Pillnitz Castle is located on the bank of the River Elbe in the former village of Pillnitz. It was the summer residence of many electors and kings of Saxony.
The castle complex consists of three main buildings, the Riverside Palace (Wasserpalais) on the riverfront; the Upper Palace (Bergpalais) on the hillside, both Baroque with Chinoiserieelements; and the later Neoclassical New Palace (Neues Palais), which links them together on the east side. The buildings enclose a Baroque garden and are surrounded by a large public park.
Today, the palace houses the Arts and Crafts Museum of the Dresden State Art Collections and a Palace Museum. The buildings surround a Baroque flower garden, whose centrepiece is a pond with a large fountain. From this, a chestnut-lined allée approximately 500 metres long runs parallel to the river bank, flanked by small rectangular hedged parterres.
As early as the 14th century, a modest residential fortress existed on the site of today' castle. It was enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries to a four-winged building. The château was acquired by the Wettin dynasty in 1694 when Elector John George IV of Saxony bought it as a present for his mistress, Magdalena Sibylla of Neidschutz. Both died soon afterwards. In 1706, John George's brother Augustus II the Strong gave the facilities to one of his numerous mistresses, Anna Constantia of Brockdorff, only to rescind the gift after she fled to Berlin in 1715. Augustus II then ordered the château to be converted into an oriental summer palace for riverside festivities, necessitating extensive rebuilding.
Starting in 1720, the first church and buildings were replaced by elaborate Baroque palaces designed by Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann and Zacharias Longuelune. First, in 1720/21, the Riverside Palace (Wasserpalais) was constructed on the river bank to plans by Pöppelmann. The upper staircase built on the Elbe side in 1722 was supplemented in 1725 by water stairs forming a gondola dock, designed by the French architect Zacharias Longuelune. In 1723/24, an almost identical complement to the Riverside Palace, the Upper Palace (Bergpalais), was completed. At the same time, a garden was laid out between the two palaces. Construction continued until 1725, with a focus on the Chinoiserie style. Augustus apparently then lost interest in his renovated palace, shifting his focus to other locations.
In 1765, Elector Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, a greatgrandson of Augustus the Strong, made Pillnitz his summer residence. At the time, an English garden with an English pavilion, a Chinese garden with a Chinese pavilion and an artificial ruin were added. When the Countess' palace at Pillnitz Castle burnt down in 1818, Frederick Augustus asked his architect, Christian Friedrich Schuricht, to design a new palace at the same location. The NeoclassicalNew Palace (Neues Palais) was completed in 1826.
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.