Old Castle Rock: The Altschlossfelsen Near Eppenbrunn, Germany

The Altschlossfelsen

The Altschlossfelsen, or translated “Old Castle Rock,” a majestic sandstone formation, is situated a short distance southwest of Eppenbrunn village, surrounded by the Palatinate Forest close to the German-French border. It is popularly also known as the “Eppenbrunn Castle.”

A Massive Sandstone Cliff

Stretching over 1.5 kilometers and reaching heights of up to 30 meters, it stands as the largest rock outcrop of this kind in the Palatinate region. Shaped by wind and weather over time, the outer appearance of these rocks has transformed them into a captivating sight.

An interplay of shapes and colors over 1.5 kilometers

The sandstone, dating back around 245 million years, makes up most of the distinct cliffs found in the Palatinate Forest. Usually resilient cores have outlasted erosion more effectively than the softer surrounding materials, sculpting unique features across millennia.

Luminous Stones and Nature’s Artwork

At the Altschlossfelsen the different shades of red on the surfaces, particularly captivating when exposed to sunlight, create a mesmerizing interplay of light and shadows. Observing the intricate details up close reveals a fascinating array of cracks, ledges, and honeycomb patterns etched into the cliffs.

Around mid-April, the sun aligns at the perfect angle to highlight the regionally famous phenomenon named the “glowing rocks”. Then the crevices and openings are bathed in a luminous orange hue. I visited the location towards the end of August, but from some of the photos, you can still get a sense of how magnificent it must be at its peak.

Glowing rocks and artwork created by nature

Prehistoric and Medieval Traces

Today a popular hiking destination, this place has obviously always been a magnet for humans throughout history. Shards from the La Tène period (~450 to 1 BC), which were excavated here in the 1960s, bear witness to this. The Romans are also said to have frequented the area.

The site boasts a few natural caves and substantial overhangs that would have served as ideal shelter locations. Whether they were inhabited or used as places of worship remains unknown, as the few mentioned pottery shards are the only discoveries from prehistoric times made around the cliff.

Were the caves inhabited?

However, traces of what is believed to be a medieval fortification have been found on top of the four main rock columns. Among the findings was a stairway configuration, presumably accessed via a retractable ladder. The presence of carvings resembling supports indicates that the individual towers were likely connected by wooden beams at their upper levels.

Other unearthed elements include a shaft, post holes, a borehole, a presumed 4-meter-wide cistern, and various artificial grooves in the rocks. Unfortunately, access to most of these discoveries is reserved exclusively for climbers..

The prominent rock towers

It is believed that the name “Old Castle Rock” originates from that supposed medieval castle, for which strangely there exist no written records at all. Other than a few humpbacked stones discovered on a slope beneath the cliffs, and the traces mentioned earlier, no remnants exist of this former edifice.

The stones are dated back to the Middle Ages due to their typical form used during that time. Similar stone blocks were found embedded in the walls of the neighboring French village of Roppweiler, suggesting that the former castle on Altschlossfelsen might have been plundered, assuming it ever existed.

Whether it was truly a medieval building or something much older, maybe a kind of temple, remains unclear. It is conceivable though that “Old Castle” refers to a site, that was possibly old (prehistoric) already in medieval times.

In the broader area, some ancient worship sites, characterized by unique rock formations, are colloquially known as “Schloss” (castle). Occasionally, these sites are even referred to as “Heidenschloss” (pagan castle).

Video & Map

Short tour of the site
The Altschlossfelsen is located near the German-French border

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