Wijlre is a small village in South Limburg, known for its beer and popular with tourists who are looking for a more quiet destination than nearby Maastricht or Valkenburg. It's an excellent base for hikers and bikers.
Wijlre is part of the municipality of Gulpen-Wittem but famous itself for the beer that has been brewed here since 1365 and has been known as Brand beer since the 1860s. A number of hamlets are usually considered to be part of Wijlre: Etenaken, Berghof, Cartils, Kapolder, Elkenrade, Stokhem en Beertsenhoven.
The main road in and out of Wijlre is the N595, which runs trough the village and connects it to Valkenburg to the north-west and to the N278 at Wittem. There is a trainstation in the village, but it's not connected to the regular Dutch railroads. It is however used by the Zuid-Limburgse Stoomtrein Maatschappij, which brings the Miljoenenlijntje here, a steam train that connects some touristic destinations in South Limburg to each other for touristic purposes.
Bus line 40 connects Wijlre to Heerlen, Ubachsberg and Gulpen. Bus 49 passes through the village on its way from Gulpen to Valkenburg and back. There are 3 busstops, "Wijlre Brouwerij" and "Wijlre Wielderdorpstraat" being the most central ones, close to each other and served by both lines.
The village itself is very small and you can easily walk to the few sights on foot. A bike or car is handy to get to nearby destinations or the surrounding hamlets. To rent means of transport, however, you'll have to head to Valkenburg or Gulpen (for bikes).
- Wijlre Castle & Hedge House museum, Kasteel Wijlreweg 1, ☎ . The current Wijlre castle is rather a manor house, build in 1652. It is surrounded by a beautiful castle garden, designed in 1810. It's private property and the owners, art collectors, have housed a private museum for contemporary art in it. This museum is called Hedge House and mostly has Dutch modern art on display, throughout the garden and in a few modern side buildings of the castle. The gardens and museum are closed for the public for 2011, since the owners are taking a sabbatical year, but will probably be opened again in 2012.
- Molen van Otten (Watermill), Molengats 1, ☎ . Wijlre's old watermill is on of the most famous ones of its kind and its history goes back to the 13th century. It was first build as a "banmolen", a mill owned by the feudal lords where the locals where obliged to mill their grains. Together with the brewery, which was later sold off independently, and the adjoining farm, it belonged to the Lord of Wijlre. The mill has two wheels and it's a National Heritage Sight. The current buildings date from 1776, and some holiday apartments have been created in them. Although this originally was a mill for flour and oil production, the Molen van Otten has been used for small scale electricity production since the 1980's.
- Sint-Gertrudiskerk, Kerkstraat bij 3. Wijlre's church is devoted to the holy Gertrude of Nivelles. Although the origins of the church go back to the 14th century, when a Roman church stood here, the current neoclassical structure was build in 1835. The whole church is a National Heritage Sight.
- Cartils Castle, Kapolder 10. The Cartils castle is situated on the edge of the Wijlre area, but never belonged to the Lords of Wijlre. This estate probably has a Roman origin, and is believed to have been first created as a military stronghold. From the early Middle Ages, a large estate existed here and was the main residence of the local fiefdom of Cartils. It's owners, the Lords of Cartils, paid tribute to the bishop but since their emperor was far away, they enjoyed a rather free existence and regularly had conflicts with the neighboring lords of Wijlre and Wittem. The Cartils family owned the castly until the end of the 18th century. The current building is from the 16th century, with the largest tower being dating back to around the year 1500. In 1883 the whole estate was renovated and altered. The buildings are private property and not open for the public, but the exteriors are a nice sight. All the buildings are separate National Heritage Sights.
- Brand bier brouwerij, Brouwerijstraat 2-10, ☎ reservations go via the tourist information office. , "The beer Limburg is proud of", that's Brand beers slogan in Dutch commercials. This is the oldest beer brewery in the Netherlands, and although it's now owned by beer giant Heineken, you can still visit the brewery and get an idea of the long history of this place and the beer they produce here. You have to make reservations, but a typical tour will include a visit to the museum, a guided tour through the brewery and of course a tasting session. € 13,40 for a tour, including coffee and Limburgian fruit pie.
- Touring or hiking through the lovely South Limburg countryside is a main tourist activity, also around Wijlre. You can find some leaflets with route ideas at Cafe a gen Baan'.
There's a supermarket from the Plus-chain, which sells everything you will need on a daily basis. For regional products, try Paul's IJsboerderij (Klapstraat 2). The local specialty is of course Brand beer, but that's for sale in pretty much any supermarket in the Netherlands.
Eat & drink
All establishments here fulfil double functions as places to eat and drink. It's perfectly normal to sit down for just a drink, or for a typical coffee with local sweet pastry (vlaai).
- De Pelikaan, Kapolder 8, ☎ . Restaurant & accommodation De Pelikaan (about 2 km from the village centre) has a rather traditional French oriented menu. The menu isn't large, and vegetarian options aren't on it, but the food is descent and there's a nice outdoor terrace. There are a few upstairs apartments for 2 to 6 pers, all with private roof terraces. Apartments start around €215 p. week for 2 pers. mains from €20.
- Paul's IJsboerderij (Paul's Ice cream farm), Klapstraat 2, ☎ . This place sells ice creams and lunches. There's a nice outdoor terrace and indoor space to enjoy your treats. It's well-known for its high-teas.
- Eetcafé Oud Wielder, Marchierstraat 11, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. This traditional place has a full menu of simple but good value dishes, with mains starting at €12 and lunch dishes around €5. Breakfast is possible if you're with at least two people, but need to be reserved a day in advance. The daily special is €9.95 and Sunday night is spareribs night for the same price. Also a good place to sample local beers, with a rather extensive selection on menu. From €5.
- Café a gen Baan, Parallelweg 30, ☎ . Traditional brown café opposite the train station. They serve baguettes and other simple lunch dishes.
- Hotel Café Bemelmans, Wielderdorpstraat 18, ☎ . Basic but friendly hotel, run by the same family since 1950. Rooms are worn-down and can be somewhat noisy when the downstairs café is busy. Good breakfast. from €38.50 p.p.p.n..
- Camping de Gronselenput, Haasstad, ☎ . Medium sized camping ground with around 60 places. You will have to bring your own tent or you can rent a safaritent (just make sure to book well in advance). The place lies along the river Geul, is run by volunteers and is labeled as a "charm camping" by the Dutch ANWB (the Automobile Association, which is a major player in terms of tourism). There's a small store for basic daily needs and fresh bread. from €10 for a small camp space, or from €40 for a rented safari tent..
There's a postal service desk in the Plus supermarktet (Kerkstraat 1). For internet services, some accommodations offer wifi but you'll have to head to one of the larger destinations in the area for better options or use of a computer.
Nearby destinations include: