Travel Want to travel back to 1950? Take a trip...

Want to travel back to 1950? Take a trip to this Dutch island

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When I plotted my route on my phone, my maps app warned me that my proposed ride included “very steep hills” – not something I’m used to encountering in this part of the world. As I continue cycling west, however, high grass-covered sand dunes rise around me, and the bike path tilts sharply upward. In Britain these dunes would barely register as hills, but for the Netherlands they’re Himalayan. Arriving at the summit I feel rather proud of myself until I check my phone and see the altitude I’ve triumphantly climbed to: four metres above sea level.

Descending to the coast, I arrive at a stunning beach, with a wide strip of powdery white sand stretching in both directions. It’s idyllic, and there’s almost no one else here, other than a couple of dog walkers and a man waving a metal detector. Tucked into the dunes there’s a restaurant; the catchily-named Strandpaviljoen Paal 9 (paal9.nl). I sit on the terrace and enjoy a tasty platter of local cheese, accompanied by a big glass of Skuumkoppe, the honey-coloured local beer.

Sunset View Netherlands

When the beer and cheese are gone, I cycle north. As I leave the dunes, the landscape changes again, and I find myself in an area of dense pine forest and swampland which almost looks like a bayou. In the summer this area will be packed with Dutch and German tourists but in the off-season I cycle 30 minutes before I see other people: an older couple on a tandem towing an old but happy collie in a bike trailer.

Nearing the centre of Texel, my attention is grabbed by a huge, red-striped buoy standing incongruously in a field, as if swept there by a tsunami. It marks the entrance to the Juttersmuseum, or Beachcombers’ Museum (juttersflora.nl), a fantastically weird place which showcases treasures washed up on Texel’s beaches, including everything from letters in bottles to parts of crashed helicopters, safety cards from downed airliners and a life-sized cutout of a character from Star Trek.

Juttersmuseum in Texel

As evening falls, I head to Den Burg, which is what passes for a big city around here. It’s a pleasant place to spend an evening, with a handsome red-brick church and a cluster of bars and restaurants. My hotel, the Koogerend (hotelkoogerend.nl) is nothing fancy but offers exceptional value for money, and the nearby Smulpot restaurant (smulpot.nl) serves excellent seafood.

The next morning, I get back on my bike and cycle further north, past fields filled with blazing yellow daffodils. I see muscular hares running through the grass like racehorses, and big grey herons fly so low overhead that I could almost touch them. After about an hour the path runs out and I emerge through a gap in the dunes onto another stunning sandy beach. At one end stands a bright red lighthouse. It is known as the spot where, in the spring of 1945, a group of Georgian soldiers revolted against the occupying Nazis, bravely fighting to liberate Texel before their rebellion was brutally put down. Their final stand was one of the last European battles of the Second World War, and many of them still lie buried on Texel.

Den Burg on the island of Texel

My time on the island is nearly over, and I zip along the eastern coast towards the ferry terminal. In the harbour town of Oudeschild, signs advertise seal-spotting tours and a man in waterproofs shares a long hug with a tearful woman before boarding his trawler. I stop for a lunch of kibbeling (fish nuggets) and quickly pop into the excellent Kaap Skil museum (kaapskil.nl), whose prize exhibit is a 400-year-old silk dress, miraculously recovered from the seabed by divers. Barring a few stains, it still looks as if someone could wear it to a party tomorrow.

As the light begins to fade, I pedal hard and just make it back to the ferry on time for the journey back to the mainland. Watching Texel recede over the stern, I promise myself I’ll be back again soon. There might be no Osborne House or Cowes Week here, but I’ll take the wide skies and empty beaches of Texel any day.

Texel essentials

The ferry from Den Helder costs €2.50 (£2.15) for foot passengers or €5 (£4.30) for cyclists and takes about 20 minutes (see teso.nl/en). Bicycles are available to hire at the ferry terminal for €12.50 (£10.70) per day (fietsverhuurtexel.nl/en). Rooms at the Koogerend start at around €50 (£43), including breakfast. Britons can reach Den Helder from London in five-and-a-half hours, with a change of trains in Amsterdam; fares from around £120 return (see eurostar.com). Details of attractions on the island can be found at texel.net/en.

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