Make the most of the Dutch countryside – a few winter walks

dunes with big skyThe Dutch are keen on walking and the countryside is riddled with signposted walks to encourage you to get out and about. Here’s a few suggestions to help you walk off the effect of all that festive food.

De Rijp – 7 to 22 km
The pretty village of De Rijp in Noord Holland is famous as a place to go boating, but it also offers several walks past tiny villages and, outside the breeding season, across fields into the big wide open. Pick up a map at the VVV in the heart of the village. De Rijp has plenty of choice for lunch at the end or start of your walk. Website

Zwanenwater – 4.5 km
In Noord-Holland province close to the Callantsoog seaside village, Zwanenwater is a small nature reserve. The walk takes you through birch woods and over dunes around the edge of the lake, with a stop-off at a bird hide. In the spring, the grass is full of purple orchids. Website

De Zilk – 9.4 km

Dunes near De Zilk.jpgDeer spotting in the dunes. Photo: DutchNews.nl

There are lots of signposted walks in the dunes west of Amsterdam but this is our favourite. It’s not as busy as the others but that may be due to the lack of a cafe. The walk (follow the blue route) takes you through woods, past the gliding club and across high dunes with great views (a perfect spot for a picnic). Excellent for spotting deer. Website

Oostvaardersplassen – 1-7 km
This nature reserve on the ‘new’ province of Flevoland is the home of a pair of breeding sea eagles – so if its bird life you are after, this is the place to be. You’ll also spot deer and wild ponies. Website

Lage Vuursche – 2-4 km
There are lots of walks to suit all tastes through the heaths and woodlands near Hilversum that make up Lage Vuursche. Set your route planner for Drakenstein where most of them start. Dogs welcome on many walks. Website

Round Marken – 6 km

View from Marken.jpgThe view from Marken towards the mainland. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Marken was once an island but is now connected to the mainland by a road over a dyke. Park as soon as you cross the water and hit the dyke path heading east. You’ll pass typical houses with great wooden constructions in the water which keep the ice at bay during big freezes and a light house with an inviting little beach in summer. Lots of bird life for bird watchers. The route conveniently hits the village itself about 3/4 round, so its a good point to stop of for a break. Best avoided in strong winds. Website

St Pietersberg, Maastricht – 10 km
If you visit the marl mines on the outskirts of Maastricht, build in time to take in a walk across the Netherlands’ highest hills. The 10 km (red) route takes in spectacular views over the quarry, winds through woods and past old mine entrances, and dips into Belgium. It ends with a bit of a boring walk back to Maastricht up the river. Website

Oisterwijk – 9.4 km

A frosty morning in Noord-Brabant. Photo: DutchNews.nlA frosty morning in Noord-Brabant. Photo: DutchNews.nl

This is a charming walk through woods and past little lakes left by peat extraction between Den Bosch and Tilburg. Pick up the route (follow the blue arrows) at the Oisterwijkse Bossen en Vennen nature centre. The cafe is a good option for lunch but can be somewhat overwhelmingly full of children if you are after a quieter time. There is another stop off cafe around half way. Website

Oppad, near Hilversum – 9.3 km
The Oppad is an old path followed for hundreds of years by churchgoers across the fields and past the peat workings between Kortenhoef and ‘s-Graveland. Pick up the path next to the church and you will find yourself striding out into the fields. Just keep going in a straight line. Rich in wildlife, you might even be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher. Website

Lange Afstands Wandelpaden (100 km +)
If you are very keen walkers, the Netherlands also has its share of long-distance footpaths or LAWs. Like the grand randonnee in France, they use red and white stripes on signs to indicate which way to go so you may well come across them while out on the shorter strolls listed above. The Netherlands has 35 LAWS, which have to be over 100 km to qualify. Website