The Achterhoek is a region in the east of Gelderland (the Netherlands). The region is filled with untouched nature and a combination of farmland and astonishing landscapes. The Achterhoek is an area well suited for vacations by bike.
|Berkelland (Borculo, Beltrum, Eibergen, Neede, Ruurlo)|
A mix between the Achterhoek and Twente, featuring bocage, old wind and water mills and of course castles.
|Bronckhorst (Hummelo, Keppel, Vorden)|
Municipality filled with castles. Vorden alone counts eight of them. Bronckhorst also features the smallest city of the Netherlands.
Old Hansa city known for its mustard.
De facto capital of the Achterhoek.
|Liemers ('s-Heerenberg, Lobith, Westervoort, Zevenaar)|
The region of water. Both the Meuse and Rhine flow through the region, as does the IJssel.
Old market and townhouse, scenic landscapes and lots of culture.
|Oost Gelre (Groenlo, Lichtenvoorde)|
Municipality known most for its pilsner (Grolsch) and its large events.
Small city in the far east of the region.
Known for its noble houses and fortifications. Due to its location in the northern tip of the Achterhoek, it is considered the 'Gateway to the Achterhoek'.
- Bronkhorst - Smallest city in the Netherlands, with a population of about 157.
- 's-Heerenberg - Village most known for the Bergh castle.
The Achterhoek was inhabited by Germanic tribes and was never a part of the Roman Empire. At Christianization around the year 800, it was not a region of its own - the west belonged to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Utrecht and the east to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Münster. The region only came to exist as the Zutphen Country during Medieval times. The area encompassed many castles, many of which stand to this day. Most were owned by the royal families of Bronkhorst and Van Heeckeren, which fought several succession wars against each other. Until the 19th century the Achterhoek had a feudal system.
Due to the region's location at the border, it was invaded several times - mostly by German entities during the Guelders and Eighty Years War. Battles were fought mostly around the Bergh Castle and Keppel Castle, as well as the cities of Bredevoort and Groenlo. The Battle of Grolle of 1627 is reenacted bi-annually in Groenlo.
During industrialisation, a large part of the Achterhoek was still feudal. Much of the land was still undeveloped, consisting of forests and sand flats. Industrialisation had an effect only on the cities along the Oude IJssel river and in the far east. As the ground contained bog iron, a hype for metallurgy hit Doetinchem, Ulft and Keppel, under the Dutch brands of ATAG, DRU and Pelgrim. In the east of the Achterhoek, textile industries boomed and continued in Aalten, Neede and Winterswijk until the end of the Second World War, when due to competition from low-wage countries the industry was no longer viable. During the time that it thrived, the textile industry made large invests in the region, especially by Winterswijkse magnate Jan Willink who funded many railroads throughout the region. This helped the textile industry survive in the rather remote east. Of these railroads, only the lines between Arnhem and Winterswijk and Winterswijk and Zutphen remain. Additionally, a heritage railroad, formerly spanning between Doetinchem and Hengelo (Overijssel) remains functional between Haaksbergen and Boekelo, both located just across the provincial border in Overijssel. These lines initially improved industry in the region, and now do the same for tourism.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, decreasing profits have caused many companies to fold or leave. For example, the local pilsner brand, Grosch, for one, left the region in order to remain profitable. Replacing it is a new wine industry, which nets between 20,000 and 40,000 bottles annually.
Some of the natural landscapes from Roman times still remain. Sand flats still exist near Doetinchem and large forests in Montferland. Due to its both flat and sloped terrain, the region is ideal for cycling by all levels of cyclists. All in all, the Achterhoek features large amounts of pastureland divided into small hedged fields interspersed with groves of trees. Highlights include the Lochemse Berg, the Ruurlo Woods and the Slangenburg. Some peatlands still exist near the German border.
Many castles are spread throughout the region with Vorden having a total of eight.
Though the culture is considered to be a dying, parts of the Achterhoek still have traditions. These include dauwtrappen on Ascension Day (getting up very early to go cycling), carbidschieten (filling a milk churn with carbide, putting a ball in the churn's opening and igniting it) and the consumption of Krumkake during New Years. At Easter, many bonfires (Paasvuur) are lit, and at the completion of a building, a maypole may be erected. Further, local 'sports' include spiekerboksehangen, or hanging a pair of jeans above a body of water and competing to determine who can keep himself out of the water the longest. Typical in the east is noaberschap, literally translated as 'helping of neighbours', but it's really general kindness.
All of the Achterhoek speaks Dutch, and in more rural areas many people also speak the local dialect, Achterhooks, which is part of Low German. In the cities and larger towns, many people speak English, especially the younger generation, and also German.
To get to Zutphen or Winterswijk, take the Intercity train to Apeldoorn and change in Apeldoorn to the small diesel train connection Zutphen and Apeldoorn in 20 minutes. It leaves from Apeldoorn at --:10 and --:40, a few minutes after the Intercity from Amsterdam arrived. It usually departs from the opposite side of the platform. Alternatively, you can reach Zutphen via Arnhem by changing there, but it will take about 10 to 15 minutes longer and doesn't cost more (i.e. with a ticket to or from Zutphen, you can choose between the Apeldoorn and Arnhem routes). See the article on Zutphen for more extensive information. For Winterswijk, trains leave at --:07 and --:37, and depending on the route taken (Amsterdam-Apeldoorn-Zutphen) or (Amsterdam-Arnhem-Zutphen) will take either 135 or 153 minutes.
To get to Doetinchem, take the Intercity to Nijmegen and change trains in Arnhem. The train to Doetinchem and Winterswijk leaves 2 minutes after the arrival of the Intercity from Amsterdam, at --:04 and --:34, usually from platform 9. These trains take 34 minutes to Doetinchem and 68 minutes to Winterswijk, during the morning and afternoon rush there are 2 more to Doetinchem, at --:15, and --:45. For Winterswijk it's better to travel through Zutphen instead of Arnhem when coming from Amsterdam. To Doetinchem this should take 102 minutes, but it's likely to take 30 minutes longer because there's only a 2 minute change in Arnhem, which one is likely to miss.
Not all towns can be reached by train. The ones that can be reached are:
Doetinchem, Zutphen, Winterswijk, Lochem, Vorden, Ruurlo and Aalten
To get to any of the cities above, head to Oberhausen (GER) first, whether by train or car. By car, use the A3 in the direction of Arnhem, Utrecht or Amsterdam. To get to Doetinchem or Zutphen from there, leave the A3 as soon as you cross the border, at Exit 30 . Jin the N812 heading for Beek. At the end of the N812, join the N335 heading for Didam. Then join A18 in the direction of Doetinchem.
When travelling to Zutphen, take the route above, but leave the highway at Exit 3 - Doetinchem. Use the N316/N317 in the direction of Doetinchem. To avoid getting stuck in traffic, take the N317 (Liemersweg) after crossing the rail line, and head right onto the Energieweg at the next traffic lights. After crossing the Oude IJssel river, head left at the end of the Energieweg, onto the Keppelseweg, heading for Zutphen. Follow this road until you reach the roundabout after Langerak. There take the first exit onto the N314. When you reach Hummelo, head left on the roundabout, and head in the direction of Zutphen. From there on, the road goes directly to Zutphen.
The Achterhoek can be travelled by train, but as there are no train stations between Arnhem and Winterswijk via Zevenaar and Doetinchem, as well as Zutphen and Winterswijk via Vorden and Lievelde, a bus is recommended for most destinations. Bus service is provided primarily by Arriva. Train service is also provided by Breng. To plan travel by public transport, 9292 is recommended. Or you can rent a car or bike. Bike routes are of high quality and are well maintained.
- The Achterhoek has many Castles. Vorden alone has seven of them. Though not all can be visited, many are open to the public for a reasonable entry fee. Must-sees include Kasteel Huis Bergh (Bergh Castle), located in 's-Heerenberg and Kasteel Keppel (Keppel Castle) in Laag Keppel
- Museums in the Achterhoek are mostly local town museums. They generally display only items of interest to locals. Visiting these isn't a must, but they might appeal. Doetinchem and Winterswijk have the Openbaar Vervoer Museum and GOLS Museum, both of which highlight the role of public transport, especially trains and trams, for the region.
- Oost Gelre has several large events, including the De Zwarte Cross which is held annually. It is the largest motocross event of Europe featuring not only motorised vehicles, but live music as well. In addition, annually, Lichtenvoorde houses one of the largest flower parades of the Netherlands, if not Europe, called Bloemencorso Lichtenvoorde.
- Beautiful landscapes are common in the Achterhoek due to its semi-rural character. Terrains are flatter in the northwest of the region, and more sloped in the Montferland area in the south. The rivers in the area meandered a lot more i the past but have straightened somewhat over time. Their smaller branches are now mostly small lakes. All of these rivers and lakes provide opportunities for beautiful photos. The Oude IJssel river around Keppel is especially beautiful during the summer.
- The Achterhoek is ideal for hiking, especially in the well-forested area of Monferland which is great for a long walk during summer or fall. The Pieterpad also passes through this area. Every year a four-day hiking event is held sometime during the month of May (in 2017, from the 24th to the 27th). The Achterhoekse Wandelvierdaagse usualy takes place in and around Doetinchem. Its routes are available online (although only in Dutch) if you wish to participate.
- Cycling is the most common mode of transport for the Dutch, including for Achterhoekers. Routes vary, with the above mentioned Montferland area having off-road routes with terrain that varies in elevation. The terrain becomes flatter towards the German border. You can easily travel from one town or city to another within half a day, making a vacation by bike an ideal option.
- Recreational waters are a popular with locals. Many former sand mining operations have been intentionally flooded to transform them into recreational lakes. The Liemers has three of these, and another can been found just south of Zutphen.
- Canoeing or Kayaking is not possible on many of the rivers as they are used for freight transport. However, the Oude IJssel river, is perfect for this canoring or kayaking. Routes start in Doetinchem and upstream near Terborg, and end in Doesburg.
- The Achterhoek does not have many local products to its name, except the city of Doesburg which has its own mustard. If you like mustard, it's definitely worth a try.
- The beer brand Grolsch (English: from Grol), founded in Groenlo and based in Enschede, just outside the Achterhoek, supplies pilsner in the entire country and many parts of the world. Trips to the brewery are interesting.
From the Achterhoek, you can easily go further north towards Twente, Overijssel, Drenthe, Groningen and Friesland.
You can also head south towards North Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland.
If you prefer to visit large cities, head for the Randstad in the provinces of North- and South-Holland or Utrecht.
|Routes through Achterhoek|
|The Hague ← Utrecht ← Arnhem ←||W E||→ Osnabrück|
|A12 ←||W E||→ Doetinchem → N18|
|A18 ← Varsseveld ←||W E||→ Groenlo → Enschede|
|Deventer ←||N S||→ Zutphen → Doetinchem (Via N314)|
|Arnhem ← Zevenaar ←||W E||→ Doetinchem → Winterswijk|
|Zutphen ← Vorden ←||W E||→ Ruurlo → Winterswijk|