The family riding along the cycle path in Vlietland, horse-friendly path running parallel on the right

Netherlands 22: The route to Vlietland

By the Monday of our first week, the weather was brightening up. So after having a day on the rides in Duinrell, I persuaded the family to get out on the bikes to Vlietland, not too far from Wassenaar.

Vlietland is a recreational area, with a man-made lake to the south east of Duinrell, next to the A4 motorway. The lake is a result of the extraction of sand from the location between 1968 to 2001. It is now used for various water sport activities, and with this being The Netherlands, it of course features a network of cycle routes.

We set off from Duinrell and headed across Wassenaar, crossing the N44. This was via the mostly pretty good network of cycle paths in the town, which are on the whole, high quality and protected. It’s only let down by the weird stepped cycle track, with on-street parking, which force cars to cross the cycle path.

Once we arrived at the N44, we took an attractively decorated underpass to get to the other side. The N44 runs between Den Haag and Leiden and tends to dissect the area in between, with the 4 lanes of traffic along most of its length. There are a few crossing points for people walking and cycling. Some at junctions, where you have to wait some time, but there’s also underpasses, where no waiting is required.

There’s actually a few parallels with the N44 and our own A56 in Manchester. Both are key routes, that have at least 4 lanes of traffic and dissect the areas they pass through. That’s where the similarities end though.

Mosaic decorated walking and cycling underpass, passing under the N44

While the N44 has a safe, high quality parallel cycling route, the A56 largely has nothing to protect people cycling, except for a small section in Stretford where some cones remain from the pop-up Covid cycle lanes, that are being left to rot, with no apparent plan to replace them with anything permanent.

As I mentioned, N44 has multiple crossing points for walking and cycling, including some underpasses. They could probably do with more in some areas, in my opinion, but overall, it’s pretty good. On the A56, they’ve actively removed the underpasses, forcing people to wait up to 5 minutes to cross a heavily polluted road. It’s a similar story along the length of the A56, where motor traffic takes priority over people.

Once over the other side of the N44, we headed along Papeweg. The route consisted of a combination of quiet streets, serving houses running next the main road and dedicated cycle paths, running parallel. With a canopy of trees and the surrounding countryside, this was quite pleasant to cycle along.

We soon reached Voorschoten train station, which is located on the main line connecting Den Haag to Haarlem and Utrecht. Approaching the station, the cycle path gently lowers into an underpass, below the four train lines and platforms. The cycle path is separate to the road and has a gentler gradient, as it doesn’t require as much headroom. This is something you see often in The Netherlands.

Coming out the other side of the station, we meandered through the streets of Voorschoten as we headed towards the northern side of Vlietland. The cycling infrastructure carried on, with a combination of paved cycle paths, quiet streets and cycle streets. These were all quiet, pleasant and easy to cycle on.

We were soon at the Vliet Canal, which we crossed over on the blue Vlietlandbrug bridge. We now entered the Vlietland area. Our plan was to have a look around, with a view to coming back later in the week, with the others.

That didn’t really work out as we didn’t find time to return to Vlietland during the week. We also didn’t see much of the lake, as it was now lunchtime, the temperature was rising and the family were a little tired and hungry. So we went off in search of lunch,

We carried on riding the cycle paths through Vlietland, then looped back round on the south side. The route took us around the lake, passing various stables and the motorway in the distance. As typical for Dutch rural paths, it was a nice smooth asphalt surface, that was clearly well maintained. Typically, if it were in the UK, it would probably be a poorly maintained loose stone surface, with mud and standing water, here and there.

At this point, the path seemed familiar to me, as it turned out I’d ridden through here on a ride to Zoetermeer a few years back. It turned out, I had cycled along the path crossing the A4 motorway, then carried on the bridge over the Vliet Canal, where I had opportunity to see the bridge up, letting boats through.

Once over the Vliet Canal, we set off in search of somewhere to eat. The closest place we found that was open was Proeflokaal Mimi, which seemed a bit too fancy for lunch, but was very nice. From the restaurant, we headed through Voorschoten, eventually ending up on the same route we came.

On our way back, we passed the other side of Voorschoten Station, which gave us opportunity to see the cycle parking there. In typical Dutch fashion, there was an impressive array of cycle parking, including a substantial number of cycle lockers. All very impressive, for what is a relatively small commuter station.

With it being rather warm, we took a detour on the way back, to the centre of Wassenaar, for a treat at our favourite ice cream parlour, Luciano. This is located just off the main shopping street, in a small, largely traffic-free square.

This is actually quite a pleasant place to linger. Traffic levels are really low, as there’s no through route, so it’s pretty much access only. The landscaping is pleasant and sensitive to the area and there’s lots of trees and greenery. It’s a lively spot, with the ice cream parlour getting a steady stream of customers, who linger outside in the square.

There’s also tons of cycle parking, which is heavily used. This has been supplemented with platform-style temporary cycle parking, in what once was car parking bays. The expectation would be for these to be made permanent, as is the case in The Netherlands.

Once we finished our ice creams, we headed back to our cabin in Duinrell, only to head back out soon after, to go down the beach. More on that to come.


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