Deep in the Funen (Fyn) countryside in the middle of Denmark you will find pretty Egeskov Castle. We got here on a glorious summer day which only enhanced the visit, but the castle is worth the trip in almost any kind of weather as it has so much to see. You can rent a car if you intend to visit the pretty, rolling hills known as the Funen Alps, or the pretty town of Faaborg with its artists nearby, but Egeskov can also be reached by bus from Odense.
Egeskov castle itself was finished in 1554 and looks just as you would expect from something of that time, with Dutch style gables, and brick. It was slightly altered and renovated in the late 19th century when it got its turrets and lovely gatehouse (housing an exhibition on historic fashion), and sits romantically in the middle of a lake with lots of parkland surrounding it.
Planes and playgrounds
We decided to wait with the castle interior and headed for all the other things we could see down by the castle barns. To get there meant passing the beautiful old stables where it was irresistible to sit down on the corner bench. The stables these days house a mechanics exhibition.
In the huge brick barns beyond it, there are collections of bicycles, motorbikes, cars and planes. In fact, so large are the collections that you might well find you miss a lot unless you head to the barn lofts to see the things that there is no place for on the exhibition floors below. I am not that into engineering, but I like good design when I see it. There are some rare old motorcycles and other vehicles here of which there are only a few left in the world. Americans might want to see the Milburn from 1921 owned by Woodrow Wilson’s second wife Edith, which will have been taken to the White House a lot. If you enjoyed the film Back to the Future, you might also want to look at the DeLorean DMC-12. Finally, there is an exhibition on emergency vehicles by a major rescue company, and then there is a 1930s to 50s grocery store to discover.
‘As you see, you could easily spend most of your day just in these buildings if you are a motor enthusiast, but the sun was shining and we took our daughter to the big playground. The path went past a hedge labyrinth by Danish scientist Piet Hein, who has also created other unusual things in the castle gardens. The playground is in a forested area where there is also a treetop walk and some goats to pet, and it is hard to get the children away once you come here. Families bring their own picnics and sit under canopies to eat, but there are several restaurants and cafés in the grounds too, so you do not have to bring your own food. In fact, one place sells a picnic hamper if you feel tempted by the surroundings.
Castle and garden
Not only is the castle pretty. So too are the gardens with more picnic areas where you can enjoy it all. There is the old 18th century part of it, but also a rose garden, and a garden for the senses where you can rest. In 2013, the gardens won The European Garden Award and they are known amongst gardeners around the world. Should you get inspired yourself, there is a plant shop by the castle entrance.
After a stroll in the gardens, it was time for us to visit the castle itself. It is not that big, but it has interesting features, such as the corner rooms in what was actually once built for defensive purposes. The fief-holder Frands Brockenhuus was married to the landowners’ daughter and decided, in the unsafe days of reformation and nobility battles in the 16th century that a more castle-like structure was needed on this bit of land. He wanted to build it in the middle of the lake, and building in the middle of a lake meant that almost a whole oak forest had to be used for the foundations. That is how the castle got its name Egeskov – Oak Forest.
Being a defence structure, Egeskov has the interesting feature of being split in two halves, with a thick wall in between, so that one half could be given up in a fight if needed. This fascinating design, along with secret passages, the Banqueting Hall, and the Tower Room with great garden views are the “must see” parts in my opinion. There is also a Hunting Room with hunting trophies the walls, which I want to warn sensitive readers about. The hunting trophies come from the time of Count Ahlefeldt-Laurvig Bille who owned the castle in the late 19th century and loved to hunt. I myself preferred the more cheerful Yellow Room. If you care to climb to the loft, you will find an exhibition on the castle, and can see the Egeskov’s wooden man who rests up there. It is said that the castle will sink into the lake if he is ever removed. Children will be mesmerised by Titania’s Palace in the Rigborg Room – a huge doll’s house with old, handcrafted furniture, which took fifteen years to build.