We love a castle. Even better than visiting a castle is sleeping in one. Trouble is that hotels in castles tend to be on the expensive side. Imagine my delight when I discovered that staying in a Dutch castle with teens needn’t cost an arm and a leg.
STAYING IN A DUTCH CASTLE WITH TEENS
At first I couldn’t believe it. Crenellations: tick. Moat: tick. Formal gardens: tick. €30 Bed and Breakfast: tick. Kasteel Assumberg has it all. I showed Mr CW the pictures, he loved it. Then I broke the news that Kasteel Assumberg is in fact a youth hostel. Hence the cost. So whilst the exterior looks lavish it is not awash with luxury trimmings inside. If you need a spa, a swimming pool or room service then you need to find another castle. What it does have is a games room, a huge chest full of every imaginable kind of ball to play with and space to run. Perfect for teens.
Stayokay is what youth hostels are called in the Netherlands. Staying in a Dutch youth hostel is very similar to staying in a British youth hostel. When we checked in we were handed our room key and our bedding. You make your own beds in youth hostels but putting on a duvet cover, pillowcase and sheet doesn’t take much time. Our en suite family room was in one of the castle towers, so it was circular and very tall. Our double bed had a huge head board that concealed the bunk beds for the teens, a neat arrangement then made the teens feel that they had their own space.
We had a view of the moat and surrounding gardens from one of the windows. Look at that nice flat cycling terrain.
We opted for a three night cycling package which included bike hire, breakfast, a packed lunch and a welcome drink, which was very welcome. We sat in splendour with our beer looking out through those tiny panes of glass to the formal gardens beyond.
All meals were self service and we also chose to eat dinner at the castle. The food was plain and plentiful, nothing for a teen to object to. One night there was a barbeque which we ate in the castle courtyard.
Youth hostels are geared up to cater to youths. In the grand entrance hall there was a huge chest packed with outdoor games that could be used for free. The teens fished out a football and were soon kicking it around outside with some Dutch teens. If it had been raining they could have played board games (OK they could have sat with their phones) in the games room which was adorned with a suit of armour. No need to worry about using those phones as there is complimentary wifi in the castle (that’s good news for blogging mothers too!).
Grown ups are catered for with peaceful gardens to wander in and lots of cosy nooks to sit down and read a book and a bar to serve tea, coffee or maybe something stronger at the end of the day.
All those crenellations make for a good back drop for a wedding photo. Assumburg castle is a popular venue for weddings. Whilst we were staying nobody tied the knot but a steady stream of couple arrived in their wedding finery to have their photo’s taken on the drawbridge.
HIRING A BIKE AT STAYOKAY HEEMSKERK
We went for a package that included bike hire but you can decide to rent a bike from Stayokay once you’ve arrived. The bikes are good sturdy Dutch bikes which take a bit of getting used to as the rear brake is operated by peddling backwards. Heemskerk is on the edge of the North Holland Dunes Reserve a vast, car free, area that is criss crossed by countless bike paths. You can choose to cycle for miles or just to pedal off to the nearest sandy beach. We did a bit of both and also spent a day cycling inland alongside fields and canals.
ASSUMBERG CASTLE HISTORY
Kasteel Assumburg or Slot Assumburg was first built in the thirteenth century to help protect the province of Holland from the West Frisans. The fairy tale castle as we see it today was constructed in the late fifteenth century meaning that all those fearsome crenellations were never meant to be defensive but just very impressive decoration. The fancy formal gardens were planted up in roundabout 1700. By 1867 living in draughty damp castle had lost its allure and the building was abandoned, by the turn of the nineteenth century the building was in such a state of decay that it was sold the the Dutch state for one Guilder. Work began on restoring it and in 1933 the first guests were welcomed to the newly opened Youth Hostel. During the second world war the castle was occupied by the Germans.
Just as the castle itself decayed so did its surroundings. Local farmers filled the moat up with surplus bulbs and the whole area became a rubbish tip. Eventually the moat was dredged and the land cleaned up, work then began on restoring the gardens. Now the whole area is public park and kept pristine by the hard work of volunteers.
STAYING AT STAYOKAY HEEMSKERK: NEED TO KNOW
- Prices start from €23 per person bed and breakfast in a shared room
- Bike hire packages start from €66 per person and include breakfast, packed lunch, two nights accommodation and a welcome drink.
- Dinner cost €16 adults and €8 children
- If you are a member of the YHA you get a discount of €2.50 per person per night
- You need to make your own bed
- You can hire a towel or bring your own
- Free wifi
- Heemskerk is about an hours drive from the ferry terminal at Hook of Holland
We stayed at Heemskerk Stayokay at the beginning of family summer holiday during which we cycled, crossed the Afsluidijk, crossed the Wadden Sea to the Frisan Islands, went on Europe’s highest swing and went on a food tour of Amsterdam.
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