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Netherlands & Denmark 2010 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

ON THE ROAD IN THE NETHERLANDS AND DENMARK – SUMMER 2010

Margaret and Barry Williamson
June 2010

Following our 8,500-mile winter and early spring journey through Italy, Malta, Tunisia, Greece, Albania, Montenegro,UK_2010_(13).JPG Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, etc, we had to settle in the UK for a while. There was much to do. There were friends and relatives to visit from Hampshire to Clackmannanshire; passports, driving licences and MOTs to be renewed; new managing agents and tenants to be organised for our rented house. We had to move our home from Mercedes Sprinter to Fleetwood Flair (image on left); visit Cheltenham's Motorhome Medics for their excellent service, accessories and fitting of a new Pendle Bike Rack (also visit: Pendle Engineering). And, not least, Margaret's 95-year-old mother needed comforting in her Care Home just off Beach Road, north of Blackpool (not a mile from where Margaret was born). So, the end of spring passed us by and we finally left England on Midsummer's Eve, on our way to the land of the midnight sun.

For more detail on some of the above, click:

Articles

Our Paul Hewitt Touring Bicycles   Our Fleetwood Flair Motorhome

From Flair to Sprinter     Summary of Tour of Southern Europe and Tunisia 2010

From Greece to Tunisia 2010      In Malta 2010      In Tunisia 2010

Lest We Forget     From Greece to the UK 2010 

Images

In Holland 2010In Germany, Ferry Crossing the ElbeIn Denmark 2010
Pendle Bike RacksFrom Sprinter back into Flair

In the Greek Peloponnese 2010.  In Sicily 2010.  In Malta 2010.  In Tunisia 2010.
In Igoumenitsa 2010.  In Corfu 2010.  In Albania 2010.  In Montenegro 2010.
In Bosnia 2010.  In Slovenia 2010.  In Austria 2010.  In Germany 2010

1 Dover-Dunkirk Ferry

2 Afsluitdijk enclosing the Zuider Zee

3 Frederikshavn - Gothenburg Ferry

4 The Arctic Circle

5 Nordkapp

Scandinavia_Summer_2010_E.jpg

TRAVEL LOG – JUNE 2010

Dover to Dunkirk, France     Free Parking at Ferry Terminal

Saying farewell to ourFarm1_(19).JPG very good friends, the Kenyon family on their Hampshire farm (left), and after a last fill of fuel and fodder at Tesco, we made our way along motorways and across Kent to Dover's Eastern Docks, for a Norfolk Lines ferry to Dunkirk. They have 3 new boats which cross the Channel every 2 hours, from early morning to midnight, with flexible pricing. Today's unbeatable bargain, booked on-line at the last minute (£19 plus port taxes, making £26.50 for a motorhome up to 12m long + passengers), departed promptly at 1800 hrs. See www.norfolkline.com and www.norfolklinetravel.com .

Aboard the 'F/B Maersk Dunkerque' we sampled the self-service restaurant in the ship's prow (where the view forward far surpassed the food inward), arriving on time after a smooth crossing at 2000 hrs (or 2100 French time). By 2130 we were settled on the large free car park outside the Norfolk Lines Terminal building, along with a couple of caravans (a notice warned that the maximum permitted stay was 13 days!) Being midsummer's night, it was still light, though an unseasonably cold wind blew.

Dunkirk was of course the scene of 'Operation Dynamo' in May 1940, recently much celebrated on its 70th anniversary. 350,000 members of the British Expeditionary Force were evacuated from France by an armada of small boats in less than 9 days under German artillery fire and air attack. The Dunkirk Memorial at the entrance to the British war graves section of the Town Cemetery commemorates over 4,500 men lost, and the Museum of Remembrance in Dunkirk tells the story. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org ) keeps records and registers of 1.7 million military burials from the two World Wars. 

Dunkirk, France to Jabbeke, Belgium     Camping Kleinstrand    
€18 (or €15 with ACSI Camping Card)     62 miles

After breakfast on the quiet Terminal car park, we headed a few miles east into Dunkirk to search out an ATM for Euros (inside an Auchan supermarket), a fuel pump accessible to a large motorhome (a Total garage that actually accepted a UK credit card), and more supplies (good old Lidl – and what a range of French wines!)

Now equipped for whatever lay ahead, we took the toll-free A16 motorway north-east, over the border into Belgium. At junction 6 we turned off for Jabbeke, where there is a large all-year campsite by a popular lake, a very short distance from the motorway. It gives off-season discount to ACSI Camping Card holders (details of ACSI off-season discount scheme) and is a bus-ride away from the tourist city of Brugge (Bruges). The facilities included free WiFi, though showers cost €2.50 each so we used our own!

It was surprisingly busy, especially with Brits on their way to/from ferries at Dunkirk, Ostend or Zeebrugge. We did feel that the pair of football-supporting English caravans alongside us, who erected a pole flying a St George's cross, should have set the flag at half-mast (or, better, not at all).

Jabbeke, Belgium to Vrouwenpolder, Zeeland, Holland     Minicamping No 9     €14     110 miles

In search of that elusive quiet little Dutch campsite surrounded by cycling routes, we decided on the Zeeland area. We headed east on motorway A10 to junction 11, then north and eastHolland_(17).JPG on dual carriageways to Zelzate, where we crossed into Holland (or, more correctly, The Netherlands). Continuing north, with a McLunch on the way (the only place to park for a break!), we reached Terneuzen (north of Gent) at 62 miles. From here the Westerschelde Tunnel runs under the sea for 4 miles to Ellewoutsdijk (south of Goes on the south coast of Zeeland): toll €17.50 for motorhomes over 2.5 m high (which seems like discrimination, since it's only €7 for a car & caravan). See www.westerscheldetunnel.nl .

Once on Zeeland, the main road runs north to busy Middelburg (the largest town) and on to Holland_(25).JPGGrijpskerke village, complete with picturesque old windmill. We turned right at the mill (towards Serooskerke) and then took the first right (a narrow lane) to 'Minicamping Het Munniken Hof', a grassy little farm site listed in the Caravan Club guide, currently €17 per night. However, there was only space for one night, with several caravans due to arrive, so we didn't stay.

Camping Westhove in Aagtekerke, on the route to the coast at Domburg, was our next port of call. This site (in both the CC guide and the ACSI discount scheme) was the opposite extreme – enormous, with indoor pools, shops, cycle hire, etc. They could squeeze us onto the last remaining pitch until Friday only, at €17 (or €20 without an ACSI card). Not liking the crowds with too many children and dogs, we drove on, realising we should look out for a site that was not in any popular guidebooks!

Through DomburgHolland_(13)[1].jpg (very quaint narrow streets, with no chance of parking a mini), we drove east along the coast to Oostkapelle (equally twee and packed). Continuing via Serooskerke to Veere, we then turned north for Vrouwenpolder. Luckily, shortly before reaching the town, we saw a lane to the left with campsite signs.

A short way along were no less than 3 mini-campings: simple CL-type sites on country farms organised by VeKaBo (http://www.vekabo.nl/). We tried the first one, on the right, and found our quiet little site at last. Next to the farmhouse are 3 small hedged fields, complete with electric points, and a small toilet block with free hot showers: all for €14. There are cycle paths and routes in every direction and the weather is warming up. Summer at last.

At Vrouwenpolder, Zeeland, Holland     Minicamping No 9

The Dutch word Polder means an area of low-lying meadow land reclaimed from the sea, dissected by ditches or canals, and contained by dikes. That certainly describes this area of Zeeland (mostly below sea level). Vrouwenpolder village was an easy 2-km ride from our camp: a village with baker's, supermarket, ATM and fresh fish stall. The friendly Tourist Office (signed VVV in Holland) had internet access at a flat €1 per untimed visit for WiFi, or a terminal to use at €1 for 30 mins.

Middelburg_4.jpg
In Zeeland
Over the next 4 days at Vrouwenpolder, we explored the districts of Walcheren and North Beveland, joining the Dutch cyclists for 4 rides on their wonderful network of separate bicycle paths or 'Fietspads'. There areHolland_(16)[1].jpg twice as many cycles as cars in Holland and many thousands of well-maintained clearly-signed cycle tracks. The bicycles and their riders came in all shapes and sizes: mostly the traditional heavy sit-up-and-beg bikes, but also tandems, recumbents (even a tandem recumbent!), tricycles and racers. Kiddy-trailers more often carried large dogs, while smaller dogs rode in the front basket! We even saw an old lady cycling in full national costume, with long heavy skirts (though minus the bonnet). The bike paths varied from dirt paths to cobbled lanes to, for the most part, properly sealed routes. Some ran alongside roads or across busy bridges but were usually separated from the traffic, though small mopeds might share the wider paths. Signs warned that N57, the main road north through Zeeland, would be closed on 4 July from 11 am to 4 pm, when the Tour de France races through.

Ride 1 (43 km) took us west from Vrouwenpolder, on tracks across the polder and through the woods behind the coastal dunes,Holland_(19)[1].jpg via the village of Oostkapelle to Domburg (a small holiday resort, with a larger VVV). A cycle path then ran along the top of the sea dike, with a wonderful view of the broad beach and North Sea, to Westkapelle, which lay on Hitler's Atlantic Wall (from Norway to the Pyrenees). On the sea front here, by the museum, is a WW2 tank in commemoration of the landing of Royal Marine Commandos (British and Canadian) on 1.11.1944, clearing the way to the port of Antwerp. The Allies had bombed the sea-dike and flooded much of the island, literally flushing the Germans out, along with a few Dutch (probably the first local experience of the war). The land was later drained and Westkapelle completely rebuilt in the 1950s, along with major towns such as Flushing. The civilian casualties from October-November 1944 are buried in the graveyard of the large church, whose curious tower also serves as a lighthouse. We returned on cycle paths, north-east to Aagtekerke and then north to Domburg, from where we took woodland tracks back to Vrouwenpolder, bypassing Oostkapelle.  

Ride 2 (43 km) was a repeat of Ride 1 as far as Westkapelle. The weather remained hot and sunny, eased by sunscreen lotion and ice creams on the sea front. We returned on an inland route via Aagtekerke, Grijpskerke and Serooskerke, which looked further but reached exactly the same total of 27 miles.

Ride 3 (50 km) began by taking the cycle path for 5 km south to the picturesque Holland_(10)[1].jpgsailing port of Veere. From here a summer ferry (starting 26 June) takes foot or bicycle passengers across to Noord Beveland island. There are also boat trips to Middelburg, along the Walcheren Canal (details at the VVV). We took neither of these, but crossed the entrance to the Canal on top of the massive lock gates (traffic must drive to Middelburg for the bridge). Our cycle path then led round the coast of the Veerse Meer for 20 km, past a couple of parks to a stretch of nature reserve at Middelplaten. There were plenty of water birds (geese and ducks, oyster catchers, gulls, grey heron - even a stork) and a picnic area, complete with free binoculars to observe the ducklings and goslings learning to swim. Very civilised. The bike path ended at Wolphaartsdijk, from where another small ferry crosses hourly to Noord Beveland (starting 29 June). We returned by the same route, as the date was too early to lengthen the ride by taking the ferry.

Ride 4 (46 km) started east from Vrouwenpolder into a freshening wind, over the causeway to Noord Beveland on a choice of cycle paths (alongside N57 or atop the dike). Then we followed a section of the long-distance North Sea Cycle Route, across the Stormfloedkering - two lHolland_(25)[1].jpgong dikes with sluice gates, carrying the N57 with a separated cycle lane. This crossed the miniscule islet of Neeltje Jans, consisting mainly of the Deltapark attraction, with sea- lions aHolland_(27)[1].jpgnd seals (www.neeltjejans.nl ), then continued to the next island of Schouwen-Duiveland. All the water held behind these dikes forms the Oosterschelde National Park - Holland's largest. The various boat trips available include Gray Seal spotting in May and June. On the coast of Schouwen-Duiveland, at Westenschouwen, there is a huge campsite (listed by Alan Rogers, ADAC, ACSI and all) and also a couple of minicampings at nearby Haamstede. Overnight stays (6 pm to 9 am) are officially banned on all the car parks we noticed. We returned to Vrouwenpolder the same way (there being no other), making much better time with a tail wind.  

Vrouwenpolder to Burg-Haamstede nr Westenschouwen, Zeeland, Holland
Minicamping Westland     €10     12 miles

A short drive north on the N57 to Burg-Haamstede and a small campsite spotted on Ride 4 yesterday, behind a market garden selling aHolland_(29).JPG lovely selection of local fruit and vegetables. We were too large for the only available pitch but the owner kindly let us park in the yard, complete with hook-up. There are toilets, water and coin-operated showers.

In the afternoon we had a 48 km (30 mile) cycle ride, on the next section of the long-distance North Sea Cycle Route. Riders from this side of the North Sea, well served with safe well-signed cycle paths, must get a severe shock if they take a ferry to Harwich or Hull to follow the British coastal route. We really should be ashamed of our weak and sometimes dangerous provision for cyclists.

Riding on paths alongside N57 or atop the sea dike, we crossed the causeway (and the border between Zeeland and Holland) to the next island, Goeree-Overflakkee. We turned back at the Tramway Museum near Ouddorp, after more ice cream (it's 27 ºC with only a light breeze).   

Burg-Haamstede, Zeeland to Alkmaar, North Holland  Minicamping Zonenhoeve
€16.90 (+ metered electricity)     140 miles

Driving north on N57 past Ouddorp, we then crossed the Haringvlietdam (herring fleet dam) over the Grevelingen to the last of the islands in the Waal-Maas delta (the rivers that combine to form the mighty Rhine).Holland_(47).JPG A bridge over the Maas led onto Euroweg – the dual carriageway linking Rotterdam with Europe's largest port: Europoort.

We turned east towards Rotterdam, past miles of container docks and petro-chemical refineries, onto Holland's busy toll-free motorway system. Through regular tunnels and traffic jams, we slowly made progress north onto A13, past Rotterdam's airport. There were no rest areas of any kind until Delft, where we gratefully stopped on the motorway services, in urgent need of lunch, petrol and a chance for the engine to cool on another very warm day.

Bypassing Holland's modern capital, Den Haag, we headed north-east on A14 past Leiden and Amsterdam's Schiphol airport onto A9, turning off for Haarlem and coastal Zandvoort (home of the Dutch Grand Prix circuit). We aimed for Bloemendaal (= flower valley), imagining greenery, bulb fields and peaceful camping. Obviously, we didn't know the area! After a few miles of frantic city traffic, stop-start lights, roundabouts, road works with a deviation pointing to a low bridge and other assorted hazards, we found our way back onto the A9 northbound to escape this Province (Utrecht) of major conurbations, just west of Amsterdam.

The A9 motorway ends at the Alkmaar ring road, which we took west. Turning off it towards Egmond an Zee, the landscape returned to typical flat green Polder dotted with the traditional windmills, used to run the pumps that kept the water level down. Just 3 miles from the centre of Alkmaar (and half way to the coast), a rough sign 'Camping' pointed down a narrow lane on our right.

We were soon settled on another VeKaBo minicamp, in a perfectly level field. It has water and toilets, coin-op showers and metered electric hook-ups. Nearby Alkmaar is a quaint old town, known for its cheese market (should be – it's not far from the towns of Edam and Volendam).

The next morning was cooler and rainy, so the planned cycle ride turned into a day spent writing and baking (carrot-cake muffins).   

Alkmaar to Den Helder, North Holland  Camping De Donkere Duinen
€25.90     32 miles

Returning 2 miles to the Alkmaar ring road, we turned north on N9 all the way to Den Helder, a port and naval base at the north-west corner ofHolland_(40).JPG the Noord Holland peninsula. The road followed the broad Noordhollandskanal, carrying long barges as well as leisure craft, with raising bridges at regular intervals. The waterside villages had picturesque windmills, thatched houses – even thatched windmills. Grey heron fished alongside the anglers. It was a warm windless day, 27ºC, with a gentle mist over the meadows.

We found the campsite (Caravan Club listed) about 2 miles south-west of the town, on the edge of the wooded Donkere Dunes Nature Park, half a mile from the beach. It's a medium-sized grassy site, with separate fields allocated to different types of camper. Our area (J) has large pitches, each with 16-amp power, water and drain. Another field, with 4-amp power, is for smaller units. There is also an area for tents (no power) and a meadow for cyclists and walkers. The price seems high (given that showers, or even hot water for washing up, are coin-operated) but we were informed that it is now High Season (last week of June).Holland_(28).JPG At least the WiFi is free, though it only works near Reception. See www.donkereduinen.nl for more.

After making good use of the laundry (minicampings had no washing machines), we cycled (11 miles in total) into Den Helder on bike paths alongside busy urban roads. At the harbour - the area known as Lands End - there is a Marine Museum with a submarine in its yard. Large ferries make the short crossing once an hour to the island of Texel, the southernmost of the Wadden Islands archipelago, clearly visible to the north. We returned to the campsite round the coastal path, part of the North Sea Cycle Route, as an atmospheric sea fret descended.

At Den Helder, North Holland     Camping De Donkere Duinen

The camping was a short walk (less than 1 km) from a small shopping mall, including a stationer's/post office, an Afghani food store and two supermarkets. Shopping at our favourite Lidl, there were good deals on local strawberries and pork fillets, as well as a pair of plastic 'Klompen' (clogs) for M, ideal for campsite life – even if they do look silly in bright pink! We spent time writing and updating our website, though the WiFi was frustratingly slow and intermittent. And of course the 'Fietspads' beckoned:

Ride 1 (40 km) was south on the North Sea Cycle Route (signed as LF1 = Landelijke Fietsroute 1). We rode into a stiff head wind, across rolling dunes and past the small seaside resorts of Julianadorp and Callantsoog. Turning back, we were home in half the time!

Ride 2 (42 km) took us across to the east side of Den Helder's peninsula, then south and east towards Den Oever and the start of the Afsluitdijk which crosses the former Zuider Zee. It was a mixture of urban cycle paths, quiet village lanes, a track alongside N99 and a 'Fietspad' along the dunes between sea shore and inland ponds. We returned the same way. The ride was memorable for the wealth of bird life on the beaches and the water – hundreds of oyster catchers, geese, ducks, cormorants, swans with young, black-headed gulls, terns, grey heron . . . . 

Texel_3.jpg
Map of the Island of Texel
 

Ride 3 (66 km) was the most interesting, on the island of Texel (pronounced Tessel). It was a 7 km ride through town (or 8 km round the coastal path) to the Den Helder ferry terminal, with boats operated by Teso line leaving hourly, from 0630 to 2130 daily. At peak weekends, the service is often half-hourly (see http://www.teso.nl/for timetable). The return fare for a cycle + rider was just €5 for the 20-minute crossing. Our ferry, on a fine Sunday morning, was very busy with foot passengers, cars, bicycles and the odd motorhome (which areHolland_(36).JPG charged per metre length).

Landing at Veerhaven at the SE corner of Texel, we had coffee at the harbour café, then cycled anticlockwise round the southern half of the island, much of which is nature reserve. Lanes and cycle paths took us to the picturesque fishing port of Oudeschild: departure point for seal-watching boat trips. Continuing up the east coast, the scene wasHolland_(33).JPG of multitudes of birds on the water (the familiar long red beaks of oyster catchers, but also an occasional and distinctive spoonbill). The dunes were grazed by flocks of sheep and we passed a farm selling ewe's milk and cheese, reminding us that much of Greece's cheeses are imported from the Netherlands and there has been an EU dispute about the designation 'Feta' only applying to genuinely Greek cheese. By the village of Oost we were ready for our picnic lunch, before heading inland across the island past Oosterend to De Koog.

We returnedHolland_(41).JPG to the ferry terminal via the main town of Den Burg, which has a VVV (tourist office) and is indeed very touristy, with plenty of cafes, a queue for ice cream, and souvenir shops with sheepskin slippers, etc. On the way out of town we passed a cemetery with a Commonwealth War Graves section and, as always, visited it. The graves were mainly of airmen and there was an unusual item: a book with photos and details (in Dutch) of each man buried there. We learnt that Texel island was the very last part of Holland to be liberated from the Germans (by the Canadians on 20 May1945). Rain began during the last 5 miles, back to Veerhaven.

By the time we docked in Den Helder it was pouring and we rode round the coast to the campsite into a strong wind. It had been a great day, ending in a warm dry motorhome with a bowl of hot soup.

TRAVEL LOG – JULY 2010

Den Helder to Harlingen, Friesland     Camping De Zeehoeve     €22.00     40 miles

On another beautiful sunny day, after an overnight storm, we followed N250 and N99 forHolland_(56).JPG 17 miles/27 km to Den Oever, then joined A7/E22: the 16 mile/26 km crossing of the Afsluitdijk, linking the Provinces of North Holland and Friesland. This causeway, completed in 1932, is a magnificent piece of civil engineering, carrying a dual carriageway and a separate cycle/moped path on the seaward side. It closed off the Zuider Sea, forming instead the vast inland Ijsselmeer, with a raising bridge to allow shipping through at the northern end of the dike.

After 4 miles we stopped at a parking area, to climb the viewing tower above a little café/souvenir shop – and what a view, in all directions! We also crossed the footbridgHolland_(52).JPGe to read the story of the dike, by the Lenin-like statue of the Great Victorian who first planned it. There is another car park with a fuel station 5 miles later (about half-way across the dike).

At 32 miles we crossed the bridge marking the end of the dike and turned into a car park on the right by the Casemate Museum. There is also a much larger parking area by the sea on the left. Both were free of charge but (as usual) with plenty of warning that overnight parking is forbidden. This is a great pity –Holland_(51).JPG why not charge (say €5) and let the campervans stay? We stayed long enough to take the bikes down and cycle back over the Afsluitdijk, as far as the half-way petrol station for an ice cream, and return: total 26 km in a strong side wind. We recalled the first time we'd ridden across, many years ago, on a late October cycle tour of Holland that we dubbed 'A wet week on the Fietspads'. Much better weather in July!

After our ride, we drove north on N31 to the little town of Harlingen, the only sea port in Friesland, from where ferries run to the Wadden Islands of Vlieland and Terschelling. The Caravan Club-listed campsite by the coast, a mile before the town, is a member of the 15-strong City Camps group (http://www.citycamps.com/). Situated on the North Sea Cycle Route, it has a restaurant and cabins for hire, as well as good camping facilities. Reliable high speed WiFi is available at €5 per day (or €15 per week).

Cycling into Holland_(58).JPGHarlingen next morning, we found a charmingly picturesque port, with inner and outer harbours, a cobbled high street and splendid Dutch architecture, such as the old wine warehouse (now a restaurant). The little herring fishing village grew prosperous in the 16th century, with whaling and trade in various commodities. On the way in there is an Aldi supermarket, with generous car park, a short walk from the centre. More importantly, there are two cycle shops and we managed to replace Barry's pump (which some low-life stole while on the ferry to Texel).

Harlingen to Dokkum, Friesland, Holland     Camping Harddraverspark     €14.85 (ACSI card €13, but not in July/Aug)     35 miles

From Harlingen there is a good dual carriageway A31 as far as Leeuwarden. The busy ring road took us round the north of this city, continuing eastwards on N355. After a few miles we turned left on N361 for Dokkum, then left into town in search of the municipal campsite (Caravan Club and ACSI-listed).

The camping is on a park with tennis courts etc, right in the middle of the old moated town with its narrow cobbled streets and canal bridges – something of a problem if you enter on N356 from the south and go through the town centre, as we did (thanks to the SatNav, whose narrator will get no supper)! Much easier to stay on N361 and come in from the east side along Harddraversdijk – we'll leave that way, now we have a map from Reception!

It was a relief to find a quiet grassy site with 'comfort places' (pitches with their own water and drain, as well as 6 amp hook-ups), a very short walk from the town centre. The laundry had good washing machines, though no need to use the drier with temperatures reaching 30ºC – most unusual for Holland, we're told.

An added bonus is that the whole town of Dokkum has free WiFi internet for visitors, available on the campsite. The system requires you to log on to your laptop and type in your mobile phone number. A text message then comes through that mobile phone (at no cost) from Kabelnoord with a  user name and password, that gives 90 minutes of good high speed internet access – and this process can be repeated as many times as you wish!

At Dokkum, Friesland     Camping Harddraverspark

Dokkum  proved to be an excellent shopping centre, with a weekly market in the square (Wednesdays: 11 am–5 pm) selling everything from cheeses and wooden clogs to vegetables and clothing. The supermarket 'Super de Boer' had an area to sit with a newspaper (if you read Dutch) and enjoy free tea or coffee! A proper cobbler repaired Margaret's Sidi cycling shoes (last re-soled in Bulgaria - at a fraction of the price but using old tyres and a knife!)

We celebrated our wedding anniversary (7/7) at Annema's Fish Shop, which sold wet fish, take-away fish & chips, or extremely generous platters of fish, chips, salad and sauces. Not knowing the names of the various seafood on offer, we pointed out some large haddock from the nearby North Sea that were cooked to perfection and enjoyed in the little cafe. M had baked a date & walnut cake for the occasion (a tradition of ours) and we completed the evening back at the motorhome with Belgian seashell chocolates.

On Friday 9 July our peace was disturbed by the arrival of hundreds (yes hundreds) of campers in tents, vans, caravans and motorhomes, packed into every corner of the park – for just one night! They were the competitors, entourage and spectators of the Friesian Solar Challenge (part of the World Cup for Solar-powered Boats), as the Leeuwarden to Dokkum leg of the race ended on the canal at the back of our campsite. The boats were more like covered rafts carrying an array of photo-voltaic cells, with cockpit space for just one driver. Most bore the name of a University (eg Delft, Groningen, Gdansk in Poland) and their 'green' credentials were outweighed by the sheer number of cars, vans and trailers involved in the exercise – not to mention the two cranes that were used to lift some craft out of the water next morning! Surely it would be more appropriate to sail or row on the canals?

We escaped the crowds by cycling the 'Fietspads', fighting dehydration with plenty of drink and ice cream stops:

Ride 1 (45 km) took us through Anjum, one of the oldest villages in Friesland (dating from 1000 AD) with its picturesque windmill, restored after a fire in 1889 and now a museum. ContiHolland03.JPGnuing north-east, we reached the coast at the fishing port of Lauwersoog, from where ferries make a 45-mHolland02.JPGinute crossing to Schiermonnikoog, the most easterly of the five Wadden Islands. This island is a nature reserve, with a few campsites for walkers and cyclists – vehicles to be left in the multi-storey car park before boarding the ferry. We crossed the dike bridge, which encloses the Lauwersmeer inland lake on the border of Friesland and Groningen Province, paused at the harbour cafe, then returned more or less on our outward route.

Ride 2 (49 km) was south-bound, via Damwoude and Zwaagwesteinde. We checked out a camping place by the marina at  Kuikhoorn (where the road crosses the canal, about 2 km south of Zwaagwesteinde). It's a good site (recommended to us in an email from Barry Crawshaw, the MMM's Foreign Travel Editor), for motorhomes (only), sharing the facilities - water, dump, shower block and laundry - with the boats moored there, at €9 per night. However, not surprisingly in high summer, it was full. We rode on to Kootstertille and over the wide Prinses Kanal, then returned via Twijzel, Westergeest and Wouterswoude. It's interesting to see that the village signs in Friesland have two versions of their name, in Fries and Dutch – for example, Wouterswoude was also Walterswald (Woud or Wald meaning Wood). The Fries language is closer to English than either Dutch or German.

Dokkum to Midwolda, Nr Winschoten, Holland     Camping De Bouwte     €21.25 + metered electricity (ACSI card €11, but not in July/Aug)     67 miles

Yesterday evening the warden at Dokkum gave out a 'severe weather warning', advising that awnings should be taken in. Heavy rain, thunder and lightning followed, leaving the air stiflingly humid this morning. Having already packed the awning and bikes away, it was time to move on.

We drove south for 24 miles to Drachten (on N356, N355, N369), then N31 dual carriageway to the A7 motorway. This took us eastwards, via the university city of Groningen (at 45 miles) to exit 45, where we turned north to the nearby village of Midwolda and its large ACSI-listed campsite. Driving across the level green polders of Holland, it's sobering to look at the vertical (or rather 'horizontal') profile on our GPS, which mostly shows the altitude as 0 ft (it doesn't cope with minus numbers!) Today's maximum was a motorway flyover at a dizzy 52 ft!

The campsite is well provided with play and sports fields, along with a small swimming lake, as well as bar and restaurant. They will be busy this evening, when we understand there is a football match: Holland v Spain in the final of the World Cup! No doubt we'll soon know the result, as orange flags deck several of the caravans here.

At Midwolda, Nr Winschoten, Holland     Camping De Bouwte

Next morning dawned wet and stormy, reflecting a change of mood on site. 'Spain One-nil' was the taciturn answer to our unasked question. After an interlude of thunder, lightning, hail and rain, it turned pleasantly cooler for a day, then the sun reappeared and tempHolland04.JPGeratures rose.

We cycled into the little town of Scheemda, about 3 miles away on the south side of the A7, to shop (Aldi and another supermarket). On a couple of longer rides - a mixHolland07.JPG of quiet lanes and dedicated 'Fietspads' - it was easy to explore this north-east corner of Holland, Oldambt – flat as the pancakes the Dutch love! The rich farming land is a grid pattern of canals and ditches, bounded by the Dollard bay on the estuary of the River Ems (the German border), and crossed by several cycle routes: the local Kleurfietsroute and Oldambtroute, the Waddenzeeroute, the International Dollardroute and of course the North Sea Cycle Route! There were signs every which way, unscrambled with the help of a large scale map sold at the campsite: Recreatiekaart Oldambt.

Ride 1 (49 km) began north-east through Midwolda. The village is currently cut off from traffic, due to serious roadworks, making the two farm minicampings along the way inaccessible. We continued through a series of hamlets – Oostwold, Finsterwold, Ganzedijk, Kostverloren and Drieborg – admiring the splendid brick-built churches, often with a separate bell tower and carillon (usually electrically operated nowadays). The place names were interesting again, as 'Wold' is used in England (eg the Yorkshire Wolds) but has lost its original meaning of 'Woods' due to forest clearance.  

Reaching the North SeaHolland08.JPG inlet of De Dollard at Neiuwe Statenzijl, a small bridge for walkers and cyclists crossed the mouth of the Westerwoldse Aa canal, in an area of nature reserve complete with bird observation tower. Strangely, this canal forms the Dutch/German border, rather than the River Ems which lies a short way to the east. Cycling south on the German side, with a distant view of the cranes of the port of Emden, we re-entered Holland at Bad Nieuweschans and returned to Midwolda round the south side of Blauwestad lake. It's a rural area, with cattle, horse stables and agriculture – yet still plenty of woodland and bird life. If Midwolda means 'in the middle of woods' it is well named.

Ride 2 (32 km) was an early evening excursion, once the afternoon sun had lost some of its power. The 20 miles took just an hour and a half non-stop: good going, and the going was good, on long straight roads across the Polders. Traffic was very light as we circled clockwise from Midwolda - north to Nieuwolda, east to Nieuwolda-Oost, along Oude Dijk almost to the coast, then south to Finsterwolde, returning west through Oostwold. It's a region of huge farms with palatial houses and long milking parlours, well fed animals and burgeoning prosperity. Ponds and ditches were busy with ducks and swans teaching their fledglings to swim. Birds of prey quartered the cornfields. Horses guarded their foals, while pretty diminutive ponies nurtured miniature young. Summertime … and the living is easy? Back at the campsite, we were just in time to try the restaurant's Dish of the Day (served till 7.30 pm and very tasty). Today it was beef meat loaf, with a good helping of sauté potatoes, a generous mixed salad including olives, cheese and cashew nuts, and 4 different dips: good value at €8.50 each, to eat indoors or out (or take-away). Returning to the motorhome for our own dessert (plum fool) and coffee, another thunderstorm broke. What good timing!

Midwolda, Holland to Gluckstadt, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany     Motorhome Parking at Harbour     Free of charge     156 miles

Rejoining A7 at junction 45 (Scheemda), eastbound towards the German border, the motorway ran alongside the minor road cycled as we returned from Bad Nieuweschans on Ride 2. Today, though, is much more windy after the storm and it would have been slow going – even the motorhome being buffeted by side gusts.

After 14 miles we crossed the border into Germany (East Friesland in the State of Lower Saxony, to be exact). Shortly before the border, the last A7 service station had the lowest priced fuel we'd seen in Holland (including non-motorway garages that are usually cheaper) – and we saw no motorway services at all on our onward route: just rest areas with perhaps toilets and café.

Two miles into Germany, we met the A31 Autobahn and turned north for Leer. It was still a flat green Polderscape of Friesian cattle and windmills, though these were extensive wind farms of modern generators, all turning in unison like an eerie aerial ballet.

The A31 tunnelled briefly under the River Ems (at 24 miles), then passed Leer. We turned off the motorway at exit 6, Westerstede, to continue north-east on minor roads, bound for the Weser Tunnel. This route avoids going round on motorways via Oldenburg and Bremen, though that would probably have been faster as the cross-country roads we chose proved surprisingly narrow.

After a lunch break on a large parking area in Petersfeld village, just after a Rhododendron Park, we continued our slow progress to Jade. Here we turned north on ever-narrower roads until we met the wider 2-lane road 437, at 65 miles, and headed east for 13 miles to the Weser Tunnel. The river is crossed by car ferries at several points, downstream of Bremen, but recently a tunnel has replaced the one between Kleinensiel and Dedesdorf. It's 1,645 m long (just over a mile), closed between 11 pm and 5 am, and free of charge (as are German motorways unless you happen to weigh over 12 tons).

Emerging from the tunnel, there were just 5 miles of dual carriageway until we joined the A27 (Bremen to Cuxhaven) motorway and turned north, neatly bypassing the port of Bremerhaven at the mouth of the Weser. The A27 ended 30 miles later, near Cuxhaven: a port on the south bank of the wide Elbe estuary. Once again, we had passed no motorway services with fuel and were glad we'd bought some in Holland.

Eastwards Holland09.JPGnow on 2-lane road B73, parallel with but inland fromHolland10.JPG the Elbe. After 16 miles we turned left, via Freiburg-on-Elbe, heading for the Elbe ferry at Wischhafen. This was a rural area of small farms selling apples, apple juice, cherries, strawberries, new potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers. As soon as we took the final left turn, into a lane signed 'Elbe Fahre', we saw the long queue of vehicles blocking the road ahead of us. But at least we could make a pot of tea during our 50-minute wait, unlike the weary families in holiday-laden cars. A free car and motorhome park lay less than half a mile before the ferry, on the right.  

There is a ferry Holland11.JPGevery 30 minutes, provided by a fleet of Holland13.JPG4 Ro-Ro landing craft ferries, which take 25 minutes to make the crossing, year round. They run between 5.15 am and 11.15 pm in summer with slightly shorter hours in winter. See http://www.elbfaehre.de/. The fare was €2 per adult, plus vehicle according to length (eg an 8 metre motorhome cost €16). Cyclists were charged €1.50 per bicycle. All the boats were packed full, both ways, with queues until the evening.

On board thereHolland19.JPG was a small café below deck (coffeeHolland15.JPG and sausages) but we just enjoyed standing on deck as we crossed the swift flowing river, narrowly avoiding a chemical tanker heading for the North Sea. We've sailed along the Elbe before, on the overnight Harwich-Hamburg ferry, but previously crossed the river via the Hamburg motorway tunnel. This was much more fun! The Elbe is also the border between the States of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein.

Landing at GluckstadtHolland20.JPG ('Lucky Town'), there are signs to a moHolland23.JPGtorhome 'Stellplatz' at the commercial harbour, just 3 km away. This has places for 16 motorhomes (free of charge), with a wonderful view of the river, ferries and shipping. We were indeed lucky to find space here, though there is an overflow parking area behind the nearby bar. An evening stroll around the harbour and marina revealed that we were in a flood danger zone at our own risk but we felt safe enough with the Coast Guard boat and Customs control opposite.

The Elbe is oneHolland26.JPG of the busiest waterways in the world, with 60,000 vessels a year passing the lighthouse by which we stood. Most are on their way to Germany's biggest port of Hamburg, 28 miles upstream and an astonishing 40 miles from the open sea.

As the sun dipped low over the water, we were surprised to notice how tidal the river is, with just a permanent central channel. Many ducks and geese came to feed on the newly uncovered mud flats, until they shone silver under a new moon. It was a peaceful and magical end to an interesting day, across one national border and three major rivers.   

Gluckstadt, Germany to Skaerbaek, South Jutland, Denmark     Skaerbaek Familie Camping     165 DK or €22.60 (ACSI card €15 except July/Aug)          129 miles

Driving east on narrow country lanes through thatched villages we saw signs protesting 'No A20 here'. It was difficult to sympathise, as we cursed the lack of a link from Gluckstadt to the A23 motorway – the eternal contradiction of travel, wishing for better roads and quieter places!

After 12 miles we reached junction 12 (5 miles south of Itzehoe) and turned north on A23. The 4-lane motorway is still incomplete, with road works, for a section between J10 and J8 – and once again there were no fuel stations on our way.

At 33 miles we crossed the broad Nord-Ostsee Kanal, linking Brunsbuttel on the north bank of the Elbe estuary with Kiel on the Baltic coast. The A23 came to an end near Heide (at 50 miles), continuing north for Denmark on the 2-lane road 5. We saw so many wind farms that it seemed the land was preparing for lift off! At 59 miles we had a break at a rest area with a view of the wide River Eider (and Café Eiderblick). Its estuary is a National Park area and presumably home to the eponymous ducks.

At Bredstedt, 25 miles later, we stopped to shop, with a choice of Lidl, Aldi or Netto arranged off the same roundabout, all with generous car parks. Anticipating higher prices in Denmark, we stocked the fridge and cupboards - and also filled up at one of the many petrol stations along road 5 approaching the border. At 108 miles we entered Denmark near Tonder, road 5 becoming road 11. Remember to switch dipped headlights on (compulsory at all times in Scandinavia). Barry had already removed the bulbs from our 10 overhead coach-lights (5 front, 5 rear), which would otherwise come on automatically!

About 20 miles north of the border, in the small town of Skaerbaek, there is a very friendly all-year site (Caravan Club and ACSI-listed and – more impressively - given a +5 rating by Paul Barker! Visit his Great Website for this and much more). Look for the signs, leading across the railway and about a mile eastwards, to the camping owned by Henrick Mowinckel and his family. Although much busier than our previous visit (October 2006), Henrick was extremely jovial and friendly, taking time to explain that we could pay in Euros, Danish Krone or by credit card. He also gave us the substantial DK-Camping Guide 2010 (http://www.dk-camp.dk/default.asp?lanGuid=3), with details of 325 campsites and a good map showing them all.

He is clearly happy living and working here, where he was born, and lamented that his daughter is moving away to University (an hour by car). There are fresh eggs and new potatoes for sale, free WiFi around Reception and the TV room, and a general air of wanting to help campers. As so often in Scandinavia, the facilities include free use of a well equipped kitchen, irons and ironing board, spin drier, vacuum cleaner, fridge and freezer. Only washing machines cost extra.

We walked into town and found an ATM for local currency (Denmark being in the EU but not the Eurozone). The current rate is about 7.3 DK to one Euro or 8.75 to one Pound.

At Skaerbaek, South Jutland, Denmark     Skaerbaek Familie Camping

Over a couple of days at Skaerbaek we caught up with domestics - cleaning, laundry and baking – as well as updating our travel-log with words and images, writing emails and watching Danish TV. This had 5 good channels, some showing British and American programmes with subtitles (including the Scottish crime series 'Taggert').

We also booked an onward ferry to Sweden (Stena Line: Frederikshavn to Gothenburg). Prices varied widely for the 3.5 hour journey and we found the best deal on-line, sailing during the night in a week's time. See http://www.stenaline.nl/en/ferry/.

A 30-mile ride took us into Ribe and back, cycling on back roads through farmland and tiny villages like Frifelt and Roager. Denmark_(10).JPG(There is a cycle path alongside streDenmark_(14).JPGtches of the busy main road, number 11, but it's not continuous and we wouldn't recommend it.) Ribe is Denmark's oldest town and its quaint cobbled centre around the cathedral (the Romanesque Domkirke dating from 1150) was packed with tourists, who very effectively destroyed the atmosphere. Even the storks had declined to return, leaving their nest forlorn and empty atop the medieval town hall (Radhus). We did enjoy an ice cream by the river, then returned on the quiet lanes. In historic towns it's always remarkable how concentrated the crowds are, focused on a square mile that they must see, observing nothing beyond.

Skaerbaek to Toftum on Romo Island, South Jutland, Denmark     Romo Familie Camping     184 DK or €25.30 (ACSI card €15 low season)     12 miles

From our Skaerbaek camp it was just 6 miles west to the start of the causeway to Romo, one of the string of Wadden Sea islands that stretch over 300 miles, from Texel (off Den Helder in Holland) to Fano (off Esbjerg in Denmark). The marshy tidal flats attract thousands of migratory birds and water fowl, and Denmark finally designated its western coast of South Jutland a national park (the Vadehavet) in 2009.

As we needed a fill of LPG (Autogas – fairly uncommon throughout Scandinavia) and the nearest station was on Romo, we decided Denmark_(19).JPGto drive across. As hundreds of cars a day (mDenmark_(20).JPGostly German) visit the island at this time of year, we had been warned against cycling over – good advice, as there was no space to ride on the approach road, though a white stripe at the sides of the causeway itself served cyclists braving the wind. The tide was out and we saw gulls, one goose and a lone oystercatcher on the shore – far less bird life than on the Dutch coast and Texel island.

Arriving on the island, there is a set of traffic lights at the Norre Tvismark crossroads, with signs for the three campsites: straight on for Lakolk Strand Camping on the west coast, left for the Kommandorgarden Hotel and Camping on the way to Havneby at the south-east corner, or right for a mile to our choice, the Familie Camp. First we topped up our domestic LPG tank at the Uno-X garage on the left at the crossroads. It cost twice as much as in Germany but, sadly, the station we'd tried before the border didn't have the right adaptor.

Our campsite was huge – a sprawling set of fields with no marked pitches, almost full of caravans and awnings, campervans and tents, complete with crazy golf, supermarket, hot dog stand, bouncy cushion playground … just the place to bring your beach toys, children and dogs for a holiday. We found a space for one night, in order to escape for an afternoon's cycling with the aid of a free map from Reception. (That's all that was free, with extra charges for showers or paying by credit card.)

A 25 mile ride began by cycling north through the thatched hamlets of Toftum and Juvre until theDenmark_(21).JPG sealed road ended after 2 miles at a car park, from where steps led to a viewing point above the dyke. The panorama was of flat windswept heath – a prohibited area used by the Danish army and navy for firing practice and exercises.

In Toftum an 18th century manor house museum displays the prosperity the Kommandors (sea captains) brought to Romo. Many local seafarers worked as captains of Dutch and German whaling ships, sailing as far as Greenland. In the stables is the skeleton of one of the sperm whales that stranded on Romo as recently as 1996. Also in Toftum is Denmark's smallest and oldest school, used from 1784 to 1874 with up to 40 pupils. The teacher (always a retired Kommandor) was paid in money or kind by the parents, who fed him in their homes! In Juvre a fence made of whale jawbone in 1772 has been preserved - evidence of the lack of stone and wood at that time, before tree-planting was undertaken to stabilise the sand dunes.  

Rather than continue on a gravel path looping the north-east corner of the island, we turned back and rode south, into the wind, on a cycle track alongside the main road. After the Norre Tvismark crossroads we Denmark_(16).JPGpassed the Nature Information Centre, in another old thatched manor house at Tvismark. The next village, Kongsmark, was formerly the site of a ferry to the mainland until the causeway was finished in 1948. Pre-war tourists were taken across to Lakolk Strand by horse-drawn train. Continuing south, we passed the fine 17/18th century church at Kirkeby, dedicated to Clemens (patron saint of Danish sailors, whose captains lie buried here). Osterby, home to Kommandorgarden Hotel and Camping as well as a youth hostel, was the last village before Havneby, the end of the road at the south-east corner. From this small crab-fishing port, vehicle ferries cross every couple of hours to List on the German island of Sylt, 45 minutes away to the south (for times and fares visit http://www.syltfaehre.de/).

Most of the old thatched cottages are now cafes or art galleries, while newly-built thatched houses cluster in modern estates of holiday-lets, especially around Havneby where most of the cars were German. The attraction is the firm white Sonderstrand (South Beach), one of the widest in Europe, on the west coast less than 2 miles from Havneby. We rode to the car park at the edge of the sands – though even motorhomes park on the beach itself, free of charge, during the daytime. (Overnight stays are forbidden in all the parking areas on Romo.) The sand stretched almost to the horizon, with one area designated for sand-yachts and another for kitebuggies. There were more than enough of both, not to mention quad-bikes. The prevailing winds are good for kite flying, with a Kite Festival in early September.

No roads run up the island's west coast so, not wanting sand in our gears from riding the beach, we backtracked, making swift progress north with a great tail wind. A left turn in Kongsmark took us to Lakolk, where there is a tourist shopping centre and an enormously crowded campsite at the edge of another long beach, by the windsurfing area. From here we could only turn right and ride the busy highway back to the Norre Tvismark crossroads (no separate cycle path), then left and along the path for the last mile to our campsite.

This island of Romo grew (and is still growing to the east) from a sand bank. Building the causeway enabled sheep to graze land reclaimed from the sea, though the tides here are the highest in Denmark, with a 2-metre (6.6 ft) difference between ebb and flood. We suspected that bird numbers had declined as tourism increased – or perhaps they hadn't heard about the new National Park? Maybe we should return out of season for a better impression.

Romo Island to Fjand, West Jutland, Denmark     Fjand Camping     186 DK or €25.90     110 miles

Leaving Romo we crossed the busy causeway, the muddy tidal flats now underwater, joining road 11 just north of Skaerbaek after 10 miles. We drove north, past Ribe and bypassed the major port of Esbjerg (from where DFDS ferries cross overnight to Harwich). Off-shore lay the last two Wadden Sea islands: Mando, accessible only at low tide on a tractor-drawn double-decker bus (http://www.mandoebussen.dk/); and Fano, a 15-minute ferry ride from Esbjerg (www.fanoetrafikken.dk).

Shortly before Varde we took the ring road to the west, stopping at Lidl just off to the right at 50 miles to shop and have lunch. A good selection of British and American films (in their original language, with optional subtitles in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish or Icelandic) tempted us to supplement our DVD library. Continuing north-west on road 181, we reached the coast 20 miles later at Nymindegab at the southern tip of Ringkobing Fjord. No snowy peaks though – a Danish fjord is a coastal inlet or lagoon, in a landscape of sand dunes and mixed woodland.

Heading due north Denmark_(24).JPGon rd 181 up the narrow Holmsland Klit, we saw nothing of the North Sea, hidden behind dunes on our left, and little of Ringkobing Fjord, bobbing with sailboards over to the right. There were regular signs for campsites but no sign of space! After Argab we bridged the short sea inlet and reached the little fishing port/resort of Hvide Sande (White Sands) at 84 miles. Here boats are built and fish are smoked – and the streets are thronged with tourists. After Sondervig, at the top of the Fjord, we followed the coast along Husby Klit. At Vederso Klit the road skirted woods, heading inland through Husby and South Nissum, then turned towards the coast again.

At Fjand, on the right of the main road near the south shore of Nissum Fjord, is an all-year campsite and restaurant where we took shelter from the storm in October 2006. It's much quieter than the sites passed earlier, perhaps because it's not directly on a beach or lake, but it's very well equipped with outdoor pool, etc. WiFi is available for a one-off payment of 25 DK and the signal was reasonable inside our motorhome.

On the evening of our arrival there was an outdoor pancake event, where pancake batter was ladled into 6 very-long-handled fry-pans, cooked over the log fire by willing campers and freely distributed. It would have been much quicker to use the gas rings in the 2 camp kitchens, if less fun! Margaret took a turn, but turned them with a spatula, leaving tossing to the men.

At Fjand, West Jutland, Denmark     Fjand Camping

It was good to have WiFi internet inside the motorhome, enabling us to listen to BBC Radio 4 while writing, catching up on UK news.

Misled by a free local map with a red dotted line 'Cykelrute', we had a 24-mile cycle ride, largely on gravel and loose Denmark_(22).JPGstone tracks. We did see the little fishing harbour, near Norre Fjand on Nissum Fjord, before riding south through Husby plantation and over bumpy dunes to Vederso Klit. The dirt/sand path of national cycle route 1 (part of the North Sea Cycle Route!) was gusty and tedious, apart from a brief woodland stretch. We returned the same way, the only alternative being main road 181 with no margin for cyclists.

The weather is excellent now. The wind has turned from southerly to northerly, making it a bit cooler than in Holland (in the middle 20's rather than early 30's C), with an occasional evening shower. Meanwhile we hear that Greece has extreme temperatures and wild fires, especially in Rhodes – and the UK has severe weather warnings.

Fjand to Sindal, North Jutland, Denmark     Soldalens Camping     150 DK     157 miles

After driving 4 miles south on road 181 to Husby we turned east on the 537 for 6 miles to Ulfborg, a small town where the streets were lined with red & white Danish flags. There was no clue in our guidebook under National Holidays, since the next listed was Christmas Day!

At the larger town of Holstebro, 14 miles later, we skirted the ring road and turned north on road 11, climbing slightly (up to 200 ft!) across land where corn, wheat and the wind are farmed. Neat white-painted churches marked the villages and there was often (though not always) a separate bike path on each side of the main road.

Spotting a Lidl at Struer, we bought more local goodies (blue cheese, new potatoes) befoDenmark_(23).JPGre crossing the Oddesund on a narrow bridge, shared with the railway line. This channel is part of the Limfjorden, that makes North Jutland a separate island. Road 11 continued north, occasionally running alongside the shore of Nissum Bredning lake to the west, and on through Thisted at 75 miles.

Turning north-east, we reached motorway E39 at 131 miles at Tylstrup. (All Denmark's motorways are toll-free, apart from the two great bridges.) We drove north to Hjorring, then took exit 3 and rd 35 eastwards to Sindal. This small town has two campsites: the larger, Sindal Camping, is on the main road (35) to the west of the town. Our choice (thanks to Paul Barker, who rightly describes it as a gem in his list of Danish campsites on his excellent website) was the delightfully rural and peaceful Soldalens Camping, lying a mile or so north of the centre. Both sites are signposted and Caravan Club-listed.

Soldalens proved to be our best and friendliest Danish site – and the least expensive. We were pleased we'd decided to stay here rather than going up to Denmark's northernmost tip, especially when we heard from a Dutch camper that they'd found all the sites round Skagen were full.

At Sindal, North Jutland, Denmark     Soldalens Camping

During a quiet Sunday at Sindal, we caught up with cleaning and laundry, enjoying the calm awayDenmark_(39).JPG from crowds and beaches. Time to Denmark_(37).JPGwatch the blackbirds pulling worms and listen to their fluent song.

We rode into Sindal, which proved to have all you might need (bank, railway station, petrol, swimming pool, tennis, pizza restaurant, hotel and a small supermarket). The atmosphere here in the far north of Denmark is different, somehow more Scandinavian and less Germanic. And it stays light beyond 10 pm. We also cycled a few miles north through Bindslev to Tversted and back, the road having a good cycle path on each side.

Sindal to Frederikshavn (via Skagen), North Jutland, Denmark     53 miles

Before taking the Stena Lines ferry from Frederikshavn to Gothenburg in Sweden (departing 10.30 pm) there was plenty of time to visit Skagen. Sweden_(11)[1].jpgWe drove 7 miles north to Tversted, then turned east on busier rd 597. At 16 miles we met main road 40 and followed it to the top of Denmark's northernmost spit, along with a queue of motorbikes, cars, caravans and campers. The cyclists on their separate paths sometimes made faster progress.

At 27 miles, a mile or so south of Skagen, we turned right at crossroads, following signs for 'Den Tilsandede Kirke' (the sand-buried church). They led us along a mile of narrow lanes to a very large free car park, complete with small café and toilets, a short walk from the church: an ideal place to leave the motorhome for the afternoon while we explored bySweden_(14)[1].jpg bicycle. The café hot dogs were good too!

The 14th C church of St Laurens (or rather its white-painted tower – all that remains) is half a mile along a sandy path through the dunes. Apparently, at the end of the 18th century the Danish king gave the parishioners permission to abandon shovelling and sell up, leaving the tower as a marker for shipping. The floor and graveyard (the last burial was in 1810) still lie hidden under the sand drifts but you can climb the tower for 10 DK.

The path continued into Skagen and we cycled round the port, with large trawlers dockedSweden_(15)[1].jpg alongside the frozen fish warehouses, as well as a yacht marina. Bike paths ran past the lighthouse (another 10 DK to climb, but more steps per Krone!) and small beaches for about 2 miles to the end of the road at Grenen. We rode on, dodging ambling pedestrians (or pedestrian amblers?), toddlers, push-chairs, wheel-chairs and slower cyclists on hired bikes. Where had they all come from? (Answer: Holland, Sweden, Norway, even Italy and France - but not Britain). Grenen Camping certainly looked popular.

Grenen itself consisted of pay & display car parks (packed full),Sweden_(16)[1].jpg a crowded cycle parking area, café/shop with long ice cream queue, and a modern art gallery/restaurant (the latter closed for a private function). To reach the actual tip, where the North Sea (Skagerrak) meets the entrance to the Baltic (Kattegat), you can walk half a km of beach (unsuitable for bikes) or take the tractor-drawn bus that runs in the summer months. Not wishing to leave ourSweden_(17)[1].jpg bicycles, we did neither. Returning through Skagen's town centre, we found it busy with more holiday-makers, well provided with places to spend their money – and a few buskers in case they had any loose change. Back at the motorhome after a 20 km (12.5 mile) ride we made tea and prepared for the voyage, with perfect sailing conditions on this lovely calm day.

It was an easy 26-mile drive south on rd 40 to Frederikshavn, where the Stena Lines terminal is well signed and organised. The drive-through check-in for M/S Danica simply needed our internet booking confirmation print-out, with no checking of passports or other documents. All vehicles and caravans carrying gas were given a label for the gas locker, which had to be left unlocked with gas valves turned off. We sailed promptly at 10.30 pm and had an uneventful crossing (the best kind!), staying awake with the aid of coffee and biscuits from our rucksack.

The modern ferry had a self-service restaurant (which closed at midnight), bars, shop (mainly for Swedes to stock up on cheaper alcohol), cinema and gaming machines. Watching a trusted employee emptying these 'one-armed bandits', scooping bucket loads of coins into sturdy bags, we were amazed at the amounts taken! We changed our own remaining Danish Kroner into Swedish currency at the ship's bank (the only gamble being the exchange rate!) and dropped small change into a handy Red Cross collecting box.

We arrived in Sweden after 3.5 hours (faster, more expensive ferries cross in 2 hrs).

Frederikshavn, Denmark to Kode, West Gotland, Sweden     Railway Station Car Park     29 miles

Gothenburg (in Swedish, Goteborg - pronounced Yurteborry), is Sweden's second city. As Scandinavia's largest seaport, the harbour is vast and busy, offering nowhere to park a motorhome, which would have been very welcome at 0200 hours!

In the sleepy confusion of driving off, while the SatNav slowly acquired satellites, we failed to get directly onto the E6 northbound (look for 'Oslo' on signs)! Eventually we circled back past the airport and found our route, driving an empty toll-free motorway in the brief period of darkness, made more unearthly by swirling mist. We soon realised that Swedish motorways are also free of service areas, with fuel and food being signposted off into nearby settlements.

Following such a sign at the small town of Kode, we passed a Statoil petrol place with no parking area, crossed the railway line and turned right towards the station. We stopped thankfully on the empty free car park, opposite an ICA supermarket, and fell asleep as an early dawn broke.

(continued at In Sweden Summer 2010)