Hohenfels-Essinger Eishöhlen

Schwedenfeste - Borussiahöhle - St.-Martin-Höhle

Useful Information

Borussiahöhle, Eifel, Deutschland. Public Domain.
Location: North of Hohenfels-Essingen. 8 km northeast of Gerolstein at the B410.
(50.253919, 6.734244)
Open: MAY to NOV no restrictions.
DEC to APR closed for bat protection.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaRock Mine SpeleologyIce cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Natur- und Geopark Vulkaneifel GmbH, Mainzer Str. 25, 54550 Daun, Tel.: +49-6592-933-203, Fax: +49-6592-933-6-203. E-mail:
Tourist-information Gerolsteiner Land, Am Bahnhof, 54568 Gerolstein, Tel: +49-6591-949910. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



The Hohenfels-Essinger Eishöhlen (Ice Caves of Hohenfels-Essingen) are located on the Mühlenberg (583 m asl) north of Hohenfels-Essingen. The so-called caves are actually abandoned millstone quarries. The passages lead generally downhill into the rock, hence they are cold traps. The temperature is very low all year, and after cold winters the caves contain ice until summer.

The millstones were cut manually from the basaltic rock. Quarry workers cut a deep circular trench into the rock face. This blank was loosened from the wall using wedges. To make this process easier, the millstones were often cut from the ceiling. So gravitation could be used to help loosen the millstones.

The Schwedenfeste (Swedish Fortress) has a "fortified" entrance and, according to legend, was used for defensive purposes during the 30 Years' War, hence the name. This is of course nonsense, apart from the fact that it is completely incomprehensible what could be meant by "defence purposes". The caves were only excavated in their present form after the Thirty Years' War and may not have existed at that time. The wall built into the entrance has no defensive use whatsoever, it was used to protect stored food from thieves. However, this probably did not work as well as hoped, the ice cellars relied on cold air flowing into the cave in winter. The wall, however, successfully prevented this. So the cave had 7 °C all year round and no more ice, which is quite cold, but only 2 °C cooler than regular cellars, and therefore probably not worth the effort. The lintel above the entrance door was built from a halved millstone, presumably a faulty or unfinished specimen.

The Martin-Höhle (St. Martin's Cave) or Martin-Höhle has no fixtures, but one can see several half-finished millstones remaining in the rock. In the second half of the 19th century, the small wind and water mills that had been widespread until then were increasingly replaced by larger, modern mills. These used roller mills, i.e. steel rollers, instead of millstones. The mills that continued to use millstones switched to imported stones. The demand for basalt millstones declined so rapidly by the end of the 19th century that half-finished millstones were left behind because they had become unsaleable.

Despite its name, the Borussiahöhle (Borussia Cave) has nothing to do with the football club. Borussia is neo-Latin for Prussia and has been used as a name for locomotives, fraternities, ships and mines, in addition to many sports clubs. However, the origin of the name Borussiahöhle has not been handed down.