From Katwijk where the River Rhine used to flow into the North Sea to the beginning of the Rhine delta at Millingen on the German border - the Limes Cycle Route takes you along the northern border line of the Roman Empire in Holland. The route doesn't stop at the Dutch border, it continues through Germany, Austria, Hungary and Rumania all the way to the Black Sea.
Roman watch-tower at Castellum Hoge Woerd. Photo © Holland-Cycling.comRoman watch-tower at Castellum Hoge Woerd. Photo ©

The ‘Roman Limes’ is the northern border of the Roman Empire. In 2nd century AD - when the empire was at its greatest - the Limes ran from the North Sea at Katwijk along the rivers Rhine and Danube all the way to the Black Sea. Since Roman times the course of the Rhine downstream from Wijk bij Duurstede has changed, so the route follows the old course of the river and what is now called the 'Old Rhine'.

In Holland around twenty forts were built along the Rhine. In between these forts a series of watch-towers (castella) was constructed, interconnected by roads. Along the route you’ll see little direct evidence of the of these Roman structures as most archaeological remains have been preserved underground. However, great effort is made to make this Roman history visible by means of modern reconstructions and information boards (in Dutch). The route takes you through the historic towns of Leiden, Woerden, Utrecht and Nijmegen which are well worth exploring.

Roman emperor in Katwijk
Photo ©

The story goes that when the Roman Emperor Caligula was on the beach at Lugdunum - which now lies on the sea floor off the coast of Katwijk - he declared war on Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. He ordered his soldiers to shoot their arrows into the waves and then collect shells as war booty. To celebrate his victory, he ordered the building of a high lighthouse.

Over the centuries many fishermen from Katwijk have claimed that their nets have got caught in 'the tower of Kalia', which is thought to be a reference to the lighthouse of Emperor Caligula.

The Limes Cycle Route is not signposted or marked on cycle maps. The guide book Limes Fietsroute 1, which covers the Dutch section of the route, gives you detailed maps and a two-way description of the route (in Dutch), which are meant to be used together. If your Dutch isn’t good enough to follow the description, we recommend using the guide book in combination with  the downloadable GPS tracks.

Are you thinking of cycling this route? Then take a look at our review of the Limes Cycle Route.

Combine this long-distance route with a day trip. We recommend:

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Limes Cycle Route (Limes Fietsroute)

Route: Katwijk - Millingen (Dutch section of the route)
For more on the section outside Holland, go to Holland - gateway to the European cycle network
Distance: 165 km
Guide book: Limes Fietsroute 1, Uitgevery Pirola
GPS tracks: Download from Europafietsers