Not everyone wants to relax on holiday, and there are many options available if you (literally) want to step it up a gear. Here UK based activity holiday company Headwater.com who offer a range of cycling breaks in Holland talks to us about one of the best beginners cycling destinations in Europe…
Holland is one of the best places in Europe for a beginners’ cycling holiday and yet is rarely considered by many people. Whilst its lack of mountains may deter those at the more serious end of the cycling spectrum, for first-timers or those with children this is just one of many things that make it such an ideal destination.
Whether through the Tour de France or some masochistic urge innate to all two-wheel enthusiasts, there is something of a link between cycling and mountains. Obviously the stunning scenery such environs throw up is one obvious plus point and whilst Holland can never provide that, it has so much else to offer that even Bradley Wiggins wannabes are sure to have a fantastic vacation.
Many things you automatically associate with Holland are sure to feature heavily on such a trip: fields of tulips, poppies and lilies; wide open spaces dotted with windmills and picturesque churches; canals and the various vessels which travel thereon; and maybe even some cheese (and dare I suggest a beer?) to reward you and replenish all those calories you used.
Holland also has surprises in store, such as sweeping golden sands, medieval fortresses and bird-rich wetlands where you may see falcons, egrets and buzzards, as well as thousands of frogs and toads. In addition you will find unexpectedly good food (often carbohydrate-rich so ideal for a cyclist’s needs), such as stamppot, the local potato accompaniment consisting of potatoes mashed with other vegetables and sometimes bacon and a variety of flavourful local sausages, such as metworst and rookworst.
But what really makes this type of holiday ideal for beginners is one of the country’s most well-known natural features, the simple fact that it is very flat. The highest peak in European Holland (there are higher points in some of the Caribbean islands that reside under the Dutch umbrella) reaches just 323m, at Vaalserberg, and given how flat the rest of the country is that is considered something of a major peak! Even the UK, a land of few extremes, has Ben Nevis, which at 1344m is more than four times as lofty.
The flat, open nature of the terrain and situation on the North Sea can sometimes lead to strong winds, but another benefit of a cycling holiday in Holland helps offset any difficulty that may bring. The country is so geared up to cycling – there are more bikes than people in the capital Amsterdam – that the facilities are simply excellent. Most of your riding will be done on purpose-built cycle ways and the roads are among the safest in the world for cyclists and there are even cycling traffic lights!
Moreover, should you – or your children – ever tire of cycling, or indeed the weather, yet another helping hand is there in the form of the efficient Dutch rail network. It is one of the densest in the world, packing 2809km of lines into a country about one sixth the size of the UK. Whilst that may, or more likely may not, be an interesting fact, what it means for you is that on almost any of the major routes you are likely to cycle you would have an option to take a train for some (or all, if you’re feeling particularly lazy) of the journey. And of course, in such a cycling-friendly country taking your bike on the train won’t be the slightest problem.
Another thing that won’t be a problem is the language, with the Dutch renowned as being among the best English-speakers around (possibly including some parts of Britain and certainly the US!). With many also speaking other languages as well communication problems are unlikely to arise, which means a simple, easy, stress-free break.
Whilst there are a variety of options available in terms of what route you take and sites you see, a popular option is to focus on the North. This allows you to keep daily journeys down to around 15-25 miles (24-40 kilometres) per day and yet still see plenty in a week. The museums, galleries, forts and canals of Amsterdam, Alkmaar’s picture-book beauty with its cobbles and cathedral, sample the cheese at Edam and enjoy the coastal scenery around Hoorn.
Holland truly is the perfect place for someone who has never been on a cycling holiday before and wants to give it a whirl. It also has enough to captivate the veteran who has been everywhere else and never considered this country. With Amsterdam easily accessible by plane, train or ferry, what are you waiting for?