Right in the middle of the country lies a quiet ridge of hills: the Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park. In summer, the green forests and shallow ponds are alive with birds, butterflies, frogs, snakes and deer. The splendid nature, however, is not the only thing you can discover on the Utrecht Hill Ridge. There is so much hidden history that makes this area endlessly fascinating.
Utrechtse Heuvelrug National PArk: How did it form?
The Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht Hill Ridge) National Park is a large area of forests, heathlands, shifting sands, grass lands, floodplains, and moraines in the central Dutch province of Utrecht. The park’s landscape was formed during the Saale ice age and moraines are piles or ridges of glacial debris, like stones and boulders.
The Heidestein Estate
The Heidestein Estate (Landgoed Heidestein) is also part of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. Heidestein is hidden in the forests near the town of Zeist. In the middle of the old pine woods you can often find moorland sheep peacefully grazing the heathland. As you can see, the heathland turns beautifully purple in late summer months. More than a century ago, this is what most of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug must have looked like. Nowadays, anyone is allowed to visit the former estate (if you can find it). If you pay close attention, you can glimpse the remains of the historic estate.
The History Behind the Heidestein Estate
In 1906, the Wetstein Pfister family that owned the Heidestein decided to build a manor on their lands. The family had just left the Dutch East Indies, nowadays modern Indonesia. One of the daughters suffered from asthma and they felt compelled to return to the Netherlands. Mister De Weststein Pfister was an engineer himself and ordered the construction of a golf course, a tea house, and a small railway. In 1939, a large fire swept across the estate and completely destroyed the manor. Eventually, Mrs. De Wetstein Pfister donated the estate to the Utrechtse Heuvelrug in 1974.
I took the train and visited the Heidestein estate well into the month of September, 2014. I followed this walking route (only in Dutch). The heath had already lost some of its bright purple shine, so the best time to go would actually be….right now. If you happen to be in the area, you should definitely go visit. Imagine, it will look even more magical than this!