The green heart of holland: a round trip
Holland is not actually that big so you can cover a lot of ground in a short trip. In just four days, staying three nights, and cycling 159 miles, we managed to see Amsterdam, Utrecht, Gouda, the Hague, Leiden and Haarlem. Admittedly, we didn’t do much except cycle, eat and sleep.
But there’s a lot to see from the saddle. We loved cycling through the historic towns and cities (apart from the fact that we kept getting lost); and although the countryside was flat it was far from boring thanks to the many waterways and windmills as well as the spectacular fields of tulips and hyacinths (we were there in April).
We were lucky that we only had one windy day – I imagine headwinds in Holland can be brutal. We also met some lovely people. Not least, the woman in Lisse who took an hour out of her day to help us find a shop that was open on a Sunday that sold inner tubes (I had already used my spare mending a puncture on day one).
I have to say, navigation was tricky at times. I would recommend the Falk fietskaarten maps available from Stanfords – a series of maps which mark all cycle paths including the numbered cycle network and national long-distance cycle routes (LF).
When we planned our route, we used a highlighter pen to mark the way from one numbered junction to another. In theory, it should have been easy. But with so many cycle paths in Holland, we struggled in built-up areas. You can read more about our experiences and how cycling signage works in the Netherlands on the blog.
Schipol airport to central Amsterdam
10 miles / 16 km
There are signs from the airport to the centre of Amsterdam. Pay attention; we missed a crossing over a canal at one point and went round in a circle. Once we were back on track, we headed for Vondelpark. From there we crossed the Amstel and turned right to pick up LF7 going south to Utrecht.
Amsterdam to Utrecht
33 miles / 52km
Leave Amsterdam on LF7 by the Amstel and pass through Ouderkerk and Abcoude. The LF7 route then follows the pretty River Vecht with a succession of posh country houses built for merchants from Amsterdam in the 17th and 18th centuries. We loved Utrecht with its historic centre and studenty vibe. We stayed at the functional Star Lodge Hotel.
Utrecht to Gouda
33 miles / 52 km
It’s all rivers, lakes and marshy fens along this rural stretch. Montfoort and Oudewater are good places to stop. Just before Gouda, there’s the chance to divert down to Schoonhoven and Kinderdijk to see the famous windmills. In Gouda, we stayed at Guesthouse De Utrechtsche Dom.
Gouda to Delft
25 miles / 40 km
This stretch starts in open countryside, with lots of fields, lakes and forest. At Pijnacker things start to get a bit more built up; you’ll have to get under the A13 motorway to get in to Delft. We skirted this city as we were heading for The Hague and on to Leiden.
Delft to Leiden
22 miles / 35km
We went through the centre of Den Haag (The Hague), past the Mauritshuis museum, home of Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring. After some navigational faffing, we hit the coastal bike path (LF1); disappointingly, the North Sea was hidden behind sand dunes. We stayed at the motel-like Bastion Hotel Leiden Voorschoten in Leiden.
Leiden to Haarlem
24 miles / 39km
Travelling north, we cycled past field upon field of tulips and hyacinths so bright that my camera could not cope (as this picture demonstrates). We were not alone. It was a Sunday and there were coach-loads of tulip tourists – all a bit bizarre. We had a much-needed second breakfast in a café in Lisse.
Haarlem to Schipol
12 miles / 20km
A late lunch in Haarlem gave us the fuel we needed for the final push to Schipol airport. The wind picked up and we had to face the most difficult bit of the whole trip – cycling on unattractive cycle paths close to motorways and against a headwind. But nothing could spoil a great holiday.