Mighty Rihemberk Castle
This is one mighty, mighty castle with a huge tower commanding sensational views over not one.. not two, but three of Green Slovenia's seven wine regions!
It has been lovingly restored by local people, who now run it as a community castle and we cannot recommend a visit here highly enough.
Rihemberk Castle sits high on a green hill above the village of Branik, just under 40 mins from the Lodge and there are so many different and beautiful routes to get here, that a castle visit could easily form part of a fantastic round trip circle taking in 1, 2 or 3 different Slovenian wine regions if you like!
We had seen photos of this castle and were not completely sure where it was, so we hunted it down, phoned them up and found out it is only open Saturdays and Sundays in the summer.
(But don't worry.. you will very probably be here in the summer on a weekend too)!!
The castle has been recently renovated, but it is so big, there are lots of internal buildings still to do, which makes it a very special building with a huge history and an even more exciting future!
It is very possibly the sunniest castle in Slovenia, sitting high on a hill at the tip of three completely different mini Mediterranean wine regions.
Branik is at the top end of the KRAS TERAN wine region, which then leads off to the Soca river, Nova Goricia and the GORISKA BRDA (Goricia Hills) wine region.
From the battlements and tower you also get a great views across to the mountains of the VIPAVA wine valley!
Each region produces completely different unique wines which we are sure were enjoyed once upon a time by the lords of the castle and now you can get to try them too!
It is easy enough to get to Branik, from the Lodge due to our excellent location, but pretty much forget Rihemberk castle as an option if you are stuck out in Bled, Ljubljana or Piran!
From Branik village you need to head up into the hills to get to a little car park chisled into a wide bend and then a short but steep walk up to the very impressive castle gate tower.
Like we said, the locals have really worked hard restoring this fortress, so it means there is now a shaded reception area inside the huge gate tower entrance where you can pay and wander off on your own, or set up with a local guide in full Medieval costume.
The castle is easy and fun to explore.. with that local love from the communtiy and the sheer size of the place, it has a similar, but different "Medieval Maze atmosphere" as say Cucumber (Zuzemberk) Castle or Grad Grad, where you can just run or walk around wildly finding lots of stuff and never get truly lost.
The wonderful local castle society have put handy wooden benches around the place with plastic info cards stored in all the languages, to help out, but this is very much a castle to explore around with a big smile on your face and become Lord for the day.
There are fabulous views from the rear of the castle out into the forest and hills around and you will be surprised how incredibly green and fresh it is here, considering this is a Mediterranean Slovenian hotspot!
The higher up you explore here, the better the views. From the main battlements you can look down onto Branik village far below and over to the Goricia wine hills and into the distance at the white rocky peaks of the Italian Dolomites.
From the main courtyard you can enter the tower basement and gaze up this huge empty stone structure all the way to the top. It is fantastic!
To access the tower you need to go up to the battlements and join the internal spiral staircase from there.
From each new level there are big holes where the doors to each floor were and now is just empty space and you can stick your head out as far as you dare and either look up at the coned roof or down into the depths of the tower below.
At the highest door hole the view down is something we have not experienced before, like a huge stone open ice cream cone turned on it's head with little windows letting in the sunlight and a neat circular roof made from cemented rocks.
You will certainly not be able to climb another Medieval tower quite like this in Green Slovenia where at the top of the stone stairs you can also pop out onto the roof for the very best 360 degree views in town!
You could race around the castle in 30 mins, but an hour is more sensible to make sure you explore every nook and cranny and certainly the little "bat cave" and garden at the back. The bat house is a sealed cellar like room with metal bars so the resident bats can come and go.
You can only buy about as much as a postcard here and there is no cafe or restaurant, but that does not matter at all.. finding somewhere nice to eat nearby is not a problem in such a beautiful vineyard covered location.
So, huge congratulations to the castle team on the restoration and the dedication they have in getting this magnificent monument open to the public at least on the weekends.
We repeat wholeheartedly.. if there is any chance to get this castle into your schedule as part of a grander touring day out (and if it is the weekend).. then go for it.. even with this glowing write up and the photos to convince you, prepare to be wowed out!
So a visit here to Rihemberk Grad can take just an hour or so, but the location is so perfect for a circular tour from the Lodge, we will list some of the other highlights to mix into your day on your round trip adventure!
There are multiple ways to get here from the Lodge, but here are just 3 main ones with completely different highlights along the way!
1: You could go directly up the Vipava Valley, maybe stopping off in Vipava old town or the amazing Medieval hill top village of Kriz. You can exit the Vipava valley at several points at the top of it nearer Goricia to drop down into Branik and the Teran wine region.
2: How about going from the start of the Vipava valley and turning up near Mance on a road where in just 10 minutes you can experience the Vipava green wine region turning into the Teran ruby red region in front of your eyes!
Head directly to the stunning Medieval hill top town of Stanjel, capital of the Teran wine region for a visit and maybe a spot of lunch and then head on up the very pretty Teran wine roads to Branik and the castle.
3: Go directly to the bottom of the Kras Teran wine region and maybe visit Lipica for the Lipizzaner horses or the ubermassive Skocjan cave and then head up past Sezana along curvy little roads and tiny Teran villages, maybe stopping in Dutovlje for a typical Teran lunch and then heading via Stanjel to Komen at the top of the Kras to drop down onto Rihemberk castle.
We get several of our unique Slovenian wines from our friends and wine partners along lots of points on these routes, so a stop off to visit a cellar, taste some local wine and spend time with a local wine producer is also on the cards.
And the really exciting thing here with just these 3 routes is that to go visit Rihemberk Castle you could choose TWO of these, one to get there and the other to get back!
We could not pick our favourite route as we love them all and they are so different in such a tiny geographic area.. but that is Green Slovenia for you!
Slovenia has a lot of very different castles in all shapes, conditions and sizes. The variety of choice will really amaze you.. and by telling you all about glorious Rihemberk Grad, sitting as it does, high above 3 wine regions in one of the sunniest parts of Green Slovenia, we want to make it a very difficult secret place for you to ignore!