No end to Burgh-Haamstede

Twin villages are twice as nice, you know that. With Burgh and Haamstede, you also get Nieuw-Haamstede on the side, at the coast. Not that it’s all densely populated. Not at all. Its heart is, well, pretty pretty amid well-spaced holiday homes in the trees and the dunes. Ideal for visitors keen on staying – this is a real part of Zeeland, with green woods, rolling sand hillocks and beaches on call.

Carolingian hill fort

The name ‘Burgh’ comes from the Zeeuws word ‘burg’ for hill fort, the medieval defence against invading Normans. The castle at Burgh-Haamstede survived it all, and some serious restorations have worked wonders – as you’ll appreciate. The size, as much as the style, will take your breath away.

Lighthouse, beacon, banknote

Castles aside, the most famous single edifice in Haamstede is the Westerlicht (W. beacon) lighthouse. Pre-Eurozoners and pre-millennials may recall that its characteristic red-white patterns featured on the 250 Dutch guilder (NLG) banknote. Those stripes were added in the 1930s to max its visibility for new-fangled flying machines. The light is still used as a beacon for shipping: seen 30 nautical miles away, the lamps have a strength of 5.2 million candela.

The Forest of Westerschouwen

We’re not widely known for our superlatives, but, yes, this forest is one of the loveliest, largest and, hey, best of Zeeland. The rise and fall of the dunescape, drifting sands, woods, valleys and vales, and meadows. The 330 hectares of the Forest of Westerschouwen are almost all accessible, with a wealth of trails for walking, biking, MTB-ing or riding. Ask for details at the Excursion Hut (‘schuur’) at the main entrance. Among the special treats for kids are an expedition, and a couple of feats in the Klimbos climbing trees. Tip: come up the lookout tower and see the entire, errm, empire.

The dunes they call gulls

The Meeuwenduinen – those birds shriek out their name! – are indeed among the most stunning in Schouwen-Duiveland. They range from the raw to the rare, hosting mosses and wild grasses. As well as their namesakes, local tribes include rabbits, larks and other songbirds. Black-backed and herring gulls breed by their thousands. The dunes are carefully curated, to allow rare flora to bloom, while Shetland ponies and fallow and roe deer tend pastures so that wild orchids and sea holly can thrive. You’ll take all this in along a seven-kilometre walking trail: fitter feet can set out on the even nicer 12-km version from the Excursion Shed in the forest.

The Burghse Schoole museum

Remember the days of the old school yarn? The old school of Burgh in the museum Burghse Schoole is just as it was in 1920. The desks (crikey, small!) and seats, the blackboard and the posters on the wall, oozing nostalgia. Down in the second classroom, a permanent exhibit about hill forts, including Carolingian varieties, across Zeeland. Hang on, there’s a third classroom! Now used for various shows in the year.

Haamstede Castle and the Zeepeduinen

A panoply of dates, the ‘slot’ at Haamstede. Its oldest part, the keep, is 13th century, but that’s pre-dated by Roman and Norman remains within the moats. On the face of it, it all dates from  the 18th century, and is now owned by the Natuurmonumenten heritage agency, though it has been through various private hands. Quaintly perhaps, it opens annually on Open Monumentendag, and at 11:30 every Wednesday from mid June to end October. The Zeepeduinen dunes – named after their marram grasses – are open all year round. Atop, the Second World War commando post known as the Walvisbunker (whale). Neighbouring bunkers are home to many bats. Food for thoughts.