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Pelgrimspad 2 starts where the Pelgrimspad 1 ends and takes you to the South of the Netherlands. The polders, open land and historic towns are replaced by fields, forest and small villages. This is a Trail for the enjoyment of nature and walking itself. On a Pilgramige, it brings you 265 kilometers closer to Santiago de la Compostella.
When you are on a pilgrimage towards Santiago de la Compostella this Trail is the second part of the Pelgrimspad. The goal of this guide is to provide you with information for a comfortable walk along the Trail. It contains a detailed Trail description, a detailed map, practical advice on what to take and when to go, information on accommodation and where to find it and information on public transport. The Guide does not offer information on the Pilgrims part of a journey and only provides basic information on the sights along the Trail.
The word Pelgrimspad translates into Pilgrims Way. As such, many people travel it, beginning in Amsterdam and continuing all the way to Santiago de la Compostella in Spain. However, it also can be used as a Pilgrims way in the Netherlands itself since along the Trail are local destinations for a pilgrimage.
Along the Trail one thing soon becomes obvious, you are traveling through an area with a long catholic tradition; notice all the lovingly maintained crosses and little chapels.
On the cover a lane is shown. In a way it reflects the change in countryside. On this section the Pelgrimspad passes through large sections of woodlands and moors. Water is not so an issue (that is, when the river Maas is not overflowing its banks). Agriculture is more crop orientated and even vineyards can be found along the Southern part of the Trail.
The subtitle chosen for the Pelgrimspad 2 is: "Limburg, to the land of the Bokkenrijders". It refers to a half mystical and half true part of the history of Southern Limburg. The bokkenrijders (riders on male goats) were gangs of robbers that terrorized the local population. They supposedly traveled through the air on male goats, hence the name bokkenrijders. The bokkenrijders were active in the 18th century and were much feared by the population. Later they became part of local folklore. Active and brutal repression eventually put an end to the Bokkenrijders.
Pelgrimspad Part 1 ends in 's-Hertogenbosch, part 2 begins there. Part 1 and part 2 share the first/last 10 kilometers. This means that when you plan to walk the whole Pelgrimspad, you can skip these kilometers. The consequence of this is that you miss 's-Hertogenbosch, one of the more historic places in the Netherlands. Pelgrimspad 2 is walked from 's-Hertogenbosch to Visé in Belgium, a distance of about 265 kilometers. In general the Pelgrimspad is well marked.
The Pelgrimspad is part of the extensive network of long distance foot paths that are maintained by Wandelnet; the Dutch organisation promoting (long distance) walking. Trails are marked by enthusiastic volunteers. The number of the Pelgrimspad 2 is LAW® 7-2: Lange Afstand Wandeling (Long Distance Walk) number 7-2.
Things to see or notice along the Route
The Pelgrimspad begins in 's-Hertogenbosch, an interesting and historic town worth a visit of a few days. 's-Hertogenbosch is the capital of the province of Noord-Brabant and the name means “forest of the Duke” but this name is usually abbreviated to Den Bosch; “The Forest.”
This town has a long and colorful history. It started as a small settlement on high ground in a marshy area. Near 1200 it became a town. Surrounded by low lying ground, it has a few small rivers running through it. Because of these circumstances it was possible to inundate the area around the town, making it easy to ward of attackers. During the 80-year war against Spain, the Spanish used this to good effect and managed to defend the town for a long time. When the Dutch grew weary of this, they put their knowledge of creating polders to good use. They built a large levee around the town and installed windmills to pump out the water, after which the town was taken within a few months.
From Vught you first pass through some forest and then farmland. Most of the area is grassland or produces fodder for the cows. You do not see much of these animals since most of them are kept inside.
At Haaren you pass in front of Huis Nemelaer, a manor house. The lanes leading to the house are long and lined with oak trees. This used to be a sign of great wealth. The present owner also likes to keep up appearances by planting new double rows of oak trees.
Soon after crossing a railway track you arrive in Kampina, a large nature reserve (large for Dutch standards that is), its main feature is a large open plain of moorland. Along the edges former farms are incorporated in the park; meadows slowly turning into moorland. You will encounter cattle or horses while crossing this area. Funny to see is that the same breeds of cattle stick together while mixed breeds of horses form one herd.
In and near the park efforts have been made to bring man made land and streams back to a natural state. A good example can be found a couple of kilometers after leaving Kampina. Here you first walk along the side of a straight and well maintained canal. After a few kilometers you cross a bridge and continue to follow this stream. But from here on it has been carefully designed back to a sort of natural habitat, meandering trough the countryside, creating a place where fish and other animals feel more at home.
This comes with the strange realization that when you look to the right there are what looks like large pig farms/factories where thousands of pigs are kept in very unnatural conditions. Barely seeing any daylight during their live.
After passing the village of Middelbeers you once again enter an area of moorland. Along the border of this area dense forest doesn't appear to be in fashion and every few years it is opened up; I can assure you that in a short time a forest machine does a lot of opening up in. Nature in the Netherlands is not how God saw fit but how the Dutch created it.
The area you are passing through is a checkerboard of small forest and fields and moorland. Crops a mainly intended for cattle. There are some nurseries as well. Planes overhead are heading for or departing from Eindhoven airport, which is nearby.
You pass through several small rural villages and while it appears that you are traveling through a rural area, in reality Eindhoven, one of the largest towns in the Netherlands and some other large towns. are nearby.
Heeze is a large village with all the necessary facilities. You better take care of supplies here because for the next restaurant you have to walk about 30 kilometers. On this stretch of the trail accommodation is also scarce. However, by bus and train, alternatives are possible to reach. In the Trail and accommodation planner suggestions are given.
After passing near the town of Weert the countryside becomes more open. Thorn is the next large village. It has a long history and was once the location of a female secular convent. Members of the convent were of noble decent. The French revolution put and end to the convent. In a way the French were also responsible for the fact that most of the houses in the center of the village are painted white. This because people living in the village had to pay window tax; the amount of tax to be paid was determined by the amount of widows. To lower this tax, people bricked up windows. However, this made the walls of the houses less attractive and this was solved by painting the houses white.
Near Thorn you soon pass into Belgium. You also come near water again, this time the river Maas (Meuse). On the first part of the Pelgrimspad you crossed this river near the village of Heusden. Along the Maas, sand for building has been dredged, creating fast expanses of water. These have been turned into recreational areas and you will pass some large marinas along the Trail.
The Trail does not enter the town of Maaseik which is a pity since this is a nice little town with a historic town square. I recommend a small detour to its center. The painter Jan van Eyck was born here. The name of Maaseik suggests is has something to do with the river Maas and with oak trees (Eik in Dutch). Another explanation would be that the name indicates a corner in the Maas since in German the term Ecke is used to indicate a corner.
At Maaseik the Trail crossed the Maas and enters the Netherlands again. From here the Trail continues near this river for some distance. At times the Maas floods, inundating the surrounding countryside, including the Trail. If this is the case you can follow the alternatives that are indicated in the Trail description. Most of these floods occur during the winter so there is little chance that it will affect your journey.
At Born the Trail crosses the Juliana Canal. This canal bypasses a section of the Maas that is difficult to navigate by ships.
Sittard is another historic town on the Trail. It has an old center with a large market square. The Trail passes through the busy center, but in the Trail description a quieter and attractive alternative is given. Directly after passing through the town’s center the Trail climbs onto the Kollenberg (most hills in the Netherlands are, somewhat ambitiously, called berg/mountain). After climbing levees on the way this is a more serious climb to the height of about 95 meters. On the way up you pass the Rosa chapel, once a gathering place of the Bokkenrijders.
The Kollenberg is the first indication that the Trail is entering a different landscape; from here the Trail passes through a rolling countryside and you will have to do some serious (but short) hill climbing. Also the Trail leaves the Maas behind only to meet it again when entering Maastricht or Visé. Considering the large mansions along the Trail this must once have been a prosperous area.
Near the village of Gulpen the Trail enters an area that is very popular with the Dutch and on a sunny day you meet many fellow walkers. Here there is plenty of accommodation and there are several campsites. However, this is not always an indication that accommodation is easy available; it is an indication that there is a high demand for accommodation.
For a few kilometers the Trail runs parallel to the river Geul. Along the river watermills used to be operating. A good example can still be seen when the Trail comes near the village of Wijlre. This watermill is now used to generate electricity.
After passing the village of Schin op Geul, whose church houses a relic of Saint Cornelius, the Trail ascents the Schaelsberg and arrives at an old hermitage; De Kluis. Hermits lived here from 1690 to 1930. The hermits living here were part of the parish and performed duties there. They were supposed to grow their own food but could also rely on food from the parish. When they had a need for food they could ring the bell.
Coming down from the Schaelsberg the Trail passes mansion Schaloen, it started as a fort but over the years was transformed in the nice mansion it now is. It is possible to hire apartments in the mansion. Typical for this region are the farms with a large courtyard.
At the village of Cadier en Keer you have to make a decision: To continue to Maastricht or to continue to Visé. Maastricht is a logical choice when your intention is to walk the Pelgrimspad itself. Visé is the logical choice when you are planning to continue on a pilgrimage to Santiago the Compostella.
To Maastricht: From Cadier en Keer it is only another 7 kilometer to the center of Maastricht. Maastricht is one of the most historic and old towns in the Netherlands. It is the capital of the Dutch province of Limburg. When arriving in Maastricht it is worth while to spend some time there.
The Trail ends at the Saint Servaas Basilica. Saint Servaas was the first bishop of Maastricht and is considered to be one of the founders of Christianity in the Netherlands. Saint Servaas is also one of the Ice/Frost Saints.
To Visé: From Cadier and Keer it is another 27 kilometer to Visé, half of which is on Belgium soil. In Visé the end of the Trail is situated at the railway station.
When to go
It is best to plan your walk between the beginning of April and the end of October; the temperatures are good for walking with little changes of snow, available hours of daylight are adequate for covering a useful distance and most campsites are open during this period.
However, the Pelgrimspad can be walked throughout the year and in the winter many Dutch walk sections of the Trail during the weekends. Of course, they have the advantage of an up-to-date weather forecast. When walking the Trail from the second half of December to March there is a chance of frost and snow.
Try to avoid the school holidays, which run from the beginning of July to the end of August with some variation depending on the region. Outside this period the walking will be quieter and chance of finding accommodation better. Spring is a nice period to go with trees blossoming and lambs everywhere you look. In the autumn many people enjoy the changing colours of the trees.
How much time to allow
The Trail is approximately 265 kilometer long. Most, but not all, accommodations are close to the Trail. To reach accommodation you may have to walk a few extra kilometer which can add another 30 kilometer to the total journey.
How many days it will take to complete the Trail depends on the kind of walk you have in mind, your physical condition, and the pack you are carrying. For a relaxed walk (remember you are on a holiday!!), for a person in regular physical condition, carrying normal luggage for overnight stays in hotels or pensions, allow for 12 to 15 days.
What to bring
What to bring depends on the conditions on the Trail, the weather conditions, and the type of accommodation available. Below are some factors to consider when making your packing list.
Accidents and other inconveniences do happen. Minor cuts, blisters, dog bites, broken bones or even worse scenarios are possible. Of course it is impossible to prepare for every possible situation but I suggest you bring a basic first-aid kit.
Also bring a thermometer, a space blanket, a painkiller like paracetamol and a pocket knife. For obtaining help, carry a whistle and a torch (flashlight). Your mobile phone can be very useful for obtaining help. The number to dial for emergency service is 112.
Remember, bringing a first-aid kit is of no use if you do not know how to use it. Some basic first aid knowledge and mental preparedness are probably more important than a well-stocked first-aid kit.
Condition of the Trail
Most of the Trail is on unpaved roads through forest and meadows. Some large stretches are on paved roads and only short stretches are on tracks. Walking or hiking boots are rarely essential. However boots can be practical because some stretches tend to be muddy. In general, European class A/B walking shoes or boots will do, but consider a class B if carrying a heavier pack. In dry weather most of the Trail can be walked in sturdy walking sandals.
Drinking water: Tap water is drinkable in the Netherlands and at some places the tap water is considered to be of a higher quality than bottled mineral water. Bottled mineral water is widely available. Since you will often be passing villages there is no need to carry a large supply of water, but remember to carry/drink more on a hot day.
Food: Food can be obtained in the villages along the Trail. Shops are closed on Sundays. Restaurants or hotels might have a closing day and few pensions provide dinner, so prepare to take some food along.
Breakfast: Breakfast is usually part of the accommodation. Unless you are camping, you do not have to worry about your breakfast. In most accommodations the breakfast is elaborate enough to make a lunch parcel; some even provide plastic bags for this purpose.
Snacks and Lunch: When lucky you start of with a lunch parcel in your pack. But to be on the safe side, take enough food with you to last a few days. Make ration packs, each containing enough food to last you one day. When it is cold, take extra food to give you energy to keep warm. The nicest thing is to get a quiche or a small pizza from a bakery or shop in the morning and save it for lunchtime. Try the Uitsmijter for lunch!! On Monday many restaurants are closed.
Dinner: Dinner can be found at restaurants or at the hotel where you are staying. Few pensions provide dinner but some have kitchen facilities. When walking from pension to pension I usually buy a ready-prepared meal at a supermarket. In the evening there is often a microwave available for heating this meal.
When you keep things simple, a two-course lunch or dinner at a simple hotel or restaurant will cost around 18 Euros, excluding drinks. Snack bars are good places for a low cost lunch or dinner.
The Netherlands has a mild climate with usually fine weather for walking. There is some sunshine, some clouds and a chance of some rain. However, during a day the weather can change drastically and a sunny morning can be followed by rain in the afternoon. If you are lucky you can have a spell of beautiful weather and with bad luck you can have rain almost every day.
Long stretches of the Trail are in forest or along lanes, providing shelter against the sun and some protection during inclement weather.
Considering the average weather in the Netherlands, bring serious rain protection and when walking in winter bring proper protection against the cold. Do not forget a hat for protection against the sun. While the Trail can be walked the whole year, I do not recommend walking the Trail when there is snow.
Compared to the first section of the Pelgrimspad, this section is slightly dryer while the average temperature is about the same.
There are different categories of accommodation along the Trail. A complete list of accommodations on or near the Trail is given but not rated.
Transferring luggage to the next accommodation is not generally available. During the school holiday’s, accommodation can be scarce so it is wise to book ahead. There are some Youth Hostels or Youth Hostel-like accommodation along the Trail.
When it is not possible to find accommodation in the place you want, public transport makes it possible to go to another location to find accommodation.
In the Trail and Accommodation planner you will find the available accommodation on and along the Trail. The distance on and from the Trail is given, making it easy to plan your trip. Accommodations mentioned are also indicated on the map and when an accommodation is away from the Trail a description is given how to get there. In general only accommodations within 2.5 kilometer from the Trail are included. Accommodations that cost more than €80 per night for 1 person are not included.
Hotels: There are several hotels on or close to the Trail. However, without long detours it is not possible to walk the entire Trail using Hotels and you would need a large budget to do the Pelgrimspad this way. Prices range from 40 to 100 Euros per night; sometimes without the breakfast. Bring your credit card!!
Pensions: These are mostly of the Bed and Breakfast type. This is a pleasant way to do the Pelgrimspad and there are enough of them to do the whole Trail this way. Quality varies, some being of the type that got its furniture at a garden sale while others got their inspiration from the magazine ‘Home and Gardens’. Funny enough, the price is not always a good indicator of the type. The bill is paid in cash. Expect to pay between 25 and 40 Euros per person, but sometimes significantly higher.
Vrienden op de Fiets (Friends on bicycles) is a Dutch non-profit organisation that offers affordable Bed and Breakfast type accommodation to cyclist and walkers during their trip. Per night you are charged € 19 for B&B, excluding taxes. But you have to be a member to use these facilities for this price.
When you become a member (actually you have to make a donation: minimum 10 Euro for 2012) you get a list of the available accommodations in the Netherlands and a membership card. Accommodations that are a member of this organisation offer Bed & Breakfast type of facilities, but usually not of the ‘Home and Gardens’ type. Often the owner is walking or cycling himself and their facilities are not open to the general public. In the Trail and accommodation planner the pensions that are also member of this organisation are indicated. But you have to be a member to make use of the lower rates. When you are planning to stay in a B&B during your walk, are happy with a not to luxurious accommodation and do not want to be bankrupt at the end of your journey, becoming a member is recommended: www.vriendenopdefiets.nl
Campsites: Campsites are widely available and affordable. Almost the entire Trail can be walked using campsites. They can be very busy during the school holidays. Most campsites have space reserved for people traveling on foot or bicycle and squeezing in a tent is easier than squeezing in a bed in a hotel. Almost all the campsites are closed during the period October – March. Some small sites are situated on a farm. Price is approximately 10 Euro per night.
On a few campsites you can hire Trekkers Hutten. These are small cabins with about 4 beds and basic facilities and you have to bring a sleeping bag.
Along the first section of the Pelgrimspad there were two special campsites for Paalkamperen. Along this section of the Pelgrimspad these are not available.
Wild camping is not permitted in the Netherland and when caught the fine is near € 100. However, when you decide to camp wild, some simple things will decrease the chance of getting caught and increase the tolerance to you camping wild: Keep a clean camp and leave the area where you camped as you found it. During dry periods tolerance decreases because you cooking a meal might cause a forest fire. If possible try to get permission from the owner of the land you are camping on. When there are regular campsites nearby, tolerance to wild camping decreases. Do not camp with many other hikers. Pitch your tent when it gets dark and leave early. Avoid national parks. When caught, be a sport and do not argue with the police; they are just doing their job.
Youth Hostels: There are Youth Hostels available near the Trail in Valkenswaard and Maastricht. In the Netherlands a Youth Hostel goes by the (silly) name of a Stay-Okay. Youth Hostel-like accommodation is offered by the Nivon organisation near the Trail in Heerlen and near kilometer 22. Nivon is an organisation of friends of nature. Staff is friendly but both the Youth Hostels and the Nivon Houses are large scale affairs.
When travelling alone, these facilities are slightly cheaper than a pension. When travelling with two persons this price advantage is often negated because they charge per person.
In Vessem there is a Hostel for people on a Pilgrimage, but also open for other travelers, it is run by volunteers and offers affordable accommodation.
Near kilometer 154 is a sail center where people can learn to sail. Its Hostel is also available for other guests.
Booking: To be certain of a bed at the end of the day, my advice to book at least one day ahead. When making a reservation, write down or mark the accommodation you have booked!! This will save you confusion or even embarrassment the next day.
Other facilities along the Trail
Shops: Shops are usually open from 9:00 o’clock to 18:00 o’clock. Closing time on Saturday is 17:00 o’clock. Expect shops to be closed on Sunday. Some shops are also closed on Monday (morning). Shops are indicated on the map.
Banks: Most (but not all) of the larger villages on or alongside the Trail have cash dispensers/ATM’s (Automated Teller Machine). Be sure your bank supports this system abroad! The cash dispensers are indicated on the map.
There are several bus lines along the Trail and most places can be reached by bus. Some the places along the Trail can be reached by train. If you intend to make use of public transport regularly, get an OV-chipkaart. This card can be used to travel on the train, bus, tram and metro in the Netherlands. It can be obtained at railway stations, some Bruna bookstores, and some tobacco stores. The card itself is free but has to be charged with money. Each time you use public transport; train, bus, tram, metro, you check in with your card on a special machine on the railway platform or at the entrance of the bus or tram. When ending your trip on train, bus, tram, metro, you check out with your card. The fare is then withdrawn from the card. For more information: www.ov-chipkaart.nl
In the Appendix a map with available bus lines and railway stations on or near the Trail is given. Call 0900 9292 or use the internet www.9292.nl for point to point information on public transport.
Train: Long distance travel in the Netherlands is done by train and there is an extensive network of railways with frequent trains. When traveling by train be aware that on some type of trains they forgot to order toilets!
Bus: Local travel is done by bus and most of the destinations in the Netherlands are within reach of a bus-stop. The busses usually run at least once an hour. During Saturday the frequency is reduced and on Sunday some lines are not running. During school holidays the frequency is reduced.
Bus and accommodation: While transporting luggage is not common along the Trail, the network and frequency of bus connections offers an alternative; it is often possible to stay at an accommodation for a few nights and use the bus to get from this accommodation to the Trail and back again.
Animals along the Trail.
Cattle and horses: The Trail passes through several large and small parks. To prevent moorland turning into forest, cattle or horses are often grazing there. Among the cattle you will also find bulls. The cattle I have come across were mellow. The rule is to keep at least 25 meter away from them, leave them alone and do not feed them.
When you are afraid of these animals, give them a wide berth. Remember, most of the areas where you find cattle on the Trail are frequented by other walkers and the animals are used to this. And in the case when cattle gave trouble, chances are that this problem has been solved.
Dogs: I found that dogs along the Trail are behind fences or don’t give much trouble. Often you will find people walking dogs and letting them run free. Most of these dogs are well behaved. However, when you mention to the owner that dogs should be on a lease in a forest/park (there are signs giving this instruction every few kilometers) some owners become a health hazard.
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