Holland or Burst.

 Tuesday was another great day awheel, I went out the B939 boy was it windy, not a headwind but coming over the port bow, I just had to dig deep. Having a goal to aim at helps enormously, you simply just keep telling yourself it is all in a good cause, dangling a carrot in front of the donkey’s nose. It was a relief to drop down into Pitscottie, for you get shelter from the hills there. Even the climb up into Ceres and then on up to Scots Tower was easy peasy after the wind from St Andrews to Pitscottie.

The National Trust for Scotland did say they would be opening some of their buildings but when I reached Scots Tower the door was locked. For a building that dates back to the 16th century and later rebuilt in 1620 it is in remarkably fine shape, and so long as it keeps its roof I see no reason for it not to remain that way for a few hundred years more.

The tower is six-story and largely intact, you can not help but be impressed when you enter the thickness of the walls, six feet if they are an inch. You can tell this by the recesses of the windows, set into the walls. Down each side runs a seat, where you would be able to sit and be bathed in natural light.

The first floor that would have been wooden (the joist holes are still viable) the floor long gone, giving you a view of the vaulted ceiling of the second floor, (all other wooden floors are intact) vaulted ceilings are repeated all the way up and would have given the tower great strength.

The original 16th century building was the home of the Inglis family. Bought by Sir John Scot (Author of the satirical novel “The Staggering State of the Scots’ Statesmen”.) Sir John rebuild the tower in 1620. Scotstarvit later passed to the Wemyss family and in 1948 gifted to the National Trust for Scotland. The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Time to turn tail for home and since it is mostly downhill from here to the sea at St Andrews, and since I was now running before the wind, I damn near freewheeled all the way home.

Have been poring over my travel guide books, collected over the years, putting plans in place for my trip to Holland. You do not take a bike to Holland unless you like riding your own stead. You jump on a bin flight and Borrow, Share, or Rent a bike when you arrive. Share bikes are known as OV-fiets, a public transport bike. The White Bike in the De Hoge Veluwe National park is legendary. Donkey Republic (get the app, get this bike) Rent a Damstraat, or Mac Bike. Depending on how long you wish to stay or if you wish to go gallivanting around Holland by train, picking up a bike for a few hours – there will be a bike for you. There has been an explosion of e-bikes in Holland. Rather than own a car, the thrifty young Dutch are using e-bikes to commute to and from work, In Holland this is not looked upon as a poor man’s car, it makes sense in an overcrowded country, it is also good for the environment, and the general health of the nation, (not breathing in fumes from cars and buses). The move to e-bikes is being encouraged by their government through tax exemptions.

You can not book ferries for most have been cancelled because of coronavirus or are not taking bookings. However, I have been able to check up on ‘friends of the bike’ they are still operating, although greatly reduced and restrictions in place, as the vaccine programme rolls out and the virus become suppressed things will improve. The loops I have chosen to cycle this time around are.

Amsterdam-Noord I was attracted to it by the stunning architecture of the Film Museum Eye to get there you have to catch a ferry over the river Ij (eye). Once a rundown, poor part of the city it has become very trendy with a 30K cycle path around the area.

Ooijpolser is an area around Nijmegen, an area I know well for I was stationed just over the border from here when serving in the RAF. I joined up with a cycling club in Nijmegen. Ooijpolser has a 38K cycle path running alongside the River Ooij. The scenery is stunning.

Maasduined National Park with a 57K cycle path, some of it is off-road rather than tarmac the route starts at the Boxmeer railway station.

Glenderland National Park Veluwezoom, it is many, many years since I visited this park so it will be a nostalgic trip for me. It reminded me very much of ‘The New Forest’ in the south of England. Ponies wandering around free and I even saw a toffee coo there. (a highland cow was on the cover of bars of McGowan Toffee, so we as kids called them toffee coos).

Winterswijk is to Holland what Constable country is to England. It is picturesque and where, Piet Mondrian, spent his childhood. He later became one of the Netherlands’ famous painters. Yes, I had never heard of him either until I went to Holland. What is remarkable about Winterswijk it remains pretty much undisturbed by the developers. A short cycle path takes you to the door of Museum Villa Mondriaan 24K ride.

Van Maas en Waal, lies between the Maas and the Waal rivers, the route is a circular 40K where you cycle along the top of the dikes.

Upper Groningen, I have never visited, it is in the countries most northerly province, which was a draw on its own. But when I was doing my research I discovered Martinistad (Martini City) has a tower in honour of Saint Martin of Tours. When I cycled the length of the Loire from source (although there are more than one) to the river’s mouth in France. I visited Tour and the basilica of St Martin (patron saint of France) and found out much about his fascinating life and work. I may not do much of the 93K trail for there is not a lot to see, very flat open farming country

And finally a 22K round trip of Noord-Holland dune reserve, I’m not sure, but I think I have been here before on a day trip to see the war museum. Mostly you walk through discarded World War Two, military equipment scattered around like broken toys. Then the museum itself has a building that houses all the trapping of war. It is right on the edge of the North Sea, mile upon mile of pristine sandy beaches stretching all the way from Den Haag in the south to Den Helder in the north. When I last stayed on this coast surfing was a big thing, surfing the huge rollers.

I will of course visit again the Peace Hall Den Haag, and leave a ribbon on the Peace Tree. This time I will try not to upset too many cyclists in Amsterdam – Cycling in Holland’s busy towns and cities, you must not slow down or hesitate at the crossings, momentum is the ename of the game, you just keep pedalling. Never mind the cars and buses, they see you. I was forever braking to make sure it was safe to shoot out in front of a car, buses or trams, that seemed on top of me, even if I did think I had right of way, the cyclists behind gave no quarter, and were very vocally at this dumb foreigner, braking in front of them. Dutch people are not cyclists they are two-wheeled acrobats. They seem to just glide through the traffic, swaying one way swaying the other, as they cut their way through the traffic, never slowing down never hesitating for an instance. Joining this river of free-flowing bikes, cars, lorries and buses, is scary until you get the hang of it. Riding in Amsterdam, my survival senses were always on high alert, I was exhausted by the time I got to where I was going. Cyclists taking a corner on the inside of a bus, inches apart, was the norm, bus drives (all motor vehicles for that matter) lookout for cyclists, all the time, then again, they and their whole family cycle in the same way.

Keep safe

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