This is the 3rd of our 4 chapter story detailing our long ride from Zeebrugge to Vlieland along the North Sea Cycle Route (LF1). In part one, we cycled from Zeebrugge to Renesse and in part two we pedalled from Renesse to Delft. Here, we continue our cycling holiday in the Netherlands and leave beautiful Delft behind to head to the island of Texel. After a week in Delft exploring the town and the local area, as well as chilling out with the Grandparents, it was time to say our goodbyes and get back on our bikes.
Camping in Delft
The first part of the journey was familiar as we had cycled much of it whilst going back and forth for the week we were camping at DelftseHout holiday park. This was a bigger site than we usually select. We needed somewhere that had a chalet to suit the grandparents, as well as a patch of grass for ourselves. The location was excellent, with loads of activities to keep the children busy. One of our most exciting days out was to Familiepark Drievliet, a theme park perfect for our kids. While there are a couple of big rollercoasters, the majority of the rides are suitable for children over a metre tall. This makes it particularly suitable for 4 to 12 year olds. As we set off on our journey, we cycled past the park. This caused much disappointment for the children, who thought another visit would have been a better plan.
Back on LF1
We made our way to the coast to pick up LF1 once more, joining the route just north of Den Haag at Scheveningen. This was another place we had enjoyed visiting for a day trip during our week in Delft. It’s a busy seaside resort with a long, beautiful beach. The children loved it, but the adults found the crowds and fairground rides rather overwhelming. We all enjoyed the Sculptures by the Sea; an interesting outdoor museum.
Delft to Scheveningen was a mixture of canal routes, including swing bridges, and segregated bike lanes, alongside busier roads. However, once we rejoined LF1, we were once again totally separate from any traffic. The designated cycle-route goes through the dunes on a well-paved bike path.
Noordwijk aan Zee
Our departure, as usual, hadn’t been particularly early and our going was slow—typical for this cycling holiday in the Netherlands. So even though we were only cycling 35km this day it was late afternoon by the time we reached the town of Noordwijk aan Zee, just 3km south of our campsite. We decided to stop and have fish and chips here, rather than set up camp, go shopping, cook and then eat. Feeding the children (and adults) before they get hangry is always a sensible idea.
Our plan was to get takeaway and go and sit in one of the picnic areas adjacent to the beautiful sandy beach. So we arrived at the benches and found a place to rest our bikes. Luckily, before we actually bought any fish and chips, we realised that other families with the same idea were being dive-bombed by seagulls.
Protecting young children’s dinner from over-confident seagulls did not seem like a relaxing end to a day’s cycling. So we headed down the ramp, to the Strand Pavilion on the beach. Dotted along the north coast of the Netherlands is a series of beach cafes. All the ones we visited on this cycling holiday in the Netherlands were wooden, spacious, half-indoor, half-outdoor places with a relaxed vibe. This one was no exception. The prices were a little above budget for us, but the good quality food, the location and the pleasant atmosphere helped soften the financial hit. The children could easily run onto the beach to play and be summoned back when the food arrived. Perfect.
Camping Op Hoop van Zegen
We spent a pleasant two nights at Camping Op Hoop van Zegen, where we were glad to be on a smaller campsite with a children’s play area very close to the tent. Our stay was only marred by our bicycles falling over in the wind and scratching someone’s car. We’d leant them against a tree, but the angle was clearly not right and so in a big gust of wind they tipped the other way. We found the owners and apologised. They accepted some cash towards a repair and then came back later on with beer for us to thank us for our honesty.
Our ‘rest day’ was filled with a trip to the Space Expo Noorwijk. A fabulous museum which appeals to all ages; enough detail for the adults and plenty of hands on activities for the children. We all particularly enjoyed the planetarium. Even though the commentary was in Dutch, the visuals made it easy enough to follow.
Noordwijkerhout to Ijmuiden
The journey from Noordwijkerhout to Ijmuiden was extremely beautiful, perhaps one of my our favourite parts of the trip in terms of the cycling. The route continued through the dunes as far as Zandvoort. We enjoyed watching kite surfers on the beach and were extremely glad to have the wind behind us.
After Zandvoort, the route veers inland into the Zuid-Kennermer National Park. This landscape offered a change from cycling along the coast with its varied topography.
We cycled through forested areas and dune grassland past dune lakes and dune pastures. Sometimes, thick quiet trees surrounded us, at others we had wide expansive views with only low bushes around us such as hawthorn and buckthorn. Nightingales and woodlarks sang.
Camping de Duindoorn
We arrived at our campsite in the afternoon and the owners directed us to a small patch of grass reserved for cycle campers who are never turned away – even without a reservation. They allowed us to stay here for two nights, but no longer.
Ijmuiden is 27km from Amsterdam, so we decided to leave our bikes locked up for the day at the campsite and get a bus and then a tram to explore the big city. Highlights included the Van Gogh museum, where they have a fab trail to keep the kids engaged, swinging in Vondelpark and seeing the original of a Rembrandt that we had in our lounge in the Rijksmuseum .
Ijmuiden to Egmond aan den Hoef
Soon after leaving Ijmuiden we arrived at the ferry stop at Velsen Zuid, ready to hop on the ferry over to Velsen Noord. Ferries run every ten minutes (every 20 minutes at weekends and evenings) so we
didn’t have long to wait. Many cyclists clustered at the ferry landing, some fresh off the overnight ferry from Newcastle to Ijmuiden, ready to begin their own cycling holiday in the Netherlands.
It was an easy three hour cycle ride from Velsen Noord to Camping De Markiess. The weather was pleasant and the route ambled through the dunes on cycle paths that were predominantly completely separate from any motorised traffic. We had occasional glimpses of bright blue sea, but for the most part were tucked among grassy dunes.
The highlight of our stay in Egmond aan den Hoef was a day trip to Alkmaar where we picnicked by a windmill and enjoyed a trip to the Cheese Museum. The Cheese Museum had plenty of hands-on activities to keep the children engaged and everyone learned something new. We generally enjoyed wandering around the old town, as well the necessary stocking up on fuel for our stove and replacing worn elastic on our tent.
Egmond aan den Hoef to Den Helder
We had seven nights booked and paid for at a campsite on the Island of Texel, accessed by the ferry from Den Helder. It was a cycle ride of almost 50km to the ferry, followed by another 6km once we arrived on Texel. One of our longest cycle days on our cycling holiday in the Netherlands.
Breaking Camp in the Rain
The weather forecast the night before filled us with some dread. It was a >95% chance of heavy rain for the entire day. So we decided to leave our camping as early as possible in order to give ourselves more breaks along the way. We knew the going would be difficult, so we packed up as much we were able the night before.
Sometimes breaking camp is a long job, but we were on a mission and at almost 9am I was squeezing the last things into the trailer bag. The weather forecast was, for once, accurate and we were all in full waterproofs, the children sheltering under a turret in the children’s play area.
Broken Trailer Arm
As I pushed down on the tent in order to zip the bag up, I was horrified to see that the trailer arm, which attaches the trailer to the bicycle, snapped off. Hopelessly, I pushed the two pieces of steel together, with a bewildered hope that they would somehow reattach. Unusually for me, I swore.
Panicstricken, I yelled for Jeremy. “Jem, the arm’s come off the trailer! How can that happen? Can we get it back on?”
“It’s steel. It won’t go back on. It’s OK. We just need a welder. It’ll weld really easily. That’s how it’s designed.”
“A welder?” I yelled? “How on earth are we meant to find a welder? We’re in the middle of nowhere, in the Dutch countryside, ten kilometres from the nearest town. And it’s Sunday!”
What would we do?
I burst into tears. We had worked flat out in the bouncing rain to break camp. All our stuff was away and I believed we were just about to leave. I had braced myself for a tricky day of cycling in the rain. I was not prepared for this.
“Calm down,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”
“I am not calm.” I shouted.
The children came to see what the fuss was about. They saw the state their Mum was in and became rather anxious. I made myself breathe deeply.
Searching for help
“I suggest we go and speak to them at reception and see if they can give us any advice or information.” Jem said.
“OK. You go then,” I said. “I can’t imagine they’ll be able to do anything. And if there is a welder in Alkmaar, how could we even get the trailer there?”
“We’ll pay for a taxi, if need be,” he said. “But I’ll ask here first.”
He strode off and, heart beating fast, I reassured the children and encouraged them to continue with their game in the playground.
He returned five minutes later with the guy from reception and showed him the trailer. The campsite owner looked at it slowly and carefully and then nodded.
“Yes, I can fix this,” he said. “I have welding equipment in my barn over there.” He pointed.
I couldn’t believe it. “Really?”
“I think you are our angel in disguise today,” said Jeremy, smiling.
The campsite owner told us where we could get a coffee at a nearby larger campsite where there was also an indoor soft play area the children could use. He advised us to go and dry off and come back in an hour. The children were delighted with the news that instead of setting off on their bikes in the pouring rain, they got to have a hot chocolate and visit a soft play centre. I may have felt slightly embarrassed.
On our way again
So rather later than planned, we set off in the still bouncing rain. It rained all day. The wind was cold too and we needed gloves as well as full waterproofs. The children were amazing. We all just got on with it. Our youngest spent most of the day in the bike seat where it was slightly more sheltered. Whenever the children got to whimpering point, we found a café to dry out and warm up. Pancakes and chocolate spread helped lift everyone’s mood. I remember little about the countryside on this part of the trip: my eyes were focused on the driving rain in front of me.
At Callantsoog, the cycle path goes along the top of a dune parallel to the sea. I imagine that on a different day the views would be stunning, but we were blasted by a headwind and kept our heads down as far as possible. The children, on the back of our bikes, mostly kept their eyes shut. After a couple of kilometres of this, we took a right and headed inland to find a parallel, less exposed, route. The fantastic thing about a cycling holiday in the Netherlands is that even if you deviate from the main signed route, there are always safe cycle routes to pedal along.
Ferry to Texel
The ferry from Den Helder to Texel leaves hourly and takes about twenty minutes. As we approached the harbour, we increased the pace in order to catch the approaching boat. We wanted to pitch our tent in the light and put an end to this day of cycling so we were desperate not to wait for an hour at the ferry port. With minutes to spare, we boarded the ferry and leaned up our bikes next to piles of other bicycles.
We didn’t know whether to take our saturated waterproofs off only to struggle back into them twenty minutes later. So we compromised with taking off cagoules and grinning and bearing the other wet items. Despite our high quality gear, our clothes underneath were pretty wet too.
Arriving on Texel
It was another 6km from the port on Texel to Camping Zijm, where we would stay for the next six nights. The rain was just pattering lightly as we disembarked and by the time we reached the campsite at about 7.30pm it had finally stopped. A friendly Dutch couple on the pitch next to ours, made us some tea and we were glad to be directed to a barn, converted for camper’s use.
We draped our wet clothes over various items of furniture and the children flopped on the sofa in front of the Olympic Games on TV. The adults pitched the tent, glad that our waterproof kit bag had withstood the torrent and our sleeping bags and mats were bone dry. We unloaded the dry contents of the panniers and kit bag into the sleeping compartments and left the wet stuff in the tent’s ‘living area’. There was no way of keeping this section dry but we would deal with that tomorrow; the forecast was 25 degrees and sunny.
Chilling out on Texel
Our almost week-long stay on Texel was extremely relaxing. We enjoyed mini-golf, walking in the forest, cycling to the port of Oudeschild and playing on the beach in the beautiful August sunshine. The campsite was small which meant the children had freedom to wander around and have fun playing with other children. They soon found ways to play, despite not understanding each other’s language.
The fact that the friendliness to the humans on the campsite didn’t match up to the type of animal husbandry we saw there, meant we wouldn’t return or particularly recommend it. The campsite belonged to a farm where the chickens were caged, the newborn calves were separated from their mothers and put in cages adjacent to the toilet block and the cows were mostly kept in a dark barn. Their piteous moo-ing was distressing to hear. After this experience, Jeremy, who had been vegetarian since he was eight, with occasional periods of veganism, decided to become more vegan. There are plenty of alternative campsites on the island.
After a lovely break, we were keen to continue our cycling holiday in the Netherlands and move onto our furthest destination: Vlieland.