Around the Thunersee
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The Thunersee (Lake Thun) is one of the prettiest in the country, a tranquil patch of misty blue loomed over by high shoreline mountains. The presence of the snowy Bernese Alps to the south, ranged above the water in a breathtaking panorama, constantly beckons you on. Thun, at the northernmost tip of the lake where the Aare flows out towards Bern, is an attractive overnight stop on the way into the mountains – much more relaxing than Interlaken – and small, rather twee little lakeside resorts such as Spiez can pleasantly break a slow journey south.

There’s a handful of visitable castles and stately homes dotted around the shore of the Thunersee aside from the fine medieval specimens within Thun and Spiez and the Victorian folly at Schadau, all of which are in fact less impressive than the two outlined below. All are served – and best visited – by boats which stop at or very close to the castles themselves.

Schloss Hünegg at Hilterfingen, 2km southeast of Thun (mid-May to mid-Oct Mon–Sat 2–5pm, Sun 10am–noon & 2–5pm; www.schlosshuenegg.ch; Fr.5) is worth a visit. Built in the 1860s in the style of a Loire château, Hünegg houses an interior unchanged since 1900, extraordinarily lavish bedchambers, boudoirs and halls displaying the wealthiest of lifestyles (the owner was a former officer in the Prussian army).

A couple of kilometres further along the lakeshore is the mighty Schloss Oberhofen (mid-May to mid-Oct Mon 2–5pm, Tues–Sun 10am–noon & 2–5pm; Fr.4; SMP), set in its own lush gardens. It dates from the thirteenth century, and houses collections of furnishings from the Bernisches Historisches Museum – a range of restored interiors, a stone-flagged knights’ hall, salons furnished in Empire style and even a Turkish selamlik, or smoking room, way up under the eaves. The formal waterside parks are delightful, shaded by trees and planted with all kinds of flowers. A few hundred metres east of the castle, also in the park, you’ll find the Im Obersteg gallery (mid-May to mid-Oct Tues–Sat 10am–noon & 2–5pm, Sun 2–5pm; Fr.5; SMP), with a small but impressive collection of modern painting and sculpture, taking in works by Modigliani, Hodler, Maillol, Rodin and more, including the touching Chagall Jew in Black and White (1914) and Picasso’s piercingly well-observed Absinthe Drinker (1901).

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