When your child has a birthday in the era of COVID-19, celebration options are limited.
What a difference a year makes.
This time last year we were celebrating Hunter’s eleventh birthday in Ireland. You can read all about that adventure here.
For his twelfth birthday Hunter requested castle hikes–our family’s number one ‘travel’ adventure during lockdown. For this day I put two castles on the list that cumulatively were within 30 minutes of our home. For those with children you know how much better the moods are when the trip is shorter so that was a bonus.
Our first stop was an urban castle remnant in Laaber. From there we made the 15 minute drive to Loch where we explored the castle ruins named for the town.
Now during COVID it has been difficult to know when castle sites are closed or not. I have found a number of castles listed as ‘ temporarily closed’ by Google when in fact they are open air castle accessible 24/7. However there are those peculiar castle ruins in Germany where for example, you may have to knock on a house in town to get the key or pay a small fee or both.
In the case of Loch Castle, Google had slapped a Temporarily Closed warning in their search results. Undaunted we proceeded.
From most points in the small town of Loch you can spy the impressive remains of Loch Castle. Impressive not only because there is a large tower and wall still standing but because there are a number of caves visible on the castle grounds.
Because the streets are quite narrow in town below the castle it took some time to find adequate parking. Unfortunately, this site is not that remote so my standard procedure of parking at least one mile from the castle site was not practical.
After exiting the vehicle we made our way towards the castle. Making an assumption we turned on to ‘Burgweg’ and started ascending a hill. After perhaps a 100 yards we came face to face with a gate.
Access to Burg Loch is blocked to the public. And had my Deutsche been better I could have read the sign saying as much when we passed it at the town playground on our way to the castle.
The kids and I surveyed the area and decided to head back to the car with a stop at the playground. On the way we encountered two locals out for a walk. I inquired about the castle and they informed me the government was spending quite a bit of time–and years–renovating the former castle ruins. During this time there was no access to the grounds.
Now Loch Castle is unique from the other castle remains we have visited in that there is a large cliff that sits above the castle remains. Very curious. It would seem the perfect place from which an opposing force could attack. It also begs the question, why not build the castle on top of the cliff above the site you chose?
I asked the locals about access to the area above the castle and they confirmed this would provide a decent vantage point. Unfortunately for us, one member of our party wasn’t feeling well so we left the upper walking trail for another day.
My 9 year old Eva is a playground aficonado and begged to stop at the community playground just below the castle. With the castle visit a bust I acquiesced.
My 12 year old Hunter spotted a bridge across the river that borders the playground. After a bit of playtime we found our way over to the bridge. Interestingly enough it takes you to the back of the Eichhofen Brewery where a verboten sign warns that passage is allowed but the brewery can revoke that right at any time.
Because we are living in the era of COVID lockdowns , the restaurant, inn, and art center were shuttered. We followed the road and in just five minutes we were back at our parking location.
Fortunately for us, this castle is only 20 minutes from our home so we revisited this site a few days later.
Because the layout of the area seems fairly intuitive I did no scouting via Google Satellite prior to this visit. Upon our return we used the same parking spot as our starting point. From there we simply crossed the street and made our way uphill heading away from the castle. Soon we were on a
dirt path running parallel to the road below just above a row of houses and in the opposite direction of the castle. The path then turned up into the woods. At this point you will come to a fork in the path every 100-200 meters. I simply went with my gut knowing where the castle was located and where I imagined the paths might lead. If you look at the route we took you will see it’s almost oval like, similar to a horse track.
The actual time walking through the forest is relatively quick before you arrive at the first overlook where you can view the castle from the side as well as the town below. From this vantage point you can see the main tower still standing, a several story high wall, as well as one of the caves that are located in the castle compound.
This is a good time to mention the risks of doing this hike with very young children. This overlook has no guardrails and your child would suffer serious harm if not death if they fell below.
With that said, part of the trail stays on the summit and you could avoid the area near the cliff.
From there we walked along this summit path until we came to a clearing directly above the still standing tower (as seen in the cover photo). Unfortunately and fortunately there is heavy fencing here. Unfortunately because the chain link fencing obscures an otherwise great photograph. Fortunately because it helps prevent you falling to your death.
From this vantage point you will really question why the castle was built below the ridgeline instead of top of the ridgeline for defensive purposes.
I decided to continue going with my gut on the way down and back to the car. The local government has erected an electric fence (turned off) blocking off rural access to the castle site while it is under renovation. We simply followed the edge of this fencing down the hill from the overlook. A bonus is that it provides additional vantage points of the castle ruins.
Soon we leveled off in a wooded area where we found a path headed back towards the neighborhood where our car was located. Within a few minutes we were on a residential street.
Like our previous visit, we stopped at the community playground just below the castle and across the river from the brewery. For those with kids, this is a nice bonus end to the hike.
From there it was a five minute walk back to the car along a town street.
A number of Google reviewers have rated this castle low because of your inability to access the actual ruins but having visited nearly thirty castle ruins I enjoyed this visit and would highly recommend it.
If you live near Hohenfels and would like more inspiration, just scroll to the top of this page and click on the phrase ‘Hohenfels Day Trip’ written in gold above the title. You’ll see many of the day trips I have taken with my wife Jules of twenty years and our three children, Hunter, Eva, and Acadia.
This hike is rated easy (with special care to stay away from the cliffs)
The pathway is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Total Time Including Photos At Top & Time At Playground: 66 minutes
Total Walking Distance: 1.50 miles
Strollers: Not recommended
Total Elevation Gain: 496 feet
Drive Time from Hohenfels: 26 minutes
Drive Time from Parsberg: 24 minutes
Recommended 2nd Hike For Same Day: Burgruine Laaber