It is not since the resent days that this area became such a popular and beautiful place. Our ancestors already knew and decided to build their huge real estates and castles in the area. We don’t blame them! The Utrechtse Heuvelrug is a wonderful combination between culture and different types of nature. In the area you can also find tracs of the earliest human habitation in the Netherlands (the land is a bit higher than the west of the country) and there is also lot’s to be found about the Dutch military history. Besides the humans also many animals such as deer and black woodpeckers found their place.
The Utrechtse Heuvelrug translates as Utrechtse ridge. The hills in this are not really hight, yet it’s the most hills we got in this county besides the south end of the province of Limburg. The hills date back from more then 130,000 years ago when ice propelled sand an stones. Water and Wind further created a land of hills and valleys. But don’t you worry! The everage hight of the Utrechtse heuvel rug is 7 meters above sealevel, where the western lands is an everage of 5 meters below sealevel. There is some “mountains” to be found in the area of about 50-60 meters.
The discovery of flint tools near Rhenen shows that the first inhabitants settled on the ridge some 150,000 years ago. But only much later, the inhabitants leave the first visible traces in the landscape: the burial mounds around Soest from 2500 - 2000 years BC. can still be seen as slight slopes in the landscape.
The forests in the area date back from the early Middle Ages. The moors (for example the Leersum field) and the drifting sands (such as the Soesterduinen) still remind us of that time. Large-scale reforestation did not start until the 19th and 20th centuries for the production of timber.
The ridge was also an excellent strategic defence site. The first defensive walls at the Grebbeberg date from 2000 BC. The Heimenberg near Rhenen is a reminder of this. Napoleon's men also caught their eye on the ridge: placed in the woods near Zeist, his soldiers built the famous Pyramid of Austerlitz. And the Grebbeberg near Rhenen runs like a thread through the military history of the Netherlands up to the Battle of Grebbeberg in 1940. The Military Cemetery Grebbeberg is the first official military cemetery in the Netherlands.
Castles and estates
Wealthy merchants discovered the Utrechtse Heuvelrug at the end of the 17th century. They built their estates there with graceful gardens and forests. A number of these estates are open to the public, such as Kasteel Amerongen, Huis Doorn and Slot Zeist. And nowadays a lot of attention is also paid to the architectural estate gardens.