Herrenchiemsee, Linderhof, Schachenhaus and of course Neuschwanstein: Bavaria’s castles and palaces are among the most beautiful in the world. And the best bit: even the journey to get to them (or back again) is almost a royal pleasure itself.
There are few more sublime ways to begin a walking tour than by boat. After crossing from Prien am Chiemsee to Herreninsel island, the crowds tend to hotfoot it straight to the castle; but you should turn right instead, heading south and following the trail along the shoreline. The route then takes you around the castle, walking northwards, and ultimately to Augustiner-Chorherrenstift (Augustine Monastery), once inhabited by monks. At the end of an avenue lined with ancient trees, you will reach the palace’s canal before heading back to the jetty.
Prepare your feet: The route around the island takes about three hours. If you are planning a tour of the castle as well, make sure you have enough energy for plenty of standing and walking.
Delight your eyes: There are two lookout points on the south of the island: “Pauls Ruh” and “Ottos Ruh”, from which you can enjoy outstanding views over the lake and Kampenwand mountain.
Fill your stomach: Schlosswirtschaft Herrenchiemsee café has a beautiful terrace and is located at the northern end of the island. Don’t miss the Chiemseerenke (a regional trout dish)!
Conquering towering peaks is not everyone’s cup of tea. On this lovely flat walk through the Graswang valley, you can appreciate the proximity of huge mountains but simply keep them alongside the whole time. Setting out from Ettaler Mühle guesthouse, follow Arme-Seelen-Strasse past the springs and streams to Graswang, and then go on to Schloss Linderhof (Linderhof Castle) – allow at least two hours for your visit. The return route takes you through the Elmaugriess valley, on the southern side of the wider valley.
Prepare your feet: No hills but a total length of 21 kilometres. However, it’s really easy to shorten this route. For example, you could set off from Graswang instead.
Delight your eyes: As well as the bubbling springs that lead to the River Ammer, nature fans may also spot a golden eagle if they’re lucky.
Fill your stomach: Fresh beer and good food are on offer in the beer garden at Fischerwirt in Graswang, or Ettaler Mühle.
There are many paths leading to Königshaus am Schachen in the Wetterstein mountains, though one of the most beautiful is the one known as “Königsweg” (King’s Path) – and it’s also suitable for mountain bikes. The route starts in the walkers’ car park in Elmau. To begin with, the trail leads you along the Elmau stream, and then to Wettersteinalm meadows, where you may spot young cattle grazing in summer. From there, a narrow gravel path takes you to the old hunting lodge built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Prepare your feet: 20 kilometres on easy paths, in around three and a half hours – sounds doable. But beware: you’ll get to altitudes of over 1,000 metres above sea level.
Delight your eyes: Just as the hunting castle looks magnificent from the outside, its interior is also extremely splendid. Also recommended: the botanical garden created over 100 years ago, which houses plants from as far away as the Himalayas.
Fill your stomach: Simple yet delicious meals are available in Wettersteinalm in the summer.
You’d struggle to find a more magnificent collection of buildings in one place. On this walking tour that starts in the town of Füssen, you’ll see not one but three castles. Set off from the late Gothic Hohe Schloss (High Castle) in Füssen. After a stroll through Füssen old town, make your way to the top of Kalvarienberg and on to idyllic Schwansee lake (perfect for a dip in the summer!). From there, you’ll get to Hohenschwangau Castle and follow the paved road to the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. Make sure you don’t miss the detour to the Marienbrücke bridge! After descending back down to Alpsee lake, follow the Alpenrosenweg trail towards Bad Faulenbach, and then back to Füssen.
Prepare your feet: Though not difficult, this route is pretty long, taking a good five hours. If you fancy a shorter walk, there is a bus back to Füssen from Hohenschwangau Castle.
Fill your stomach: For a charming Austrian experience, visit Küss die Hand café/restaurant in Füssen old town.
Delight your eyes: A glorious highlight of the tour is the panoramic view from the summit of Kalvarienberg, taking in all three castles, the mountainous skyline and the Allgäu region’s pre-Alpine lakes.
Also interesting: Castles in and around Munich