Netherlands Boasts Wealth of Castles

Reed Travel Features

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Ask someone what first comes to mind when they think of Holland and the answer likely will be windmills, tulips, wooden shoes and canal houses. But castles in the Netherlands? Clients might be surprised to learn that this country has its share, and dozens of these well-preserved edifices are protected under the Monuments and Historic Buildings Act in Holland.

Castles in Holland originated in the 11th and 12th centuries and were used over the years as fortresses and private residences. Four major types of castles appeared in the Netherlands: fortified, status, country house and romantic.

* Fortified castles, the earliest type to surface, were used for defensive purposes. The castles were round and consisted of a square or rectangular tower. The few that still stand date from the 14th century.

* Status castles, which began to appear after the advent of sophisticated weapons, featured thinner walls and larger windows to enhance the atmosphere. The status castle was built to serve as a residence and not primarily for defense purposes.

* Country houses, which surfaced in the mid-17th century, contained the traditional moats and forecourts but dropped the use of towers.

* The incorporation of towers in the design resurfaced with romantic castles, which were built in the 19th and 20th centuries, prompted by a renewed interest in the Middle Ages. As a result, towers were added to the castles built in the 17th and 18th centuries, and new castles were built in the old style.

Actions taken by the state and private entrepreneurs preserved many of Holland's castles, and some have been put to modern use as hotels, town halls, museums and schools, while others stand as visitor attractions that provide a glimpse into the country's past.

Following is a small sample of some of Holland's most prominent castles, classified by province.

* In Gelderland, the country's largest province, two noteworthy castles are Castle Ammersoyen and Castle Cannenburch. Castle Ammersoyen, an example of a fortified castle dating to the 14th century, features square turrets, a moat protecting the fortress and its original weapons. Castle Cannenburch, located in a park near Apeldoorn, dates to the 16th century and is furnished as a nobleman's home, with a restaurant on the grounds.

* An array of castles are sprinkled throughout the province of Utrecht, including Castle Haar. A large medieval castle that was transformed into a Gothic revival edifice in the 19th century, Castle Haar boasts extensive gardens, porcelain, Chinese and Japanese art objects, and Flemish tapestries.

For details about Holland's array of castles, call (888) 2-HOLLAND.

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