North shore driving tour, Lake Thun
The road along the north side of Lake Thun (23km/14mi), which affords a succession of beautiful views, leaves Thun by way of Hofstettenstrasse along the banks of the Aare, passing on the right the Municipal Art Gallery in the Thunerhof and on the left the Kursaal. It then follows the northern shore of Lake Thun (trolley-bus to Beatenbucht). Sheltered from north and east winds, the lake has an unusually mild climate. Many southern plants including laurels and fig-trees flourish in the gardens of the charming lakeside villages which attract many visitors in spring and autumn as well as in summer. Almost all the way along the lake there are magnificent views of the giants of the Bernese Alps. At the entrance to the Kandertal and Simmental the conical Stockhorn (2,190 m/7,185ft) can be seen on the right and the pyramidal peak of the Niesen (2,362 m/7,750ft) on the left, with the three peaks of the Blümlisalp (3,664 m/12,022ft) further to the left. To the right of the Blümlisalp a series of summits come gradually into view - from left to right the Fründenhorn (3,369 m/11,054ft), Doldenhorn (3,709 m/12,169ft), Altels (3,629 m/11,907ft) and Rinderhorn (3,453 m/11,329ft). In the direction of Interlaken the most prominent peaks are (from right to left) the Ebnefluh (3,960 m/12,993ft), Jungfrau (4,158 m/13,642ft), Mönch (4,099 m/13,449ft) and Eiger (3,970 m/13,026ft), and beyond these the Schreckhorn (4,078 m/13,380ft) and Wetterhorn (3,701 m/12,143ft). From here it is 3.5km/2mi to Hilterfingen (562 m/1844ft) which has a small church of 1470 and the 18th C. Schloss Hünegg.
Oberhofen - Historical Museum
The feudal castle of Oberhofen was built in the 12th C. by the Lords of Oberhofen but had to be surrendered to the Austrians in 1306. In 1844 the Prussian Count Friedrich von Pourtales de Castellane Norante gave the castle a romantic aspect by adding numerous turrets, balconies and dormer windows. Regularly patterned flower-beds were laid out on the lakeside terrace and exotic trees were planted. An American, W. M. Measy, inherited the castle in 1926 and had a branch museum of the Bernese Historical Museum installed.The castle houses rooms furnished in the 15th - 19th C style, including a billiard room and a Turkish smoking room. In the park is a children's chalet with a toy collection
Opening hours: May 15 to Oct 15: 10am-12pm, 2pm-5pm
Entrance fee: FREE
This annual festival is comprised of two concerts and takes place in mid-July. The concerts feature chamber music, including works by Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Mozart and other greats and all take place in the Gartensaal of Oberhofen Castle.
To the right of Schloss Oberhofen there is a fine view of the Niessen before reaching Gunten, (567 m/1,860ft; pop. 600) a pretty health resort at the mouth of the Gunter stream which breaks through a gorge above the village. By the lake are a swimming beach and a water-skiing and surfing school.
From Gunten the by-road to the left goes inland and here the gentle hills suddenly end at the steep slopes of the Alpine foothills. In 3km/2mi we reach the well-known hill resort of Sigriswil (800 m/2,626ft; pop. 800) on a sunny plateau. From here a narrow but very beautiful road (toll charge; alternate one-way traffic) leads to Beatenberg (12km/7mi).
From Beatenberg driving along the shore of the lake we reach in 3.5km/2mi the resort of Merligen (568m/1,864ft; pop. 710) in a very sheltered situation at the mouth of the Justis valley.
From Merligen the road goes to Beatenbucht where the lake steamers call. This is the terminus of the trolley-bus line from Thun and from here a funicular takes passengers up to Beatenberg (1,150 m/3,773ft). The lakeside road now changes in character. The gently sloping shore with its villages and gardens gives way to a steep wooded scarp, along which the road climbs in a series of bends. 1.5km/1mi farther on it passes in two tunnels through a rocky promontory, the Nase. 1km/0.6mi beyond this, there is a beautiful glimpse of the lake to the right.
After passing the Nase rock promontory the road comes to the parking place for the Beatushöhlen or St Beatus's caves (623 m/2,044ft: eight minutes' walk from the road), an extensive complex of stalactitic caves of which 2km/1mi are accessible to visitors. According to legend the caves were occupied by St Beatus (sixth century) and until the Reformation were a place of pilgrimage (conducted tour, one hour; Waldhaus restaurant). In the 8km/5mi of caves which have so far been explored, are several impressive waterfalls, lakes and stalactitic formations. The route continues through three tunnels and around a sheer rock face which, in places, actually overhangs the road, to Sundlauenen (609 m/1,999ft). It then runs along below the crag above the lake; in another 1.5km/1mi it passes a camping site and at the Neuhaus swimming station (on right; camping site on left) comes to the end of Lake Thun. 2km/1mi farther on the road passes the Hotel Beau-Site and crosses the "Bödeli", an area of alluvial soil deposited by the Lombach, to Unterseen (old church), an outlying district of Interlaken, where a road branches off on the left to Beatenberg. The road then bears right and crosses the Aare to enter Interlaken.