Holland

For a tonic of fresh air, exercise and art, Richard Colbey took the slow boat from Harwich and hired a bicycle

From next Monday the Netherlands will seem twice as close, when a new high-speed ferry sets off from Harwich. I, however, caught one of the last slow boats when I set off with my family for a short break of exercise and art.

There is nowhere that combines possibilities for serious art viewing and gentle exercise quite like the Hoge Veluwe National Park near Arnhem. Set in the centre of this 14,000-acre park is one of Europe's finest art galleries. You feel you could spend hours there. The Rijksmuseum Kroller- Muller contains a vast collection of European art. It's a little short on old masters, perhaps, but it compensates for this with an impressive range of Impressionists. Van Gogh is its speciality. The Night Cafe, Bridge at Arles, The Potato Eaters and many of the 285 of his other works shown are bound to be familiar to even the most casual visitor.

Wherever you go in the gallery, windows are designed to provide views of the woods and more. This is just as the founder, Helene Kroller-Muller, intended when in the Thirties she made a bequest to create a centre combining art and nature. And when visitors have had a surfeit of culture, they can use one of the park's 900 bicycles to explore the surroundings.

You wheel your way around the central buildings and plunge deep into the woods where there are (in descending order of concentration, though not necessarily of quality) a sculpture garden, a sculpture park and a sculpture forest. A 90-ft-high contraption in the sculpture park - made up of rods held together by wire springs - appeared to be defying gravity when I was there. It was swaying alarmingly in the wind, but the park's keepers evidently had huge confidence in its tenacity, for the radius of the rope cordoning it off was a lot smaller than the area over which the contraption would have spread had it indeed fallen. It didn't.

In an effort to make the park more attractive to children, what claims to be the world's first underground museum has just opened in the park. For those of us who have to take the Tube every day there is little excitement in going underground, and the museum itself, containing little more than stuffed animals, is a sad contrast to the airy grandeur of the gallery.

I couldn't help feeling, in any case, that children are far more likely to be drawn by the opportunities to cycle in safety. The park bikes are themselves something of a novelty, even for those used to regular two- wheel travel. They operate with a fixed-wheel system - in other words, no brakes. You slow down simply by back-pedalling. While this is reasonably effective, even after three days I would not have had the confidence to ride one of these bikes in traffic.

That, though, is not a worry in the park, where most visitors elect to leave their cars outside the gates, despite the fact that there's only a small extra charge if you drive in. The bikes are well maintained and easily adjustable, and many come equipped with child or baby seats, much to the delight of our 10-month-old, who spent her first day on the bike in a constant state of giggles.

Although the park boasts of being a nature reserve, on this score it is much less impressive. On our excursions along the cycle lanes we did see a few deer hidden behind the distant trees, but other than that, our fauna-viewing was limited to a few sparrows.

The landscape is varied enough, though, to provide an incentive to travel away from the wooded north of the park, where the museum visitor centre and bike hire are concentrated. Much of the rest of the park has an almost Mediterranean barrenness, a consequence of the sandy soil with which this part of the country is afflicted. As I cycled along I kept an optimistic lookout for the wild boar said to live here. No such luck.

However, a big benefit for those wanting to get right away from home is that so far the park seems to have escaped the attention of British (and indeed all non-Dutch) travellers, despite being only 70 miles from the ferry at Hook of Holland. Among the hundred or so cars in the car park, we spotted only one other from Britain and a few from France, Germany and Belgium.

Such preoccupations, though, were short-lived. Who needs cars in the quiet world of art and nature combined?n

Netherfacts

Getting there: From next Monday, Stena Line (0990 707070 and press 3 for bookings and information) is dropping the conventional ship that has operated for decades between Harwich and Hook of Holland. The replacement is a high-speed vessel that will make the crossing twice a day, each way, in 3 hours 40 minutes. For a five-day trip in June, foot passengers pay pounds 40 return while a car, driver and passenger costs pounds 88.

Eurostar (0345 303030 and press 4 for the enquiry line) has a special fare of pounds 77 return from London Waterloo to any station in the Netherlands. You have to stay away for at least three nights or a Saturday night.

The Hoge Veluwe national park is close to Arnhem, with a bus connection from the station.

More information: Netherlands Board of Tourism, PO Box 523, London SW1T 6NE (0891 200277).

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit