Celebrating the Dutch windmill

Published on 27 April 2017 by Hilary Staples

The Dutch National Windmill Day takes place every second weekend in May. This year it's the 45th time the event is held. It's one of the few days in the year cyclists want it to be windy, as for this festive occasion the sails of most windmills will be turning. Over 900 windmills will be open to the public. An ideal opportunity to get on your bike and try one of our windmill cycle routes.
Stellingmolen De Vlinder in [url=http://www.holland-cycling.com/where-to-go/day-trips/97-linge-cycle-route]Enspijk [/url]. Photo © Holland-Cycling.com

Stellingmolen De Vlinder in Enspijk . Photo © Holland-Cycling.com

9,000 windmills

Holland is famous for its windmills. No wonder, as much of the country is flat and open and there is usually plenty of wind. As we can see on old Dutch paintings, windmills dominated the Dutch skyline for centuries. At its peak there were an estimated nine thousand windmills in Holland!

Corn mills towered over the villages and cities in order to feed the nation. Polder mills were scattered around the countryside to pump away excess water to keep the polders dry and to reclaim land. Sometimes they were used on a very large scale: it took 52 polder mills 4 whole years to pump all the water out of the Schermer Lake to turn it into a polder!

Windmills were Holland’s earliest form of industrialisation. In the 18th century there were as many as 583 windmills in the Zaan region alone: saw mills, oil mills, paint mills and paper mills. The introduction of the steam engine and later the electric powered motor made the windmill obsolete. Today there are only 1,200 windmills left. These are all listed buildings and, if possible, they have been lovingly restored back to working order.

Types of windmill

Windmills are not only used for many different purposes, they also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be round, six-sided or eight-sided, made of wood or stone, have a balcony or not. Some types you will see all over Holland, others only in certain regions. The Dutch have names for each type of windmill.

To help you see the difference, we have put together a photo gallery with some typical Dutch windmill types (see below). Most of the windmills in the gallery are included in one of our Day trips. You will find a link to the route in the caption.

Top windmill cycle routes

Here's an overview of our top windmill cycle routes, day trips that focus on the Dutch windmill. Many of our other cycle routes will also take you past one or more windmills. Take a look at our Day trips section to find a cycle route in the area you're visiting.

Kinderdijk Cycle Route
Windmills, polders and fortress towns
Distance: 43 or 28 km

This route takes you along the River Lek which dominates the flat polder landscape. Highlight of the route are the 19 historic windmills at Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts visitors from all over the world. Read more »»

Zaanse Schans Cycle Route
Traditional windmills, green wooden houses and industrial heritage
Distance: 52 or 39 km

This varied route through the Zaan region shows you some of Holland’s rich industrial history. Highlight of the route are the windmills and traditional green wooden houses at museum village the Zaanse Schans. Read more »»

Leiden Lakes Cycle Route
A feast of windmills, lakes and boats
Distance: 61, 50 or 36 km

This route around Alkmaar shows you typical Dutch polders, canals and windmills. Highlight of the route is the historic centre of Alkmaar, with its cheese market, narrow streets and draw bridges. Read more »»

Alkmaar Cycle Route
Cheese market, windmills and polders
Distance: 24 km

This route around Alkmaar shows you typical Dutch polders, canals and windmills. Highlight of the route is the historic centre of Alkmaar, with its cheese market, narrow streets and draw bridges. Read more »»

Amsterdam Amstel Cycle Route
Idyllic rivers, villages and forts.
Distance: 54 or 46 km

This varied route takes you along many winding rivers through the remarkably quiet rural region just south of Amsterdam. Highlights of the route are the medieval Castle Muiderslot and the forts of the Defence Line of Amsterdam. Read more »»

Click on one of the photos to start the slide show.

 

 
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