Bronckhorst is a very small village belonging to the municipality Bronckhorst. The municipality itself is one of the 12th largest country-municipalities of The Netherlands. On the contrary the city of Bronckhorst is with less than 160 inhabitants one of the smallest country cities in The Netherlands.
I really love the small city, especially when The Dickens Museum was located there (until 2017). Bronckhorst received it’s city rights in the year 1482. A part of the city, over 35 buildings and two archaeological sites, is protected government heritage. The building I loved most was the Dickens Museum, owned by Sjef de Jong. Over the years Sjef collected a lot of authentic objects, all connected to Charles Dickens. Therefor the museum was also known as the cabinet of curiosities. In a small theatre Sjef performed as Scrooge, or better said, he became Scrooge! I really loved his performance about ‘the night before Christmas’! Unfortunately he passed away in 2018. The museum was closed at the end of 2017. All the objects are now to admire in Braamt, at The Land of Jan Klaassen (also in the Achterhoek, see Municipality Montferland). I wrote a column about the museum and its owner on the website of Trikker. www.trikker.nl/janettes-nabeschouwing-10
A special way to visit Bronckhorst is by the little ferryboat from Brummen, across the river the IJssel. It’s part of a beautiful long distance trail, called ‘The Migratory Bird Path’. The whole route is 400km long, split up in 22 tracks. Track 19 is the one from Brummen to Vorden (23km) through Bronckhorst.
A great place to stay is www.herbergdegoudenleeuw.com/en
In The Netherlands we have two places called ‘Hengelo’. One is a city in the province of Overijssel, in Gelderland we have a village with the same name inside the municipality of Bronckhorst . To avoid confusion most of the people talk about ‘Hengelo Gelderland’. Hengelo has something really special, a road racetrack! Every year on Ascension Day the HAMOVE organises motorcycle races. The Circuit is known as the ‘Varsselring’. There are only two road racetracks in The Netherlands that are still active, on of them in The Achterhoek. www.hamove.nl/en/circuit-info
Another event including vehicles is ‘Rock in Roll out’, organized on Pentecost. In the centre of Hengelo vintage American cars and motorcycles are shown, with rock ‘n roll music all over. www.rockinrollout.nl
More music every 3rd Sunday in April, on The ‘Hengels Festival of Marching Bands’. Every year 14 different marching bands compete each other to win the first prize. The bands come from all over The Netherlands, performing on four stages. Between 13.00- 17.00 you will be able to see all of them play. Meanwhile there is a market in the streets of Hengelo. www.hengelsdweilfestival.nl
In Hengelo you can see a lovely little hut, the so called ‘Bleach-House’. The tiny building was built in the year 1750. People from all over the area transported their linen to Hengelo to get it bleached there, because the quality of the water in this village was outstanding. Back in those days linen was pretty valuable, so they build the bleach-house where a guard was set to watch over the laundry.
If you prefer a natural area, The Zelle Estate is really worth a visit. It was first mentioned in 1326. After two different owners the estate was sold in 1883 to Baron van Dorth tot Medler, nowadays still property of this family. www.landgoedzelle.nl
The estate has a unique (French style) system of lanes, designed in the 18th century. During the years they build nine holiday homes for rent, like wooden Finnish cottages and enchanting renovated farms. www.zelle.nl
On the estate you will above all find one of the most beautiful 18 holes Golf Course of the province Gelderland. They offer different arrangements with clinics and lessons. It’s very suitable for beginners and also professionals. www.gczelle.nl
Hummelo was first mentioned on a certificate from 828, the village belongs to the municipality of Bronckhorst. In the Dorpstraat (main street) are seven buildings on the list of Government Monuments. In the past the main street was paved with little stones of granite and there was a tramway. In the sidewalk you can still find the granite stones.
The Main Street is since 2018 decorated with a beautiful bronze statue of four men. They formed the most famous rock band in the Achterhoek: Normaal, the Dutch word for ‘normal’. They were very popular all over The Netherlands. Since the statue got revealed lots of fans come to Hummelo for photos and selfies.
Hummelo has two special events every year, really worth visiting. First there is The Art-Walking-Route (Kunstwandelroute). Between Easter and Pentecost you can follow a special trail on the Estate ‘Enghuizen’, along the way outstanding works of art. On the estate you will also find beautiful old buildings and gardens. www.kunstwandelroutehummelo.nl
The other event is one I really enjoy every year! Vive la France is a fantastic market full of vintage and nostalgic products and French music. There are lots of food trucks, little terraces and street artists. The event takes place in the last weekend of July. www.vive-la-france.nl
Kranenburg is a small village, belonging to the municipality of Bronckhorst. It has just over 200 inhabitants. In the past this was a swampy area, lots of cranes used to breed there. In The Netherlands cranes are called ‘Kraanvogels’ and a mountain is a ‘berg’. That’s how the name Kranenburg got formed, the mountain of the cranes.
Kranenburg has a beautiful church, the Saint- Antonius church. It was designed in 1856 by the famous architect Pierre Cuypers, who also designed the central station and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. After the church had to close in the year 2000 they opened a unique museum, The Museum of Holy Statues. In this way the church was saved from demolition. Over the years the museum collected over 1600 holy statues. Besides the statues there are variable expositions and around Christmas time a selection of private cribs are exhibited. www.heiligenbeeldenmuseum.nl
There runs a beautiful hiking path around the church and through Kranenburg called The ‘Cuypers Trail’.
In Kranenburg you can also visit the Vineyard Kranenburg. They offer guided tours including a taste of their different wines. On the estate you also find a replica of an original Italian skittle allay, so it’s possible to have a really special time with a group. www.wijngoedkranenburg.nl
Rha is a small township. In the year 1996 they celebrated their 1000 year anniversary as a town. Here you can visit a corn mill, the Hope, on every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month. Rha is also the home of a brewing company, The Bronckhorster Brewing Company. Every Saturday and Sunday you are welcome to taste the beer. A guided tour is possible. www.bronckhorster.beer
Toldijk is a small village. The inhabitants are mainly farmers. In Toldijk you will find a great company that rents Citroën 2CV’s to explore The Achterhoek in a very special way! You can rent for one day or more. Duckstoer offers several arrangements and routes. www.duckstoer.nl
The Planetarium of The Achterhoek is located in Toldijk. Henk Olthof built the planetarium between 1972 and 2010 next to his home, also the location of his buiding company. You will be able to see 2844 stars, a Newton Telescope and beautiful 1:60 scale models of famous buildings like the Eiffeltower, Atomium and CN Tower in Toronto. www.achterhoeksplanetarium.nl
Vorden is a village belonging to the municipality Bronckhorst. You can reach the village by train easily. In The Achterhoek Vorden is known also as the ‘castle village’, there are eight of them! Not many other villages in The Netherlands count so many castles. Not all of them can be visited, some are private properties. Vorden is also known because a famous long distance hiking trail called ‘the Pieterpad’ goes through the village.
The village arises during the Middle Ages on the shore of the Vordense Creek. In the year of 1235 it became a self-employed community. Since 1913 there is a special bicycle route of 34 km known as the ‘eight-castle-route’. Like I told before, not all castles are open for public. The castle Medler, Onstein, Enzerinck and Kieftskamp are only visible from a distance.
Castle Vorden was first mentioned in 1315. It was originally build as a military premise. Until 1974 the castle was owned by several noble families, after World War II the castle was abandoned and got into decline. It was sold to the municipality who restored the manor in 1976. In 2004 it became a private castle again, this time with a museum, a small restaurant and for use as a wedding location. On some weekdays the castle can be visited (from April until October). www.kasteelvorden.nl
Castle Hackfort was first mentioned in 1324. During the Eighty Years War, in 1586, it was destroyed by the Spanish troops. The castle was rebuild in 1598, as to be told on a facing brick. The last noble family, one brother and three sisters all without children, decided that when they passed away the castle had to become the property of a Dutch organisation called ‘Natuurmonumenten’ (Nature Monuments). That happened in 1981. Nowadays there is a restaurant called The Kitchen of Hackfort, using mostly products from the large vegetable garden next to the castle. On some special days a part of the castle can be visited. Once a year you can walk the Art- Route, all kinds of artist show their artworks in the castle gardens. www.natuurmonumenten.nl/natuurgebieden/landgoed-hackfort
Castle de Wildenborch was first mentioned in 1372, owned by a robber knight. In 1780 the castle got in the hands of the noble Staring family. Later on their son, Anthony Christiaan Winand Staring became a very famous poet. The castle is still property of the Staring family and therefore not open to the public. However on a few days a year the beautiful English style gardens can be visited. www.wildenborch.nl
Castle de Wiersse was first mentioned in 1288. The large estate is often referred to as the most beautiful gardens in The Netherlands. Those gardens can be visited, as well as the castle itself on some occasions. There is even a bed & breakfast! You can read all about it on the English part of the website. www.dewiersse.com/en
Vorden has another unique estate that is sometimes forgotten. It’s called The Belten, on its land a beautiful large Pinetum (the Latin word for pine-trees). In 1961 the owner started his collection of different pine-trees from all over the world. Now you can enjoy almost one thousand trees! When Mr. Feith passed away in 1980 they raised a foundation. The park is free to visit, a voluntary donation is very welcome. www.pinetumdebelten.nl
If you like camping on a special location, I can recommend Vineyard Elanova in Vorden. In the summer months it’s also possible to book a tour through the vineyard. The have a perfect English part on their website. www.elanova.nl/index.php/en
In Vorden is a great organisation who offers a lot of different activities for all sorts of groups. The rent a lot of vehicles which you can for example combine with excursions in the area including lunch or dinner. www.free-wheel.nl/home
Vorden is THE place to be if you are looking for the most relaxed festival of The Netherlands! A unique three days festival with a camping site in The Achterhoek. Enough to explore for adults and children. www.mananamanana.eu/english
Zelhem is vibrant city inside the municipality of Bronckhorst. In a certificate from the year 800 Zelhem was mentioned as ‘Salehem’. Like so many villages and cities the name changed over the years. What remained all those years is the tolling of the church bells every evening at 09.00 o’clock. It is known as the ‘pudding bell’, a ritual from the past. The bells were tolling to announce the closing of the town-gate at night. For the labourers on the fields it was the sign that the work hours were finished. They went home for the last meal of the day, a bowl of pudding.
There is a nice museum in Zelhem, Museum Smedekinck. They have a beautiful collection that tells you about former farm life in Zelhem and the Achterhoek. In the summer the museum organises a nostalgic harvest and folklore day. The rye is gathered and tied by hand, the workers and children dressed in traditional clothing. After the harvest there is a ball with traditional music and dance. For groups the museum organises demonstrations in old handicrafts. www.salehem.nl/index.php/museum-smedekinck
The inhabitants of Zelhem created a beautiful hiking path of 6km. The path takes you through pure natural area. It is a unique trail because it was generated by enthusiastic neighbours. The name of the trail is ‘The Boelekeerls- Trail’, the path of the bogeyman. There is a local myth about the Boelekeerl, used by parents to scare the children away from the water. They told that the Boelekeerl was invisable, hiding underneath the pier. If a child came to close, the Boelekeerl would stretch out his arm to catch them. That’s why there is a floating sculpture of an arm floating in the pond along the path! www.boelekeerlspad.nl
There are a couple of camping sites around Zelhem, offering specialized holidays. Like a Christian camping site or one located on a goat-farm.