Cycle tour to the Burgaltendorf castle ruins from Essen-Horst

Cycle tour to the Burgaltendorf castle ruins from Essen-Horst

The starting point for our cycling explorations in the Ruhr area was once again the Horster Brücke campsite, right next to what is still popularly known as the 5-Pfennigs Bridge over the Ruhr.

Today, as a floating bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, the history of the bridge alone is so interesting that a little excursion is worthwhile, especially as the current bridge connects the Essen-Horst district with the Altendorf side and thus with the Ruhr cycle path.

Floating bridge as an attraction for cyclists

burgaltendorf 07There used to be a ferry over the Ruhr at the site of the current floating bridge, which was operated by the Horst-Altendorfer ferry company and was replaced by a bridge called the "Holteyer Bridge" by the ferry company in 1901. It was firmly anchored on the Horst side with wooden supports and was supported on floating pontoons from the middle of the river to the Altendorf side.

At normal water levels, its height was roughly the same as the old towpath on the Altendorf side, parts of which still exist today. If you don't know the term towpath, it is a term used to describe the path directly on the banks of rivers or canals that was created so that people, draft animals or even locomotives could pull cargo ships upstream.

The process itself is called towing. The towmen and tow-horses moving along the towpaths were connected to the ships via a rope. But now back to the bridge.

burgaltendorf 01The innkeeper Großjung from Horst (the Großjung restaurant still exists) had the bridge built with four other partners, including the Altendorf farmer Schulte-Holtey. The Schulte-Holtey family ran it alone from 1936. On the Altendorf side there was a ticket booth with a barrier. The state-approved fee was 5 pfennigs, which earned the bridge the name 5-pfennigs bridge. Vehicles had to pay a higher fee.

The floods of the Ruhr increasingly damaged the bridge. In particular, the flood wave resulting from the demolition of the Möhne Dam on the night of May 16-17, 1943, swept away part of the bridge. Due to a lack of maintenance, the bridge was first closed to motorized vehicles and later closed completely. In 1958, the state government had the bridge demolished, although it was found to be of acceptable quality. In March 1982, construction began on the current 84-meter-long and three-meter-wide floating bridge, which has spans of 42 and 2 by 21 meters. We have used this bridge several times to cross the Ruhr on the Ruhr cycle path, but the view of the river and the hustle and bustle is also simply beautiful to look at. It is a real attraction in the region.

Off to the Burgaltendorf castle ruins

burgaltendorf 09After the excursion, we should now move on, because the Burgaltendorf castle ruins are the destination. In the very southeast of the city of Essen, near the border with the neigh-boring cities of Bochum and Hattingen, in the Burgaltendorf district, there is a Romanesque castle ruin with what is probably the best-preserved residential tower in all of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Tradition says that the approximate construction period was the second half of the 12th century.

We cross the Ruhr over the floating bridge, initially drive towards Hattingen, then turn right about 200 meters further onto Holteyer Straße, which we follow past the Raiffeisenmarkt to the town entrance.

burgaltendorf 03The road is marked with 30 km/h signs, so cyclists can feel quite safe. Shortly before the destination, a cycle path leads along the school to the town centre. The castle ruins are already easy to spot here.

The complex consists of an outer bailey and a main castle with well-preserved ring walls. The castle complex had an outer bailey and a core castle, both of which were formerly surrounded by a moat measuring about 90 by 130 meters and 12.50 meters wide.

The moats are now silted up or filled in, but until the 18th century they were fed by a wooden pipe from a watercourse 800 metres to the west. The building materials used were blocks and rubble from the Ruhr sandstone that occurs naturally there.

Former outer bailey - café and restaurant

burgaltendorf 04The outer bailey is 55 by 50 meters in size and has a trapezoidal floor plan, with the remains of round towers at the corners. In the area, which is bordered by a ring wall, the remains of three former farm buildings and the gatehouse have been preserved.

The ruins of the farm building in the southern corner also house the castle well, which is more than eight meters deep.

In addition, the corner points of a former school building are marked in the modern paving of the outer bailey courtyard.

In the northwest corner there is a new building from the 1960s, which is used by a restaurant and encloses the northeast corner tower.

Inner bailey - mighty residential tower in the centre

burgaltendorf 02A steel bridge with wooden planks now leads from the outer bailey to the inner bailey. Its area is bordered by a rectangular ring wall measuring 29 by 30 meters and five meters high. This has the remains of a battlement on its southwest and southeast sides.

On its southwest side, the protrusions of a square defence tower can be seen. In the middle of the inner castle area, a five-story residential tower rises, now 21.70 meters high, with sides measuring 11.5 and 13.10 meters. There are two entrances to its former barrel-vaulted cellar (now the ground floor), which in the 17th century also served as a prison for the Blankenstein district.

At its four corners, the bases of the columns that once supported the cross vault of this floor are still present. Both the northwest and southwest sides have bricked-up window openings from the Romanesque period. They were replaced by transom windows in the Gothic period, many of which are still there.

burgaltendorf 05The northern corner of the keep is adjoined by the remains of a former hexagonal stair tower, while in front of the western corner of the residential tower are the ruins of an outbuilding.

All of the intermediate ceilings of the residential tower have now disappeared. However, the remains of the eight-part cross-ribbed vault are visible on the first floor, as are the remains of chimneys on all floors - except the former dungeon.

A modern spiral staircase inside the tower leads to a viewing platform, which can be reached via 88 steps. The view of the surrounding area is worth the effort of the climb.

burgaltendorf 06The tower of the complex with its viewing platform can be visited free of charge every Saturday, Sunday and public holiday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. between mid-April and mid-October.

Guided tours can be arranged with the Burgaltendorf Local History and Castle Association.

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Life | Outdoors