What springs to mind if I say Holland? Tulips, cheese, windmills? Bikes?
That last one. I couldn’t imagine a holiday in Holland without cycling, so we rented bikes and pedalled forth. The route we picked took us along contrasting coastline, down pretty streets to a tucked away memorial and ended at a site shrouded in mystery.
Starting Point: Duinrell Holiday Park
Set out from our base: a lodge tent at Duinrell Holiday park. We’d booked bikes in advance from the on-site rental at €11 per bike for 24 hours.
A straightforward route out of the park and through the outskirts of Wassenaar brought us to…
The Meijendel Nature Reserve
The Meijendel is a vast nature reserve that stretches out between the town of Wassenaar, The Hague and the coastal resort Scheveningen. The landscape is wild, mostly dunes and forest leading to miles of sandy beach. Featuring numerous hiking and cycling routes and abundant in wildlife, the Meijendel is the perfect place to enjoy the natural Netherlands close to the town and city.
I also appreciated that at regular intervals you’ll find rest stations with seating, maps and drinking water taps.
I do love being outdoors and exploring the natural world, but it was a manmade feature of this beautiful landscape that brought me here.
Waalsdorpervlakte: Memorial to the Dutch Resistance.
Waalsdorpervlakte is a spot in the Meijendel reserve where captured members of the Dutch resistance were killed during WW2. This site was chosen by the Germans for firing squad executions.
Today it’s one of most important Dutch war memorials.
Today, it is a peaceful and beautiful place, making it hard to take in the history. It is estimated that over 250 resistance fighters were executed here between 1940-1945, after being held in prison in Scheveningen. Post war, collaborators were executed here.
The Waalsdorpervlakte monument is a simple one. Understated. A concrete banner bearing the dates 1940-1945. Four firing squad crosses. A stone carrying the message, ‘Here many compatriots made the sacrifice of their lives for your freedom, enter this place with due respect’
The history of the site may be dark but the story of how the memorial came to stand is one of resilience. In 1946, surviving resistance fighters spontaneously gathered to hold a remembrance ceremony. They erected four wooden crosses in memorial. Later, these were replaced with permanent bronze versions.
This place wasn’t created for the Resistance, it was created by them.
Adjacent to the Waalsdorpervlakte sits the other part of this monument: The Bourdon Bell. Erected in the 1950’s, the bell is an important part of the annual remembrance ceremony on May 4th.
The Bourdon bell is rung to signify the start of a two minute silence, and is sounded again as those gathered take part in a silent march and wreath laying.
Quick note : I discovered this memorial after researching the story of Dutch Resistance. My interest in the fate of those captured was sparked by an execution scene in The Forgotten Battle. Although set in a different part of The Netherlands, it delves into the story of the Resistance and is well done. Worth a watch, find it on Netflix.
A short cycle through the dunes and the route leads into the outskirts of Scheveningen. A character of a place. Old fashioned seaside resort with young, creative vibe. Lots of history. I loved it.
The sandy beach and promenade made the perfect place to change the pace after the bikes. The area around the pier is colourful, artistic. And super clean, due in part to the litter gathering game set up on the promenade. The ‘Trash-ure Hunt’ invites beach users to gather trash in return for points and hero status.
Seems to be working, who doesn’t want to be a hero?
Beach bars abound, the atmosphere is fun. The pier is home to various shops and food outlets. You can also zip line, bungee jump and ride the big wheel here. Might have been fun on a day with more time and less wind. Next time?
We opted for the more laid back pursuit of hot drinks and comfy seats instead. Found both plus a warm welcome and a stylish interior at Moeke. Loved the cosy atmosphere, views to the pier and the pictures of Scheveningen past on the wall. Smashing hot chocolate with whipped cream, too
Refreshed and rested, it was back in the saddle. Back through the outskirts of Scheveningen and onto the network of cycle paths through the Meijendal to a wilder stretch of coastline.
More cycling through the dunes brought us to our final stop. The beach just outside our starting point of Wassenaar, known as the Wassenaarseslag.
This stretch of coastline is quite a contrast to busy, colourful Scheveningen. Miles of dunes, wild and without facilities apart from a couple of beach cafes and a lifeguard station.
It hasn’t always been so quiet. It’s littered with WW2 bunkers and remains of the Atlantic Wall defences. This was active, dangerous ground. Today, it’s the keeper of a memorial with a mystery.
In February 1944, six French commandos from the Free French forces were sent to Wassenaar to try and pass the German defensive line. The Allies needed to know if resistance fighters could pass through. Commandos were sent to test the theory
The six were trained in and sailed from England. Dropped in Wassenaar with a pick up scheduled for the next day, but none returned. The following night, records show that German forces heard cries from the sea. Sometime later, the bodies of the men washed ashore. What happened to them was never confirmed.
They are remembered today with a neatly kept memorial, cared for beautifully by the town.
Ended the day watching the kite surfers braving the North Sea. I dipped my feet in and that was enough for me.
I’m a convert to cycling, though. Especially in Holland, where cycle paths are defined and cyclist is king of the road. I’ll probably invest in one of those gel seat things next time; comfort is key!
I guess it’s ‘easy abroad’, Helen, being just across the Channel, but we don’t see too many posts about this coast. Was it windy all the time you were there? I love dunes but they can be a pain in the wind.
It was breezy and brisk and I think it often is as surfing and kite surfing is a big thing there. It was an easy hop over on Eurotunnel, left me thinking we should do it more often while we are down here!
Fascinating Helen. The many times I’ve been to Holland and its always been to its main towns and never its countryside. I should really rectify that.
It’s a fabulous country, always worth a visit.
When I think about beachy destinations, the Dutch coast has never really been at the top of my list. And you know what? That’s a crying shame because the Netherlands has a number of unique beach locations I have yet to visit. One place I have always wanted to explore is the dune-swept archipelago of the Wadden Islands. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx
I love the Dutch and German coastline, do visit if you get a chance! Thanks so much for stopping by.
This interested me, because, as I type, a friend of ours in undertaking a similar cycling trip – in his case continuing along the Rhine all the way to Switzerland. An idea for the future?
I’d love to get back over and do a cycling holiday, have actually been looking at a ‘bike and barge’ holiday along the Rhine. Need to build up my cycling legs first, I did feel it the next day! That trip sounds amazing.
He’s having fun, cycling from our village in N. Yorkshire all the way to Basel, where his partner works. Oh, he does catch a ferry somewhere along the line! He says the cycle paths are fabulous.
Sounds like a busy day with lots packed in. You must also have been subjected to a rollercoaster of emotions with your different activities – war memorials, tragic losses and visits to the seaside – the hot chocolate did look delicious 😋
The memorials always get me. I like to think that those who fought for freedom would like the idea of the place being enjoyed rather than battled for now. The hot chocolate was a winner and much appreciated after the ride.
To my shame, I’ve not seen anywhere near enough of the Dutch coast, so thanks for giving me a chance to see it through your smashing post Helen
Thanks for taking the time to read and post, it’s a grand place to visit. Certainly one for the list if you like a bit of history!
I’ve just realised that I have been to Scheveningen. It didn’t look like that when I was there though.
Oh really? How was it looking then? It seems to be undergoing a bit of a rebranding, last time we visited it felt quite different.
It was early May 2012. We spent several days in South Holland based in Rotterdam around Queen’s Day. The weather was miserable practically the whole time we were there including the day we spent in The Hague. Naturally, for somewhere like Scheveningen you need some half-decent weather at least, but it was grim. The Kurhaus Hotel looked impressive but I thought the apartment blocks near the pier looked horrendous for the location.
I recall visiting Scheveningen a long time ago and enjoying walks through the sand dunes. Glad that you had such a lovely time. Cycling in The Netherlands along with Finland is completely safe unlike over here where our cycle lanes always disappear when they are most needed!
Yes- cycling in Holland did highlight for me that cycling in the UK can be a risky business. Another tick in the box for cycle friendly Finland, I’ll get there one day!
Nice to see a side of the country I’ve never given much thought about, or been exposed to. An old-fashioned beachside resort town with a youthful vibe looks and sounds wonderful here. Scheveningen is a location I’d definitely look to spend time in.
I’m hoping to get back across in the Summer, it was a lovely place. Thanks so much for taking time to read and comment 😊
That looks a beautiful bike ride with so many things of interest to stop and look at. The Dutch coast certainly looks very attractive. That bell is very impressive.
It’s a beautiful part of the world, but you can spot the tourists. We stop and look at everything, the Dutch just fly through on their trusty bikes! The bell is a beauty, although couldn’t find out much about it.
What a lovely bike ride with some interesting history along the way. I’ve always wanted to do a cycling holiday and the Netherlands definitely seems like a good, flat choice 🙂
Thank you, it was a lovely day cycling. And yes- very flat, very safe and easy to navigate thanks to the numbered cycle paths. A great option for a cycling break.
Looks like a lovely trip with some very moving history. Have you been to the Resistance Museum in Amsterdam? I thought that was really well done.
I haven’t but that sounds right up my street! I’ll look it up as I’m hopefully back in The Netherlands later this year. Thanks for the tip.
Never been to Holland but seems like there’s certainly a lot to do there!
We only go to Amsterdam but wish to explore more, thank you this looks a wonderful place to visit