The chances are that you’ve never heard of the Nagelfluhkette – at least I’d be somewhat surprised if you have ! The unusual name refers to a compact mountain range at the northern edge of the Allgäu Alps in South Eastern Bavaria. These mountains reach their highest point at the peak of “Hochgrat”, 1,834m above sea level – located at the western end of the highest ridge and overlooking the pretty spa resort of Oberstaufen. The Nagelfluhkette as a whole, comprise of a series of parallel ridges which run to the south west of the Illertal, the main valley of the Allgäu Region, where the settlements of Sonthofen and Immenstadt lie.
So how exactly did the Nagelfluhkette get it’s curious sounding name ? Well, in Scotland, where I come from, we have the rather more fun (and appetising) sounding “pudding stone”; a soft conglomerate rock made from many smaller, rounded stones which have been compacted together under huge geological pressure. Indeed, this type of stone is quite common along the edge of the Highland Boundary Fault in Central Scotland, particularly around the Aberfoyle and the Trossachs area. In short, “Nagelfluh”, equates to “pudding stone”; the German name deriving from the rounded pebbles which are visible in the rock and which are said to resemble the heads of nails which have been hammered into the stone.
Coming back to Bavaria; the whole of the Nagelfluhkette area is now designated as a Nature Park and it was the first cross-border Nature Park created between Germany and Austria. The primary objective is the protection, care and development of nature and landscape. Nature parks generally aim to integrate nature conservation objectives with the promotion of local tourism and sustainable development. In that respect they differ from National Parks in Central Europe, which normally give a greater overall priority to strict nature conservation.
We visited the area in the autumn holidays in 2021 and despite predicted bed weather (which fortunately only actually materialised for one day) and the ongoing Corona Pandemic restrictions, we had a great time. The highlight must surely have been the view from the Hochgrat ridge itself, which is accessible by characterful vintage gondola, followed by brief a 20 minute hike to the summit. Like some Scottish peaks, the view, in all directions, is surely out of all proportion to the height of the peak itself. On this occassion, it was further enhanced by an unseasonably early fall of autumn snowfall.
What a great vantage point !! The scenery round about is just beautiful; alpine – but not in any kind of threatening “North Wall of the Eiger” way (maybe more like softer “Sound of Music” terrain; though we never actually caught a glimpse of Julie Andrews this time). From the Hochgrat, it’s possible to undertake a long panoramic hike, right along the undulating spine of the Nagelfluhkette, in the direction of Immenstadt; with optional overnight breaks in characterful mountain huts to enjoy Kaiserschmarrn, Apfel Strudel and Rösti (of course washed down with some local Allgäu beer or “Almdudler”) – sounds good to me – bring me my Lederhosen immediately !
See the gallery photos below for a few highlights from a very pleasant week; we’ll be back there soon…