The history of Ruurlo Castle is inextricable from the history of the noble Van Heeckeren family, who managed the castle and the estate from the beginning of the 15th century through to 1977. Since 2012, and thanks to the dedication of local patronHans Melchers, this impressive castle has been given a new lease of life as a museum.
Ruurlo Castle is of a venerable age, appearing in archives from as early as the 14th century when it was a fief of Count Reinoud I of Guelders. In the 15th century, it passed into the hands of Jacob van Heeckeren, the founder of the noble and distinguished knightly family of Van Heeckeren. One of them, William van Heeckeren van Kell (1814-1914), was director of the King’s Cabinet and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The castle stayed in the family for more than five centuries.
During the Second World War, the Germans requisitioned the castle for use as the headquarters of the German General Staff. After the liberation, it was occupied for another few months by Canadian military personnel. In 1977, the castle passed into the hands of the municipality of Ruurlo, which used it as itstown hall. When the local authorities merged in 2005, the municipality moved out of the building. In 2012, the castle was sold to Hans Melchers for €1 million and found a new useas a museum for paintings by Carel Willink, a master of magical realism. The paintings are from the art collection of the bankrupt owner of DSB Bank, Dirk Scheringa.
A large part of the present castle dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is surrounded by a magnificent estate with a number of exceptional features. The Orangery from 1879 was badly damaged during the war and subsequently demolished, but it was rebuilt in 2002 and is now a popular wedding location. The estate is also home to a famous maze, which was declared the world’s largest by the Guinness Book of Records in 1996. The maze was created by Lady Sophie van Heeckeren in 1890.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.