Cycle through Overijssel, Drenthe and Groningen following the cart tracks of the Saxons, early Germanic people who, together with the Angles, crossed the Netherlands and conquered England. The Saxons came to the Netherlands from Northern Europe in 375 BC. It’s thought that around two hundred thousand Anglo-Saxons then travelled to the island that we now call England.
In the Netherlands, the Saxons settled in the area south of the coastal regions of the Frisians and to the north of the Franks. On today’s map, the area would cover from Gooi in the centre of the Netherlands to the Rhine in the south. The Low Saxon dialect is still spoken in this area today. The LF14 leads through the former lands of the Saxons. Stichting Landelijk Fietsplatform (National Bicycle Platform foundation) has signposted the route in both directions.
However, this route shows much more of the Netherlands’ rich history. Every era has left its trace on the country. In Twente, a region in the eastern Netherlands, the sloping landscapes, with their small patches of land bordered by trees and hedgerows, is a textbook example. Here, you find traces of the Ice Ages, valleys formed by ancient glacial rivers, boulder clay in the subsoil, and remnants of the formation of peat and its excavation.
In the Vecht Valley, the legacy of the Hanseatic League still lives on. Meanwhile, in the rugged landscape of Drenthe in the northeast of the Netherlands, prehistoric burial mounds and dolmens reveal an insight into the past. Gronigers built wierden villages, protected from the tide, long before dikes were invented. You will climb up these residential hills following winding cobbled paths. In the ancient village centres, there’s almost always a church and at least one village pub.
This 300-kilometre (186-mile) route is an enjoyable and active history lesson. At around 60 kilometres (37 miles) long, the five Tours are not extremely taxing, but they are still a challenge. With a good bike and a healthy set of legs, you will cycle about four hours a day. Don’t forget to take time for breaks into consideration, but if you leave after breakfast, you should reach your destination before dinner. Of course, I have made sure that at the end of each Tour, you will find a selection of restaurants and campsites.
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From Hardenberg you cycle through the greenery and past authentic villages with characteristic Saxon farms. Those farms are not actually Saxon at all, they are hall-house farms. The typical three-aisled buildings were not built until hundreds of years after the defeat of the Saxons. They just happen to be in the same spot of the Saxons' habitat, which probably caused the confusion.You cycle through the floodplains of the Overijsselse Vecht to the fortified town of Coevorden in Drenthe. This is the oldest city in Drenthe and it used to have a strategic location. It was right on an important trade route and was the only place to cross the peat bogs. Tolls were collected for this and the castle was taken by force several times. Fortunately it is now a lot quieter in Coevorden, so it is a nice place to stop for lunch.