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Germany offers some of the most famously beautiful road trips in the world including this, the German Castles Route, which traces a path between the whimsical spires, crumbling ruins, tapering towers and massive stone walls of no less than 70 castles and palaces in southern Germany.
But it’s not just the castles that are the stars of this tour. The scenery throughout could be lifted from the pages of a child’s fairytale. From cobbled lanes to half-timbered houses, dense forests to dramatic ravines, you’ll be enchanted at every turn.
The tour starts in Mannheim, which is a 362 mile from Dunkirk, 402 miles from Calais or 305 miles from our port in Ijmuiden near Amsterdam. From Mannheim you drive to Bamberg along Germany’s famed Castle Route - a total distance of 270 miles - visiting enchanting medieval villages, handsome historic cities and a glorious succession of castles, palaces and fortresses along the way.
After your Dover-Calais, Dover-Dunkirk or Newcastle-Amsterdam crossing you drive to Mannheim in the south west of Germany. Unlike most German cities, Mannheim’s streets and avenues follow a ‘grid’ pattern, earning it the nickname ‘City of Squares’.
Mannheim Palace is its most notable building. Fashioned in red and yellow sandstone and Germany’s largest baroque palace, it houses the University of Mannheim. The iconic water tower and elegant Friedrichsplatz gardens are also must-sees.Overnight in Mannheim.
Today you leave Mannheim and drive 12 miles to Heidelberg, whose mighty castle has become synonymous with the city. Built on the slopes of Mount Konigstuhl, these evocatively romantic ruins are one of the most famous landmarks in Germany.
The city itself is beautiful too. Huddled on the banks of the river Neckar, the baroque red-roofed old town is studded with lively restaurants, galleries, cafes and bars - all testament to Heidelberg’s status as Germany’s oldest and most famous university town. Overnight in Heidelberg.
From Heidelberg it is a 36 mile drive south and east to the spa town of Bad Wimpfen, passing the evocative ruins of Hornberg Castle on the way.
The largest and oldest castle in the Neckar Valley, Hornberg was built in the 11th century and was once the home of knight Gotz von Berlichingen, who lived here from 1517 until his death in 1562.
Leaving Hornberg you drive to Guttenberg Castle with its grand turrets and towers housing a museum, tavern and bird of prey centre. Both castles offer authentically restored restaurants and accommodation so you can stay overnight if you wish. Otherwise, continue and stay overnight in Bad Wimpfen.
Today you make the scenic drive to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a distance of 71 miles, via the town of Schwäbisch Hall near the Bavarian border. A glorious medieval hotchpotch of narrow alleys and timbered houses, why not stop for lunch at one of its atmospheric riverside restaurants, or take a detour to the nearby open-air farming museum for an encounter with a rare black-spotted pig.
Now entering the beautiful Jagst Valley you drive up to Langenburg Castle, fairytale residence of the royal Hohenlohe-Langenburg family, before arriving at medieval Rothenburg ob der Tauber, whose red roofs and tapering turrets overlook the gentle River Tauber.Overnight in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
This morning you journey 70 miles into the heart of Bavaria. Your destination is Nuremberg but the drive takes you via Ansbach, with its splendid Palace, Orangery and Gardens that were architecturally inspired by the Louvre and Palace of Versailles in France. Nuremberg was painstakingly restored - using the original stone - after WWII bombings all but flattened the city.
The Imperial Castle still dominates its skyline and its stout turrets and sandstone towers have become a lingering symbol of the city. If you arrive early enough, head to Hauptmarkt square to see the mechanical procession as the clock strikes midday. If you miss it, the square’s elaborate 19-metre-high, 14th century fountain is also worth seeing - touch the brass ring on its wrought iron railing for good luck. Overnight in Nuremberg.
Leaving Nuremberg behind you head for Bamberg, the last stop on your Castle Route tour. En route you stop at Gößweinstein, where you can follow a narrow twisting road up to the restored medieval castle, or visit the town’s Franconian Toy Museum and browse three floors of toys, trains and dolls.
Driving on through glorious mountain and forest scenery, why not pause at the atmospheric town of Pottenstein. Known as much for its dark, cool caves as its towering 11th century castle, the town is a great starting point for walks, bike rides and picnics in the surrounding countryside. Continue to Bamberg, architectural masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its narrow, medieval streets romantically lit at night, it’s an unforgettable setting for the last evening of your trip. On day 7 you head back to Dunkirk (469 miles), Calais (495 miles) or Amsterdam (394 miles) for your return crossing to the UK.