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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.