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Fraeylemaborg: the “ancestral home”

Whenever I refer jokingly to Fraeylemaborg, a small castle in Slochteren, as “the ancestral home,” my husband rolls his eyes, but he’s given up on correcting me.

Fraeylemaborg, with the restaurant on the left and coach house on the right. In Slochteren, the Netherlands.
Fraeylemaborg, with the restaurant on the left and coach house on the right.

You see, one branch of his family occupied Fraeylemaborg for several generations. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for everyone else, the house (I think the British would call this a “stately home” rather than a castle) is now a museum and open to the public.

My husband points out, by the way, that even if it was still in the hands of the family, we would have no right to it since he is not descended from the direct male line. And anyway, it was sold to another family in the late 1700s.

To read about lots of other things to see in Groningen province, try this article.

Visiting Fraeylemaborg

Slochteren is a small town to the east of Groningen in the Netherlands. You can take a bus from Groningen, but the easiest way to get there is by car. There’s plenty of parking nearby.

Fraeylemaborg as seen from the garden behind, in Slochteren, the Netherlands
Fraeylemaborg as seen from the garden behind

The original Fraeylemaborg was a simple thick-walled brick structure built in the 13th century. In the 16th century it was renovated and expanded and the moat was added.  The two side wings were added in the 17th century. Then in the 18th century a new renovation gave it its current appearance.

a statue in front of Fraeylemaborg, in Slochteren, the Netherlands. Notice the family crest above the entrance.
a statue in front of Fraeylemaborg. Notice the family crest above the entrance.

Inside, visitors can get an impression of life at Fraeylemaborg in the mid-20th century, when its inhabitants lived among a collection of furniture and objects ranging from centuries-old family heirlooms to recent purchases. While the rooms have been reconstructed, many of the objects have been repurchased from the original collection that was sold in 1971.

the dining room in Fraeylemaborg, in Slochteren, the Netherlands
the dining room in Fraeylemaborg

The dining room is set for dinner. The library and the Blue Guestroom have been recreated to match existing photographs from the last inhabitants. Much of it did not seem very fancy to me, but rather quite comfortable: a place you could actually live in.

The library at Fraeylemaborg, in Slochteren, the Netherlands
The library at Fraeylemaborg

On the other hand, the Large Hall is quite grand looking, and is still used for concerts and other events, while the Small Room hosts weddings these days. I particularly liked seeing the kitchen downstairs: its homeliness, the light across the clay tile floor, the ordinary objects used to prepare meals for the family upstairs.

Fraeylemaborg’s garden

A visit to Fraeylemaborg would not be complete without a stroll around the grounds. Set in an elongated 23-hectare English landscape-style park and seen from far away down a long vista of grass lined with woods, the house itself appears perhaps grander than it actually is. Paths wind through the woods, over bridges, around the various ponds.

the view down the length of the garden as seen from inside the house, in Fraeylemaborg, Slochteren, the Netherlands
the view down the length of the garden as seen from inside the house

If you need a rest from all that strolling, a building in front of the moat (the schathuis, which means “treasure house”) is now a restaurant. If the weather is good, sit in the sun with a drink and enjoy the view of the house. Opposite the restaurant is another outbuilding: the old coach house.

in the garden of Fraeylemaborg, in Slochteren, the Netherlands
in the garden of Fraeylemaborg

Often, for us, visits from out-of-town friends become our excuse for revisiting Fraeylemaborg. While my nickname for it as “the ancestral home” is just a fantasy, it remains in reality an off-the-beaten-track treasure.


20 Comments

  • Wendy Nylen

    April 5, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    I loved our visit there with you. Felt right at home, thank you. My favorite room was the upstairs study, which I think is different from the library you show. I remember it be completely book lined and wood panelling.

    Reply
  • gmm

    April 6, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Rachel,

    Thank you and your husband for taking me there. It was a grand house, but it was even cooler that it has a connection to your husband’s family. Also, that piano in the drawing room was really cool!

    Reply
  • Ruth - Tanama Tales

    April 9, 2016 at 12:59 am

    You know, I would not mind referring at this place as my ancestral home and then showing pictures of it to all my friends. I know some people who would fall flat to the floor if I tell them that. Now being serious, this is a lovely face. Good your husband knows about his ancestors.

    Reply
  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    April 11, 2016 at 9:23 am

    How fun to have even a long ago and distant branch of the family living in a small castle like Fraeylemaborgke and equally interesting that your husband can trace his family back so many generations. The “ancestral home” is lovely and it seems that it would be very comfortable to live in, even now. I especially like how light all the rooms appear to be – not dark and gloomy as I usually picture very old homes!

    Reply
    • Rachel

      April 11, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Yes, the light was lovely, and it wasn’t even particularly sunny out. I could see myself living there, but only if I had WiFi, modern plumbing, and could afford to pay servants and gardeners to maintain it all! 🙂

      Reply
  • Rebecca Hall (Bex)

    April 11, 2016 at 10:49 am

    What a beautiful piece of Dutch history and architecture! I love looking around stately homes (yes, I’m British and yes, that’s what we call them). It’s a glimpse into another world (but DO NOT be fooled by Downton Abbey!)

    Reply
    • Rachel

      April 11, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      A lot of my view of what life would have been like in homes like this comes from shows like Downton Abbey and from Jane Austen novels! But it would all have been uncomfortable by today’s standards: smelly (think chamberpots and horse manure and poor hygiene) and cold (no central heating). The lower classes would have worked nearly constantly (no labor laws) and the upper classes, particularly women, would have led very boring lives.

      Reply
  • Grey World Nomads

    April 11, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Too bad that it’s not in your husband’s family anymore or maybe good, because you’d be bankrupt by the costs to maintain the castle. Anyway, a wonderful property with stunning gardens. Will have a look when we get to the Netherlands again. #boomertravelbloggers #greyworldnomads #Fraeylemaborg #slochteren

    Reply
  • Janice Chung

    April 11, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    I can’t even pronounce Fraeylemaborg but love the “tour” you took me through. I would call it the ancestral home as well, regardless that someone else bought it. The sad part about owning one of these homes is the cost. I can see why it would now be a museum. Owners could never afford the upkeep! These stately homes always seem to have beautiful grounds surrounding them and Fraeylemaborg is no exception.

    Reply

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