A quaint village at the northern end of the Dwingelderveld National Park, Dwingeloo may be small, but it packs a lot of character in the summer.
During this season, lush rural green spaces are the stage for events such as the International Ceramic Art Fair on May 30. If your idea of perfect relaxation means blissful walks, bike rides and horseback rides in unspoiled nature, then Dwingeloo might be just the way for you.
Dwingelderveld National Park has expansive skies, vast wet heaths and swamps that sparkle in the evening.
1. Dwingelderveld National Park
The northwest boundary of the park passes through the village, so you can take a stroll along country roads or bike into this landscape.
Dwingelderveld National Park is the largest wetland wasteland in Western Europe, covering 3,700 hectares.
The countryside is dotted with dozens of swamps ranging from sand dunes to wet low-lying wastelands.
Some of these swamps date back to the last ice age and support an amazing diversity of wildlife.
Almost all Dutch reptile species inhabit the park, along with rare cranberry blue butterflies, roe deer, falcons, bald eagles and woodpeckers.
Grazing has been introduced to help maintain the heath, and there is a thatched sheep pen near the visitor center with 300 Drenthe heath sheep and a pair of sheepdogs grazing the heath every morning.
2. Bezoekerscentrum Dwingelderveld
The visitor center is located in Benderse in the southwest corner of the park.
Before starting a walk or bike ride in the national park, it’s worth taking a ten-minute detour to learn about its wildlife and get some activity inspiration.
There is a scale model of the moorland, tips for spotting wildlife, detailed information about the park’s natural species, all accompanied by audiovisual presentations.
You can savor the park’s views by the pond outside, which has a boardwalk and an information panel, while the kids can ride the swings and balance on the logs among the birch trees in the play area.
As one of only two Zeiss planetariums in the Netherlands, Planetron is the main stargazing attraction in the Netherlands.
On Saturday nights, the 123-seat Planetarium puts on a live show, taking you to distant celestial bodies like Polaris, Saturn’s rings, and Ursa Major, while delivering puzzling facts.
This annotation feed comes from the observatory’s telescope (the most powerful optical telescope in the country). Afterwards there is a guided tour of the observatory where you will see for yourself through the telescope.
If you happen to come on a cloudy night, you can keep your ticket to return when the sky is clear.
4. St. Nicholas
A National Monument, Dwingeloo’s 15th-century church is open every Wednesday and Thursday during the summer.
Sint-Nicolaaskerk looks a lot like any church in the Drenthe area, for reasons we’ll get to later.
Considered the oldest Gothic church tower in Drenthe with an onion-shaped dome on its spire, the tower was built in 1631 in response to the drost of Drenthe (similar to the title of steward) Rutger van den Boetzelaer Ask to build.
There is a contemporary painting of Rutger and his third wife, Batina van Lohn.
Nearly destroyed by a fire in 1923, the nave was given a barrel vault during restoration, decorated with Art Deco floral motifs.
At the same time, the organ was built in 1886 and transferred here in 1985 from Paleiskerk in The Hague.
5. De Juffer van Batinghe
One of Dwingeloo’s five historic estates is called Batinge, and a fictional young woman from the woods is the subject of interesting local legends.
When building the church in the 15th century, she saw the main builders and biked there every day.
For his part, the builder blew the maiden away, becoming so distracted that he couldn’t function properly anymore.
The only way to finish the church is to send her on a trip, but before that, she tells the builder a dream about how to finish the church.
The builder completed the building according to her plan, and the couple got married.
This is a curious interpretation of Sint-Nicolaaskerk’s unusual lines.
There is an equestrian statue of the girl on the green space in front of the church.
Dwingeloo’s central green space encapsulates the village’s rural character.
Equivalent to a park, Brink is planted with tall oak and beech trees and has many of Dwingeloo’s amenities in front.
There are several restaurants here, as well as a tourist information center and bicycle rental shop.
At number 12 stands the schultehuis, built in 1675, which is now the official residence of the Mayor of Dwingeloo. There is a bandstand on the main green and a historic fire pit known as “De Riete”. The Brink is home to many of Dwingeloo’s public events, including Wednesday’s Market in July and August.
7. Dwingeloo Radio Observatory
When Queen Juliana unveiled it in 1956, the radio telescope near Dwingeloo was the largest in the world.
Constructed by Philips, the national machine shop Werkspoor NV and a group of Dutch universities, the dish is a national monument with a diameter of 25 meters and a weight of about 120 tons.
Two galaxies, Dwingeloo 1 and Dwingeloo 2, are named after the instrument, which is still in working condition and used by amateur astronomers and radio operators after its restoration in 2012. For everyday visitors, the Observatory is a trail you can take right next to Lake David Placen within the national park.
Dwingeloo’s countryside and national parks are easy to cycle through, with no steep inclines to take in the scenery along the coast.
Many of the trails in the park are paved with asphalt and belong to a complete junction of bike paths that are equipped with something called ‘Fietsknooppunten’ (bike nodes) and they have clear maps so you never will get lost.
As we mentioned above, there is a bike shop on Brink in Dwingeloo, Reiber Rijwielen that rents out tandem bikes, e-bikes, mountain bikes and even dog trailers.
9. Kurami Market
Ascension Day (30 May) is a public holiday in the Netherlands and the date in Dwingeloo is marked by the Ceramics Fair on Brink.
This is organized by the renowned Stichting Keramisten Noord-Nederland (North Holland Ceramicists Foundation), which consists of more than 200 members.
On Ascension Day, the village is packed with thousands of tourists, and around 90 ceramic artists from the Netherlands and abroad showcase their work.
These go far beyond simple trinkets and can be dazzling contemporary design pieces, busts or monumental sculptures.
Synchronized with the show is live music, demos and workshops.
10. Oogstdag (Harvest Day)
If you need more proof that Dwingeloo is a rural area, come before the harvest day in mid-August.
This is an agricultural heritage activity where people wear typical country clothes and work the land like their ancestors did for generations. In the small village of Lhee, you will learn all about how corn is harvested and processed.
Workers carry scythes, scythes, and horse-drawn harvesters into the fields, tying scabbards.
There are many more activities such as bakers kneading dough for an outdoor oven, threshing competitions and demonstrations of vintage machinery such as an old thresher pulled by a steam tractor in 1900.
11. Horseback riding
The misty moors and woodlands of Drenthe are riddled with horse trails, and Derwengrew is the kind of countryside with stables on its doorstep.
Nearby is Manege De Drift, a riding school that also offers pony and horse rentals for experienced riders, ranging from an hour to a full day.
Supervised hikes are also available during the day and when the sun goes down.
Families with young children can ride in a carriage, which you can drive yourself or with a coach driver provided by the riding school.
Other riding options within minutes of Dwingeloo include Stal de Brinkhof, Trail Ranch, Stal Vos and Paardrijcentrum “Zonnetij”.
12. Bosbad Pass Bergen
On the edge of the national park, just one kilometer from Dwingeloo, there is an outdoor swimming pool in the middle of the forest.
As one of only two public places in the area where you can swim, the pool is big news in summer, with a 40-meter slide, a separate paddling pool for younger children and a spacious sunbathing area.
The pool is connected to two local campsites, Torentjeshoek and De Noordster, offering day visitors a variety of activities such as beach volleyball, football and ziplining.
13. Blauwe Meer
A nature reserve has been established on the site of an old brick factory and sand quarry.
Dating back to the early 20th century, the crater has become a lake with stunning blue waters due to the mineral sea chlorite in the sand.
The Blauwe Meer attracts sunbathers and swimmers in summer.
Parents with smaller children may need to be careful as the shelving on the shore of the lake is rather steep, although there is a bathing area at the entrance suitable for non-swimmers.
Bring a picnic and you can dine in the shade of the surrounding former farmland.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
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