If you hike south from Turnov into the Český ráj, the first man made landmark you'll come to will be Valdštejn Castle. It's well worth allowing yourself to be sidetracked from the rocks and trees for an hour or so to have a ramble through the castle and its grounds.
High rocky ridge
Valdštejn is built high on a rocky ridge that juts above the treetops of the thick surrounding forest. The only entrance is a narrow stone bridge, lined on each side with statues, something like a smaller, more private version of the famous Charles Bridge in Prague.
Statue lined bridge
The statues all represent religious figures and a couple of them are quite unusual. There's one of the Virgin Mary with her foot on a dragon's head and another of a character called Crazy Ivan, who holds a rooster in one hand and a thick book, presumably the bible, in the other. I haven't been able to find out much about him, but his statue is more entranced by the bird than the word.
At the other end of the bridge the gate house now serves as a ticket office and admission is a very reasonable 35Kč for adults. Valdštejn is open from May through September seven days a week from 9am until at least 4pm, and in April and October only on weekends. There are washroom facilities within the grounds and a refreshment stand beside the entrance.
Partly ruined, partly restored
Valdštejn is partly ruined and partly restored, and your ticket entitles you to see part of the castle with a guide and to roam around the remainder at your own pace.
The restored palace is only accessible in the presence of the guide. I wasn't in time for the beginning of the talk but had the impression I caught most of it. The usual entanglements of aristocratic owners and marriages and the identities of the solemn faces moping around the room in portraits formed the bulk of the monologue.
But when that was done visitors were free to look around the two large rooms. The most interesting thing to my mind were the scale models of the castles from around the region, including a natty one of Valdštejn itself from back in the days of wooden shingled roofs.
Once out of the palace and into the grounds, the next building to deserve your attention is the baroque chapel. The interior is now decorated with the original sculptures from the entrance bridge.
Behind the chapel a stone staircase leads down through an arched gate and into the ruined part of the castle. This is the best place to see how the original castle was built on top of a rocky peak. The chisel marks of the tunnels and walkways that chewed through the natural rock are still visible, as are the irregular foundations of the towers and walls that continued the vertical rise of the natural pillars.
Old renaissance palace
Out on the furthest promontory of rock is another restored part of the castle. There are three or four rooms and you can wander through at will. There are thrones and suits of armour and swords and all the other things you might expect to find in a cliff top castle from the Middle Ages.
Possibly the most impressive thing about Valdštejn though is its location. Picture a hill covered in thick forest with rocks the size of three storey buildings standing on its peak. Valdštejn castle stands on top of those rocks.
3km south of Turnov
Tel. (+420) 481 312304