It seems as though I have left the space-and-time continuum. As I steer my Audi around a bend in the driveway, a neo-gothic castle rises from an enchanting garden in front of me. The huge, gray, stately structure with two towers, arched windows, veranda and balconies appears to have been beamed here straight from the Scottish highlands. I didn’t expect this type of manor house in Northern Germany’s flatlands.
Kuno von Zedlitz grins as he opens the door and sees my flabbergasted expression. “My great-great-grandfather took one trip too many to Scotland,” he explains. Carl-Burchard von der Decken, Kuno’s ancestor, was evidently so impressed with the architecture there that he had his Low GermanHallenhaus — a straw- or reed-covered house constructed partly from timber with a steep roof and a large foyer — torn down and the existing castle built in its place in 1871.
The estate on which the castle lies, Gut Hörne, first documented in 1501, has been in the same family for generations. On two occasions the estate has been passed down along the female line, hence the name change from von der Decken to Zedlitz.
When Baron Kuno inherited the manor in 1988, the three-story mansion was more than his family wanted to occupy. After extensive research, he and his energetic wife, Maike, decided to turn part of it into a bed & breakfast.
Six double rooms are available, mostly on the third floor, some with a private bath. The accommodations are aptly named. The spacious Gelbe Zimmer (Yellow Room), for example, has warm, sunny colors. The Schottenzimmer (Scottish Room), naturally, sports tartan-style plaids in an armchair and curtains.
Baroness Maike has developed a distinctive style of interior design with much attention to detail. All rooms are lovingly decorated with an eclectic collection of family heirlooms, stylish antiques and fun Ikea furniture.
A sumptuous, healthy breakfast is served in the historic dining room that the family used for centuries. Choices include muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, whole-wheat walnut bread and a different salad every day, such as tomato-mozzarella or sorghum. House guests may determine their own breakfast hours. “You are on vacation,” says Maike with a smile, “and I don’t want everyone to rise early to catch breakfast when they would rather sleep in.”
The friendly little village of Hörne, population 200, offers several dining options. However, should you prefer to prepare a meal by yourself, you are welcome to use the guest kitchen on the third floor, which is occasionally stocked with regional organic products for sale, as Gut Hörne is still a working farm.
When Kuno von Zedlitz took over the family business, he converted the farm to organic production of mostly wheat, rye and spelt. On occasion, he may even show you around on his tractor.
The 346 acres (140 hectares) of Gut Hörne, located in a region called Kehdinger Land, near the estuary of the river Elbe, is surrounded by nature reserves. Extensive flood banks protect the land from periodic flooding. White woolly sheep dot the green grassy dykes and look up dreamily as we chug by on Kuno’s John Deere tractor.
Birds twitter above. The marshes are an important breeding ground for lapwings, redshanks, godwits, ruffs and many kinds of wild ducks. More than 10,000 geese winter in the bird preserve area of Gut Hörne — a bird watcher’s paradise.
This is a landscape of spread-out, fertile plains with rich grasslands, isolated groves and a big sky, inviting you to take long walks to unwind from your busy life. Relax in the historic garden with century-old trees. Enjoy the in-house sauna. Read a good book in the common living room. Cycle (rentals are available nearby) along the Elbe bike path, Germany’s most-frequented scenic bicycle route.
Otterndorf, famous for its healing saline baths, is 10 miles (17 km) away, and the beach at Cuxhaven, on the North Sea, is only 23 miles (37 km) away. Surfing, sailing, water-skiing and golfing are also offered in the area. Like me, you may quickly take to country living in style, and want to stay longer in this nature enclave. If so, rent the historic two-story carriage house as a vacation home, as I did.
Visit the local Museum Natureum, a nature museum, to learn about the forces that shaped these lands. Or take a stroll through the Medieval Village, which was built on estate grounds for educational purposes. Enclosed by a high stockade, it boasts a blacksmith’s workshop, weaving area, dyer’s workshop and a kitchen building.
The village was constructed to teach area students about the old trades, but it is open to the public, as well. There is even a small church, for weddings here. Receptions are sometimes held in the castle’s romantic Backhaus (bake house), which is also available for meetings.
If you need a diversion from quiet country living, the bustling city of Hamburg is only about 50 miles (80 km) away, making Gut Hörne a perfect base to explore.
If You Go
Gut Hörne is located northwest of Hamburg, in the German state of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony).
Rates for a double room with breakfast start at € 37.50 per person per day (about US$ 48). Vacation rentals are also available. The price for four people sharing a holiday flat without breakfast is € 77 (about US$ 98) per day. The cost for any additional person (up to a maximum of eight) is € 10 (US$ 12.75) per day.
Bed & Breakfast Gut Hörne
++ 49 (0) 4753 362
++ 49 (0) 4753 688 (fax)