A landscape filled with fields and forests and a big sky overhead dotted with cotton candy clouds, Landgoed Haarzuilens is the perfect Dutch landscape.
For three months the estate was my home. I hiked, biked and did some proper sightseeing. It was love at first sight and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on it. So here’s what you need to know about Landgoed Haarzuilens and Castle De Haar
The estate is located in an area called Groene Hart, green heart, so called for being so lightly populated between so many densely inhabited big cities. The main characteristics for this landscape are the many channels that have been dug and the cows walking in the fields.
Just before the turn from the 19th to the 20th century Etienne Baron van Zuylen van Nijevelt inherited the ruin of a castle. He decided that he wanted to bring the castle back to its former glory, or maybe even better. Around the castle he wanted a big park to be created with no sight of any other building. This resulted in the demolishing of a small town directly next to the castle, the whole town was rebuild 850 meters to the east.
The land directly around the castle was designed in English Landscape Garden style by the Dutch landscape architect Copijn. The rest was agricultural land. As of the year 2000 the land was split up and ended up with two new owners. The castle and the landscape garden are now owned by foundation Kasteel de Haar, with a total size of 45 hectares. The other 400 hectares went to society Natuurmonumenten.
The 400 hectares are free to enter for everyone, but some rules apply to dog owners. The castle and the 45 hectares around it can be visited almost year round. They charge fees for the entree of castle and gardens. Check out their website for current prices.
Traveling to Landgoed Haarzuilens
The estate can be reached best by car or using public transportation. If you have a luxury of a car Landgoed Haarzuilens can be reached easily, parking is available in various locations. Biggest parking area is next to the castle, but not for free, have a look at kasteel De Haar’s website for current pricing.
In front of the castle is a bus stop. Travel to Utrecht’s main station and from there a direct bus connection will take you to the castle
Where to stay
I stayed at the campground of boerderij Hazenveld. It’s a small cow farm where they created around 20 campsites and a bed & breakfast. Twice a day the farmer drives his small tractor out into the field to milk his cows, if you’re up for it you can join him and help during the milking. The campground is really quiet and ideal for complete relaxation. They offer great information about the area.
If you don’t mind staying a bit further away, both Amsterdam and Utrecht have more than enough facilities and are not over 45 minutes away.
On the estate itself four hikes are offered, the longest being not over 2 hours long. However, there are way more hiking trails and its possible to combine some of the trails into a longer hike.
The shortest hike is called “fruitroute boomgaard de boswachter”, a walk through an orchard filled with apples, pears, cherries and plums. At the end of the summer the walk is a lot of fun because when you’re getting hungry you just pick an apple and eat.
“Historisch pad” is a hike of about an hour long with a lot of information about discoveries that have been done of people who lived in the area up to 3000 years ago. Unfortunately all information on the signs is in Dutch only. It is however still a really nice walk.
A walk of just over half an hour long is “wandelroute klein Limburg”. Fields filled with flowers, cows grazing and monumental trees offer a great variety in the landscape. A great place to take it slow.
The last and longest hike is “waterbeleefpad ‘t natte laand”. This hike is really focussed on children and good weather. The hike is filled with water activities like pole jumping, a raft, balance bridge and a pull ferry. All elements can be skipped by walking around, a nice solution for parents who don’t want to get wet.
These four hikes are all located on Landgoed Haarzuilens which is managed by Natuurmonumenten. More hiking, or actually strolling, can be done at De Haar castle. See under what else to do for more information.
Starting at Boerderij Hazenveld I also created a new hike in the all trails app. The hike offers a great view of the castle, traditional Dutch landscape and a lot of opportunities to see wildlife like hares and a variety of birds.
When leaving the estate many hiking trails and routes are offered in the area. Quite a few of those pass through farmland, bringing you really close to cows, sheep, meadow birds and hares. Make sure before you enter these trails that they are open. During nesting season most trails are closed, this often ends at the end of June or July.
What else to do
The biggest attraction is De Haar castle, a historic building with around 200 rooms with a fairly “modern” interior. When visiting the castle you get to see the rich history of a castle that was only used one month a year. Many world famous people visited here when it was still in use. The gardens around the castle are beautifully restored and offers something for everyone. One can easily walk around the premises for hours and constantly discover new things. On a sunny day quite a few people come out to have a picnic lunch somewhere in the park.
The estate itself isn’t big enough for some serious cycling, but it’s a great starting point for a tour of the area. A nice option is to go by bike to the castle to save parking costs. A great way to cycle in The Netherlands is using a network of intersections, called knooppuntennetwerk. Signs will take you from one intersection to the next. Each intersection has a number, so when planning a nice ride one just needs to write down the numbers of the intersections and follow those around.
Birds are represented very well on the estate. Many rare birds can be seen from the many hiking trails and a bird viewing hut next to the Haarrijnse Plas will offer you views of birds living in and around the water.
The estate also offers a visitor center from where they offer some excursions and hikes. Unfortunately to me the visitor center didn’t offer much information when I was there. It was more focused on offering food and drinks than on information about the nature etc of the estate. They do however offer a restroom.
Estate information – https://www.natuurmonumenten.nl/natuurgebieden/landgoed-haarzuilens
Visitor center – https://www.natuurmonumenten.nl/natuurgebieden/landgoed-haarzuilens/informatiepunt/hoeve-wielerveld
Castle information – https://www.kasteeldehaar.nl/
History castle – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Haar_Castle
History moved town Haarzuilens – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haarzuilens
Campground and B&B – https://www.boerderijhazenveld.nl/
Groene Hart information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groene_Hart
Cycling network – https://www.anwb.nl/fietsen/fietsknooppuntroutes