Slangenburg Castle was constructed in the Late Medieval period. In the 17th century the castle became the property of General Frederik Johan van Baer, also known as General Slangenburg, who rebuilt it for residential purposes.
The last private owners were a German family called Passmann, who are buried in a private cemetery next to the moat. After the World War II all German properties were confiscated by the Dutch government, who thus acquired the castle, which, with the surrounding terrain and the buildings within the outer moat, now forms part of the portfolio of the Rijksgebouwendienst ('Royal Buildings Service'), while the surrounding area falls under the care of the Dutch environmental agency, the Staatsbosbeheer.
At present the castle is used as a guesthouse by the nearby Benedictine monastery, St. Willibrord's Abbey, a newly built structure of the 1950s situated on a part of the castle's former estate. The original monastic community, from Oosterhout Abbey, was initially accommodated in the castle itself in the years immediately following the war.
The estate and the monastery chapel are open to the public. The estate, roughly trapezoid in shape, features a system of lanes which is centuries old.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.