Looking for a gentle introduction to cycling for your child or even your granny? With pan flat roads that give cyclists priority over cars, Holland is the perfect location to kick start your family cycle touring...
Going Dutch for a First Cycle tour
Choosing Holland for Matthew's first cycle tour was a no-brainer. We had talked about it for years as we dragged him around in a trailer and dreamed of his independence. The advantages were obvious. No steep hills. No traffic clogging the roads. Cycle paths in their thousands. And a chance to tiptoe our tyres through the tulips, one of the advantages of going in the spring!
But what was supposed to be an educational experience for a nine year old on his first bike tour in Europe was more of an eye opener for me. I'll never forget waiting patiently at my first roundabout on the outskirts of Ijmuiden, only to find out that the guy in the car was waiting equally patiently for me to strike out. In Holland, the roundabout belongs to the cyclist. As does the road. You've never seen a commuter rush until you've seen a cycle lane in Amsterdam at 9am on a Monday morning.
A relaxing bike ride with many attractions on route
But while Amsterdam can be quite terrifying if you can't pedal as fast as the crowd, Holland as a whole is one of the most relaxing places I've ever cycled. A week long tour took us through perfectly flat, perfectly formed villages. We followed long canals along quiet backroads as we visited cheese markets like Alkmaar, wandered gardens like Keukenhof, buzzed past windmills and stopped at quirky cafes for huge slices of apple cake. And the best thing about pedalling your way around your holiday destination? There's no guilt when it comes to huge slices of apple cake.
Sleeping it all off
Holland isn't the cheapest place in Europe, but nor is it the most expensive. And if you don't plan on staying in five star hotels or eating at fancy restaurants, then it is possible to do it on a budget. Our favourite places to stay were cabins on campsites. These are simple wooden huts, with bunks, where you use your own sleeping bags. They were a firm favourite with our kids as they saved the hassle of putting up the tent, kept us dry in the rain, and looked a bit like home once all our stuff was scattered around the room. If you are travelling peak season, you may need to book a cabin in advance as they are cheap and popular with families. If you prefer the real thing, then camping is even cheaper and we found it unnecessary to book a pitch in advance, at least off peak.
Hostels are also a good option for a family. Most now have family rooms and may have cooking facilities on site to save money on eating out. We stayed in a few different Dutch hostels, including one in Amsterdam as the camp site was way out of town. Or if you fancy a bit of luxury at a reduced rate, then you should be able to pick up a good deal from one of the reduced price accommodation websites. And if you want to splash out; you can always stay in a windmill!
Tips for cycling in Holland
Take a map
With no hills or contours of any kind and uniformly spread with canals, one Dutch village can look very like another and you can easily get lost.
Don't miss the tulips
If you are happy to get up at sparrow's tweet, then visit one of the flower markets for a joyful, colourful floral vibe. If not, then find a garden to relax in at lunchtime.
Whether sourced from a cheese market or a local deli, Dutch cheese is a real treat. The bread isn't bad either. And did I mention the apple cake?
Wind around some windmills
Go and find the famous mouse in the windmill in Amsterdam, or just admire one of these graceful pieces of engineering from afar.
Everyone speaks English so there is no need to learn the lingo, but it's fun to have a go.
Enjoy it and don't try and do too much
If this is your child's first cycle tour, don't rush it. Enjoy the quiet life and slow pace of the Dutch. You may also have to factor in cycling in a head wind; there are no hills to absorb a stiff breeze.
Check out some more photos and video of our mini Dutch cycling adventure.
Disclosure note: We have been recompensed for the time involved in composing this page. All opinions however are entirely our own and based upon our personal experience.