Auenstein Castle was built on a rocky hill above the Aare river in the 13th century for a local nobleman named Gowenstein. Around 1300 it was acquired by the Lord of Rinach. During a war between the Habsburgs and the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1389, a Bernese army sacked and burned the castle. Following the Bernese conquest of the Aargau in 1415, Auenstein became a part of the Landvogtei of Lenzburg. Over the following decades, the Lords of Rinach were not able to rebuild the castle and in 1465 Albrecht von Rinach sold the ruins and surrounding villages to Heinrich Hasfurter from Lucerne.
The castle remained ruined, but over the following centuries the ruined castle and the attached Herrschaft passed through several owners. In 1732 the castle and territory came under direct Bernese control and for the following half century it remained that way. Until the 1798 French invasion and the Helvetic Republic swept away the old medieval system of noble landlords who ruled over villages and estates. With the creation of the Canton of Aargau in the 1803 Act of Mediation the ruins became the property of the new canton.
In the 1850s the ruins were sold to a private owner who began building a new castle from the ruins. By 1858 there was once again a habitable castle on the site. The new castle was sold several times until in the early 20th century Mrs. A. Hoffmann acquired Auenstein. She renovated and expanded the castle and in 1927-29 it reached its current appearance. Today it is private use.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.