lane and catch glimpses of the castle’s spires peeking through the canapy. You then emerge onto an expansive lawn of immaculately tended rose gardens and are confronted with a spectacular view of the castle that will make your heart soar.
Although there has been a building on the site since as early as 1391, the current castle is actually quite modern, having been rebuilt from the ruins over the period 1892 to 1907.