A Sunny Return to the North Sea Cycle Route from Kijkduin to Zandvoort

The North Sea Cycle Route is the worlds longest cycle route, passing through 8 different countries whose coastlines have sections bordering the North Sea. Measuring more than 6000km with sections in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, England and Scotland the route was first opened in 2001 and the world record status confirmed in 2003. Based on existing cycling infrastructure in the respective countries this well signed route offers huge variation, from the Fjords of Norway (which we personally sampled in 2004), the flatlands of northern France and the rolling dunes of Holland (which we have also sampled many times in the past). Over such a vast distance and with such differing terrain the North Sea Cycle route offers section to suit all tastes and abilities, or for very extreme cycle tourists, a serious long distance challenge.

Norway 2004
An attempt on the entire route has been in the back of our own minds for some time, ever since we spent a month cycle touring Norway in 2004 including a long section on the North Sea Route through the Western Fjords. It was a truly beautiful section of coastline we'd love to go back to, but that will have to wait for future years. However, this year we are currently based less than 200m from the Dutch section of the route and with Esther feeling much better last Friday and temperatures forecast to get close to 30 degrees, we couldn't resist getting on our road bikes to enjoy a longer ride ourselves.

Holland 2006
From our base in Kijkduin our plan was to head north on the route for roughly 2-3 hours before doubling back home, hoping to be back well before the forecast evening rain. As our first long day on the bikes in several months and coming off the back of Esther's illness we had no intention of pushing ourselves too hard so set off around midday, settling into a relaxed pace we hoped we could keep up for the next few hours. We had ridden this section of the route several times in the past and were looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with what we remembered as a beautiful and relaxing cycleway.

Although the route runs right through the dunes from Kijkduin, we decided to speed up the first few kilometres and took an inland route direct to the beach resort of Scheveningen where we properly joined the route. As we turned onto the dedicated cycleways that thread their way through the rolling sandy dunes of the Dutch coast we revelled in the car free safety of our environment. It is a really liberating experience that even the most traffic hardened rider must surely appreciate. It really is one of the most fantastic things about cycling in Holland in general, and the North Sea route in particular, the fact you can ride for miles upon miles without being anywhere near a car. Blissful.


The first section of our route from Scheveningen to Katwijk is around 16km long, primarily on smooth tiles among loosely forested duneland dotted with occasional small reservoirs. With the sun shining brightly in the sky we passed by a regular stream of leisure cyclists going either way, plus a multitude of other racing cyclists out flying along the paths on their own training rides. It was a real mix of ages, sizes and abilities and all created a wonderful atmosphere of camerarderie with everyone enjoying the fine weather and pleasant natural surroundings.


With the sun beating down we decided to take our first short break and picked out one of the many handy benches to pause and reapply our sun cream. Just as we were parking up our trusty steeds we spotted a fox enjoying someone's discarded lunch and were surprised to find it had almost no fear of us, leading to some great pictures (although I do always find it a little sad to see wildlife becoming so tame and dependent on human garbage for food).

 

Setting off again and the route did get busy for a brief while as we arrived in Katwijk itself, a bustling resort where hundreds of tourists were fighting for parking spaces by the densely packed beach. It was a bit of a shock to the system after the peaceful dune paths, but the busyness was shortlived as in just a couple of kilometres we entered the dunes once more for the short section to Nordwijk, the next resort along the coast a further 8 km away.

Nordwijk is even bigger than Katwijk, leading to a few more hairy moments dodging pushy tourists that were over eager to park, but again it was only for a few kilometres before we were back in the dunes. By now we'd been on our bikes for an hour and a half and decided we were feeling well enough to push on in the blazing heat and set our sights on Zandvoort a further 18km or so away. This section of the route was our favourite, with a nice long section of well surfaced paths that were much quieter than the sections closer to Den Haag and with a mild tailwind we were soon flying along, arriving sweaty but happy in Zandvoort shortly before 3pm.

It was now time for a proper rest and rehydrate as the thermometer was now pushing 30, so we found a nearby shop and filled our bags with some frozen berries, cool water and fruit before picking out a shady sport to enjoy them. Zandvoort was the busiest resort we'd passed through yet, with miles of golden beach rammed with happy sun seekers.

We were aware that some storms were possible from 5pm onwards and as it had taken just under 3 hours to get here we were a little wary of getting caught out so started to head back into the slight headwind, hoping the sunshine would hold. Sadly it did not and by the time we had reached Norwijk once more the sky was starting to look very grey and threatening, so we quickened our pace a little just as the temperature (which had been wearing us down all day) plummeted around 10 degrees in under 10 minutes. Bad weather was on the way.

Then a wonderful and fortunate thing happened, the wind speed increased but flipped direction turning the irritating headwind into a helpful tailwind. With around 40km to cover and a darkening sky overhead it was a welcome change. Powering past the various landmarks we had cruised past several hours before we kept warm through effort alone and managed to make it all the way back to Scheveningen before the heavens finally opened, picking up several hundred midge passengers on the way!

Dodging the tourists now fleeing the beach at Scheveningen we went as fast as we felt safe to do so, with adrenalin pumping as the first streaks of lightening began appearing on the skyline, this time we continued past the habour and along the dune route all the way back to the Kijkduin Vakantie park to avoid all the cars with drivers as eager as us to get home.  We finally pulled up just after 6pm and were very happy to be under a safe roof. We had covered the return trip more than an hour faster than the outward ride and as the rain got harder and harder were glad we had.

Overall we had covered just under 100km (60 miles), which is much more than we had ridden in several months and felt tired, but proud and happy with what we had done and seen.

The North Sea Cycle route is a wonderful creation and resource for cyclists and the section from Kijkduin to Zandvoort is a prime example of the rolling dunes of Holland that we hope to be visiting many more times in the future.



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Adventures In Life, Love, Health, Travel... & Puppies!: A Sunny Return to the North Sea Cycle Route from Kijkduin to Zandvoort
A Sunny Return to the North Sea Cycle Route from Kijkduin to Zandvoort
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Adventures In Life, Love, Health, Travel... & Puppies!
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