Kokořín Castle & Kokořínsko National Park, Czech Republic

Kokořín Castle

“Prague, of course!” is most people’s answer to, “Where did you go in the Czech Republic.”

But not ours…

As Adventure Caravanners, our aim is to reach the parts that other road trippers don’t. In our sights was Kokořínsko National Park with its beautiful landscapes, historic villages and, of course, castles.

Czech Point

The first part of our journey from spa town, Karlovy Vary to Kokořín was enchanted. Our route followed a sparkling river as it wound through a verdant forest.

Then, it was flat, flat, flat, boring, boring, boring, culminating in a huge open cast mine at Spořice. I am not exaggerating the size; the desecrated, apocalyptic wasteland extended to every horizon.

Things improved as we approached some domed, volcano-shaped hills, one with an imposing, twin-turreted castle on top.

The Czech-erboard landscape plus castle

Then, our surroundings returned to enchanted as we drove into the protected area around Kokořín; pronounced Cock au Gin.

Sandstone cliffs, softened and eroded by time, bordered our route through dark, green forests. Small caves and grottoes pockmarked the walls, some of which housed statues of the Madonna. It was like fairyland!

A typical Kokořín landscape

Camp Kokořín was a quirky little place, tucked at the head of a slightly damp, slightly gloomy cleft between the sandstone cliffs, surrounded by deep forest. We loved it immediately. The lady proprietor and her delightful teenage family were really friendly and there were footpaths galore straight from the door. At first glance, it looked like there was no room for us to pitch, but with a reverse through an obstacle course of campers, caravans, tents, awnings and an electricity bollard, the owner found us a quiet corner where Caravan Kismet could squeeze in.

Caravan Kismet finally squeezed into her corner. The brown awning of the adjacent caravan is difficult to see, but the electricity bollard is visible

Once again at check in, our only shared language was German,

VIER Hunde – FOUR dogs?!” she exclaimed. My heart sank. Then she said, “I will make a charge for two…”

Always an endearing phrase!

VIER Hunde – FOUR dogs?! I will make a charge for two…”

We had run out of clothes, so we were grateful to be squeezed in next to the facilities. Our portable, twin-tub washing machine does not heat water, so it was helpful to have warm water on hand from the washing-up sinks. The seven litres provided by Caravan Kismet’s boiler barely covers the bottom of the tub, so laundry day usually entails a steaming array of pans and kettles on the hob.

Of course, the second we had finished all our laundry, it rained, but we put our home-made ‘awning’ over it. Everything that was still wet remained outside overnight, but thankfully dried in the morning sun.

Besides no clothes, we had no food. On our way to the campsite, we had not seen any shops or supermarkets. Fortunately, there was a restaurant on site, so we treated ourselves to ribs, two beers each and a walking map of the area. It cost less than £20. Approximately the same price as coffee and a cake in Germany!   

Kai & Rosie play. Everyone got carried away on our morning walk in the enchanted forest.

The new day arrived with no food to break our fast either, but thankfully, the owner’s son, Frankie, offered to cook us ham and eggs at 10.30, even though breakfast finished officially at 10am. We had not overslept, we were just entranced by our morning walk through our bewitched surroundings. The Fab Four absolutely loved it; bounding through the trees and playing chase with each other, although The Terrible Two, Lani and Rosie, kept disappearing, hot on the scent of some elusive, woodland creature.

The bewitching woodland surrounding the campsite

After breakfast, we set off into the forest on the Rundweg, the circular walk from the campsite to Hrad Kokořín – Kokořín Castle, our backpack laden with gingerbread. This was not to lay a trail to find our way back. We had bought it in Alsace, where it is a local delicacy, and it was the only thing we had left to eat!

A footpath between the sandstone cliffs at Kokořín

At check in, Frankie’s mum had posed a rather strange query,

“How heavy are your dogs?”

I wondered if the dog charge was by weight, but in German, she conveyed that there are ladders and steps on the Rundweg, so it was more a question of whether our pooches were petite enough to be portable!

Mark carries Rosie up one of the ladders on the Rundweg

The walk was gorgeous, weaving between sandstone cliffs in the dappled light of beech woods. There was no-one around; we had it all to ourselves.

Close to the parking for the castle, we found an ice cream trailer and two outdoor restaurants. Plunged into the heat of the day beyond the cooling shade of the forest, ice cream seemed like a spiffing idea. Mark went with the easy option of Karamel, while I pointed at Meruňka. I had no clue what it was until I tasted it. Thankfully, it wasn’t kipper flavour, but a very delicious apricot! There was no sign of the castle, but we had no problem finding it. From the car park, we just followed the crowds up a narrow, shaded road that cut through the forest.

Kokořín is an impressive mini castle of exactly the sort that I would love to live in. With white walls and terracotta tiled roof, its charming turrets give it a fairy tale quality. It seems to float above the forest on its sandstone outcrop. The castle started life around 1320 as a fortified palace with a tower, built by a Bohemian knight, Hynek Berka of Dubé.

One of Kokořín’s towers

Kokořín was badly damaged in the 1400s, during the religious ‘Hussite’ (or ‘Bohemian’) wars. After that, it got a Gothic facelift, but by the 17th Century, it had fallen into disuse and disrepair.

Even in ruins, Kokořín inspired the imagination of notable poets and painters, which then attracted tourists. In the late 19th Century, aristocrat Václav Špaček bought the castle. Between 1911 and 1918, he reconstructed it in the Romantic style.

Entry to the courtyard and turrets was free, and dogs were welcome on leads. There was a charge to see the restored interior, with an additional 10Kč to take photos of it. I didn’t go inside, I just climbed a spiral staircase to the top of a tower. There, I experienced stupendous views across the treetops, along with that uneasy feeling of vertigo in the pit of my stomach.

View of the ramparts from the top of the tower

By the time we got back to Caravan Kismet, I had another feeling in the pit of my stomach. Even after a sunlit chill-out on our bean bags, we didn’t have the energy to drive out to find a shop. We plumped for a second, expensive dinner in the onsite restaurant. Despite our own additions of gingerbread and ice cream for variety, the Czech diet of meat, with meat plus a garnish of meat had left us hankering for something fresh.

We settled at what was now ‘our’ table on the outside terrace. The menu was in Czech, but Frankie spoke good English, so we requested a dish that came with vegetables.

We received a delicious, grilled pork loin with chips.

“Where are the vegetables, Frankie?” we asked.

“There!” he said.

As his trademark, bright smile lit up the place, he pointed proudly at an extra-large dollop of horseradish sauce!

Rosie & Lani, The Terrible Two, have mastered this Rundweg lark!

Still not Prague, but known as ‘Prague in Miniature’, please click the link to read about our to Český Krumlov. This is featured in my second book, Dog on the Rhine, which creeps in and out of Amazon’s Bestseller list for German Travel. Click here to see Dog on the Rhine on Amazon.co.uk or click here to link to it in your local Amazon store.

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19 thoughts on “Kokořín Castle & Kokořínsko National Park, Czech Republic

  1. Wow, Jackie! I’ve just finished your Dogs n Dracula and wondered where you were now. What amazing adventures you have! This Czech site looks stunning! Where are you planning to spend the winter?

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    1. Thank you. We are very fortunate. As for the winter, that is a good question! We hoped to be able to go back to Italy for the ski season, but things are a little too uncertain to comit to a seasonal rental at the moment. Watch this space!

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      1. Review coming soon. I’ll post it on my review blog as well as Amazon and Goodreads. 5 stars all round. I loved it all and it was nice to recognise places like Orastïe and Alba Iulia (where we went after Timisoara). We didn’t go further south east. I always wanted to go to Brazov (spelling?), but after your experience, I’m not sure now. I’d like to go to some of the other places you went to, though. After getting back to Cluj, we went directly east to Iasi by train. It was a stunning trip and the countryside was full of life lived the traditional way, but being on the train meant we couldn’t just get off and look. I’d love to go again, but I think we need a 4 wheel drive camper!! I’m amazed Kismet survived! Hats off you guys 🙂

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  2. Thank you – reviews are always much appreciated, especially good ones! 🙂
    I’d say Brasov is probably worth visiting, perhaps we are just spoiled because we don’t like ‘commercial’ and crowds. It was certainly not my favourite place in Romania and with so many other wonderful places to see, I don’t have a hankering to go back.
    The roads are improving all the time in Romania and we saw plenty of ordinary campers touring around. There is information available on the state of the roads, there is a link in my blog about driving safely in Romania. Thankfully, Kismet did survive! https://worldwidewalkies.blog/2018/09/22/12-tips-on-driving-safely-in-romania/
    Like you, I loved that the countryside was full of life and can’t wait to go back. We have yet to see Timisoara, Cluj and the Danube Delta, so we will have plenty to keep us occupied!

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