It’s always so relaxing to be in the Dutch countryside, whatever the weather. Nobody can feel stressed listening to the wind rustling through the trees while enjoying rural peace and quiet … and the scent of fresh pine.
Limburg is … hills, orchards, sunken country lanes, timbered houses, wayside crosses and traditional flan. That’s right, isn’t it? Well, yes, but this province has so much more beauty and diversity to offer than the famous features at its southernmost point. In central Limburg, for instance, you can visit historic Roermond, the Maasplassen lakes, stunning national parks and the picturesque little town of Thorn, known as the “white town” because of its whitewashed houses.
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore the beauties of central Limburg. Hampshire Boshotel – Vlodrop, surrounded by woodland in De Meinweg National Park, is the perfect place to start your cycling tour. The hotel is situated right in the middle of the extensive cycle routes network, so you can easily plan your own route. All you have to do is follow the signs between the numbered reference points. Although De Meinweg is not very big – only 1800 hectares – it is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and you should spend at least a weekend exploring it.
The three fault lines in this area – Peelrandbreuk, Meinwegstoring and Zandbergstoring – have caused considerable upheaval on a number of occasions. Earth tremors have resulted in a terraced landscape with a total of 50 metres’ difference in height.
The cycle tracks on the routes are easy to negotiate, and they take you past the most stunning parts of the national park. You can enjoy the diversity of the scenery with its carrs, meres, valleys and forests of oak and birch. And the criss-cross trenches, anti-tank ditches, bunkers and bomb craters you’ll come across every now and then are a reminder of the Second World War.
You can take a long relaxing break by one of the innumerable little meres or streams. You might even see some rare species of wildlife running for cover, such as the pool frog, the alpine newt or the spadefoot toad.
If you’d like to explore the national park in a more adventurous way, you could hire a mountain bike. This will make it easy for you to negotiate the sandy paths as well. If you go along these paths, you’ll probably see that the ground has been churned up here and there. These tracks are made by wild boar that live there, and with a bit of luck you may even see one or more of them. You can see vipers here too, maybe sunning themselves on a piece of rock.
But there’s a lot more to central Limburg than De Meinweg. If you cycle north in the direction of Roermond, just over 10 kilometres away, you’ll experience something totally different.
Of course, this cathedral city is worth a visit in itself, but nature lovers can have a wonderful time at the Maasplassen lakes nearby.
With a total surface area of 3,000 hectares, these lakes are the biggest unbroken water sports area in the Netherlands. They were formed by sand and gravel quarrying in the Meuse Valley, and it’s a beautiful place to cycle and watch all the waterfowl en route.
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