Leiden is a university city about 20km north of The Hague and about 10km away from Duinrell by bike. The route from Duinrell is a great example of Dutch bike infrastructure, with most of the route being on segregated cycle paths away from the road. The points at which you have to share the road are generally pretty quiet and you can expect to see very few cars.

On the cycle paths around Duinrell
On the cycle paths around Duinrell

Setting off from Duinrell, you initially pass through some of the quieter roads in Wassenaar, seen in my other post Around Duinrell. Riding along, you use a mixture of segregated cycle paths, on-road cycle lanes and roads with no cycle provision. As I mentioned, the points where you have to share the road are pretty quiet and are usually where you navigate through housing estates.

Leaving Wassenaar on the canal-side path
Leaving Wassenaar on the canal-side path

Once out of Wassenaar, the route takes you along a canal-side cycle path. This is a well constructed and maintained path, which is pretty straight, with lovely views of the canal and beyond. The path is generally quite quiet, we saw a few other people on bikes or walking, but not many. Though it was midweek, so I’d expect it’d be busier at the weekend.

Riding along here, you pass Vliegveld Valkenburg, which is the former naval airbase. This airbase has a long history going back to the Second World War, when it was used by the Luftwaffe. After the war, it was used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force and by the Dutch Royal Family at times. The airbase closed in 2006 and is now expected to be used for housing.

Me and the boys riding along Valkenburgse Meer
Me and the boys riding along Valkenburgse Meer

The path continues straight until you reach Valkenburgse Meer. This is a man-made recreation lake, created from the extraction of sand. The path follows the edge of the lake, which is picturesque, if a little exposed.

A narrow gauge railway track runs parallel to the cycle path for most of the way round the lake. The railway track belongs to Stoomtrein Katwijk Leiden, a local heritage line. Now, we’ve done more than our fair share of heritage railways back in the UK, but I must say, this is one of our favourites.

Valkenburg Station on the Stoomtrein Katwijk Leiden
Valkenburg Station on the Stoomtrein Katwijk Leiden

I’m not entirely sure of the history of this railway, but from what I understand, the trains used to run through the dunes of Katwijk until it was forced to close due to environmental reasons. Since then, its home has been around the lake at Valkenburgse Meer. The railway was closed the day we rode to Leiden, but we decided to return at the weekend to ride the trains, tour the train sheds and the museum. Our kids loved it and we all had a great time, the people running the museum were really friendly and we could have stayed much longer.

Crossing the Oude Rijn
Crossing the Oude Rijn

Beyond Valkenburgse Meer, you leave the countryside behind and reach the outskirts of Leiden, where the path runs parallel to the A44 and crosses the Leidse Rijn. The path’s colour changes to the usual red at this point and has centre markings. From here into the centre of Leiden, the path gets busier, but not that busy.

Bike parking at Leiden Centraal
Bike parking at Leiden Centraal

One or two underpasses later, you arrive at Leiden Centraal. As with pretty much all cities in The Netherlands, there is ample, but busy bike parking. Rather than parking up, we carried on into Leiden centre and parked up on one of the streets. Though after this, we spotted some free indoor bike parking in the centre, that’s even more convenient.

After a lovely few hours spent wandering the streets, checking out the sights, enjoying a spot of lunch and one or two ice creams. We headed back along the route to Wassenaar and Duinrell, making the most of a glorious sunny evening.

Back to part 3 – Around Duinrell

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