Katowice

The Eagles' Nests Cycle Trail

03 Mar 2020
For fans of the outdoors, the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland is a regional gem, not least for its dramatic landscapes consisting mainly of limestone caves and cliffs, but also for the impressive 14th century fortifications found along the Trail of the Eagles' Nests (Szlak Orlich Gniazd); a collection of 25 castles and outposts, mostly ruins, which make up the former defensive lines of Poland's then western border. Today, there's a lot to take in on the trail, however, as nice as the walking route may be, there's more fun to be had, and distance covered in a shorter time with the aid of a good ole pushbike on The Eagles' Nests Cycle Trail!
 

THE ROUTE

Starting in Częstochowa (70km north of Katowice) and ending in Kraków, the route takes you through some of the wilder terrain found in the Silesian (Woj. Śląskie) and Lesser Poland (Woj. Małopolskie) regions. The total length of the walking trail is as long as the Trail of the Eagles' Nests itself (163 km), however, if you're more adventurous, you can up the stakes and follow the 186 km long cycle trail, which is well sign posted and distinguishable with the 'Szlak Orlich Gniazd' logo (as seen above). From Częstochowa, the first stop is also the location of the first castle in Olsztyn (15 km away) followed by Złoty Potok (another 15 km), location of Raczyński Palace and the Krasiński Manor House. And this is how the route continues, with travel distances of 5-15 km between points of interest. A wise man (or meme?) once said it's not the destination but the journey that counts... we'll agree, as the scenery throughout is pretty inspiring and motivating! Seeing more castle ruins in Ostrężnik and Przewodziszowice (good luck pronouncing it), you will eventually encounter the castles in Mirów and Bobolice, and it's worth staying slightly longer due to the breathtaking scenery. In the nearby town of Podlesice, a bit of a hotspot for tourists with places to eat and sleep for the night, it's also worth getting off your bike to climb the impressive Góra Zborów (Zborów Hill), a chain of pointy limestone karsts offering stunning views from up top, or if going underground is more your thing, delve into Jaskinia Głęboka (Deep Cave). And so the trail continues, leading from one castle or fortification to the next, from Morsko to Kromołowo, before reaching one of the highlights: Ogrodzieniec Castle in Podzamcze. This has long been one of the top spots to visit in the Eagles' Nests, however, with the release of the Netflix series The Witcher, based on the book series by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, understandably, tourist no.s have increased since the castle was the backdrop for the Battle of Sodden in the show. Going further, Ryczów with its watchtower ruins, and Smoleń with its castle, are the final stops in Silesia.

The next stops take you into the Lesser Poland region, with more karsts at Zegarowe Skały, and more ruins in Bydlin, Jaroszowiec and Rabsztyn, before reaching the villages of Racławice and Paczółtowice, each with their own wooden churches, part of the Wooden Architecture Trail (consisting of churches from the 15th/16th centuries). The religious theme continues as you reach the village of Czerna, with its 17th century Carmelite monastery. The best is usually saved until last, and in the village of Rudno, the mighty Tenczyn Castle is the final Eagle's Nest of the trail. From here it's onward to Kraków, where you can continue your exploration of Poland. Such an adventure!

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