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“Dark and in Dutch”

Castle Ruins & Velvet Cave
St. Albans, United Kingdom
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Dark and in Dutch”
Reviewed August 6, 2013

Despite the 9 Euro price, it is worthwhile going down the caves as this gives you access to the castle ruins from which the view is amazing. The caves are the result of years of mining sandstone for the building material for the castle. (Note that the temperature in the caves is a constant 10 deg C. I wore a short sleeved shirt and just survived as it had been very hot outside. I recommend a jacket or similar.)

There are 5Km of tunnels, all of them quite broad and accessible. The floor is mostly even and there is only one flight of steps - short, broad and not steep. The tour takes about an hour. We were the only English visitors and (not unreasonably) the guide spoke only Dutch. There is a information sheet printed in English available - make sure you get one. You can read it in about 3 minutes but the guide drags all the detail out. The interior of the caves is famous for the wall drawings done from the 18th to the 20th century and WW2 that depict the workings of the mine, local legends and actual history. There is also carvings of a "dinosaur" (or at least what people thought a dinosaur might look like) after some fossils were found in the 19th century.

The main failing of the caves is the lack of any illumination other than the guide's lamp. This means that once the guide has had you crowd around some picture or exhibit, he walks off and blackness descends - you have no choice but to follow him. If you have a torch, take it and make sure your camera has enough battery power for flash photos.

I also noted that nobody "counted us all in and counted us all out." This lack of basic safety is a little ironic as one recent true stories is of two boys who, in 1993, died on hypothermia and thirst having been lost in the utter blackness of the caves for 4 days.

Despite the high entry price, the tour ends with a blatant speel from the guide begging and pressurising for a tip - there are even notices on the wall encouraging you to place some money in his hand. A bonus is free stones from the mine for the children - yes, that's right... free stones...

The guided tour stops at the exit from the caves and you are left to continue a very short distance to the castle. The castle is mainly worth seeing for the view. The last owner of the castle blew it up to save it from the invaders (Napoleon B, IIRC) This magnificent strategy destroyed the only castle on a hill in The Netherlands (but then, how many hills has The Netherlands got?) You can learn all there is to learn about the castle from the free information sheet and the notices in Dutch and English at various points of the ruins and you can do this in about 20 minutes to half an hour at the most.

Moving from the castle, there is a café and toilets on the way out.

If you're in Valkenburg, you are duty bound to make this visit. The castle dominates the town and natural curiosity will take you there. If it's raining the caves are a safe bet.

Visited August 2013
1 Thank Gary M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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676 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Traditional) first
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Polish first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
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English first
Monmouth, United Kingdom
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Castle Ruins”
Reviewed July 9, 2013

Great views. History of Valkenburg. Lovely restaurant and facilities, which are being ever improved at this time

Visited July 2013
Thank BomberWilding
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Perth, Australia
Level 6 Contributor
159 reviews
79 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
“unexpected delight”
Reviewed June 13, 2013

I had heard very little about the caves beforehand, but was surprised by the size of the complex and the artwork therein. We took the train, and the local guide was very good with the explanations for the origins, the war years, the cold war years, and the more recent artworks. As previously commented by another, it is very difficult to take photos as the train doesn't stop much. Nevertheless I got a couple of good shots to remind me of an interesting site.

Visited June 2013
1 Thank Austyannie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Front Royal, Virginia
Level 5 Contributor
59 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed May 16, 2013

The castle ruins are just that ruins. I didn't pay to go inside, because after seeing the outside littered with graffiti it didn't seem like a worthwhile investment. There are many other sights to see while you are there. This would be the last of the list.

Visited November 2012
Thank Bakes419
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sheerness, United Kingdom
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“town cave”
Reviewed April 21, 2013

I would recommend the train to see the caves but it is hard to take photo's while moving and unless your video has light it will be hard to get a good view

Visited March 2013
Thank strode1947
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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