This beautiful section of the Swiss Way of St. James leads past magnificent mountain scenery, along Lake Thun to the Beatus Caves.
In Merlingen the path splits. The signposted path leads around the lake via Thun. As an alternative you can take the boat to Spiez. I have described both ways. With Berg & Ski sind we used the boat and stayed overnight in Spiez. During the pilgrimage with my parish in August 2009 we chose the route to Thun, first to Gunten.
In the morning at 08:30 the small Berg&Ski pilgrim group leaves their "pilgrim hostel", the hotel "de la paix" in Interlaken.
What a pity if the weather doesn't quite play along, otherwise this view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau would be even more magnificent.
The path first leads along the Aare, past the Weissenau ruins, ...
... then through a beautiful nature reserve directly on the lakeside.
After a large campsite, the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) runs a little above the road along Lake Tuner and offers wonderful views.
Stairs lead to the Beatus Caves.
The Beatus Caves are always busy in the main season. Hundreds of tourists come here. The entrance fee is not exactly cheap. The guided tour of the cave takes one hour. You have to climb many stairs and overcome large differences in altitude (about 130m).
The grave of St. Beatus. The cave tour starts there. Photography is forbidden inside.
The Beatus Cave lies very picturesquely nestled in the rocks.
After the Beatus Cave, the path leads first downhill and immediately uphill again because a quarry has to be bypassed.
The way leads over this bridge ...
... and under this tree wonderfully through the forest to Merlingen.
Since 2009, a board in Merlingen has been providing information about the way forward. Either the officially signposted route via Thun, or as an alternative via ship to Spiez.
Variant of the Way of St. James via Spiez
Here we continue along Lake Thun to Thun.
After Merlingen the path leads uphill again. We walk on small paths above the lake.
After this bridge the descent begins to Rallingen Castle, which we pass on the upper side.
The history of Ralligen Castle can be traced back to the 14th century, when it was used as a vineyard by the then Augustinian monastery of Interlaken.
Between 1500 and the 19th century, it belonged mostly to Bernese patricians or Thun citizens. Then it housed a domestic science school for a long time.
In 1976 the castle was acquired by Protestant monks, the "Christusträger", and it now serves them as a monastery and guest house.
Soon Gunten and its hotels will come into view.
The Hirschen has seen better times. An Indian investor group "Swiss Dreams" bought the hotel and it has been falling apart ever since.