Visit the New Dutch Waterline
Water has long been used as a means of defense against attack, and with large parts of the Netherlands being below sea-level, the Dutch are experts on both holding water back from flooding inhabited areas, and using it as a defensive weapon. In 1672, a waterline was erected to ward off French forces during the Eighty Years War. By flooding low-lying tracts of land (polders) to a depth of about 40 cm, they made it impossible for enemy wagons to get through, while the water was not deep enough to be traversed by boats. Where the terrain was too high to flood, forts, batteries and bunkers were built and armed to hold invaders back. After 1815 the waterline was extended to include Utrecht, Muiden, Gorinchem, Amsterdam and Vreeswijk and became known as the New Dutch Waterline. Today, the forts and bunkers have been turned into tourist attractions and the New Dutch Waterline offers a series of fascinating historical landmarks to explore.
Designated as a National Heritage Site and National Landscape, the New Dutch Waterline can be explored by bicycle or on foot. Because of building restrictions for security reasons, the areas around the waterline have remained unspoiled and natural, with scenery that includes meadows, heaths, fields, lakes and rivers. The circumference of the New Dutch Waterline is 135 kilometers, but hiking and cycling routes of varying lengths can be explored. In some areas it is possible to sightsee on horseback, or to hire a boat or canoe.
Landmarks along the New Dutch Waterline include the Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot. Built in 1285 by Count Floris V, it remains one of the most well preserved medieval castles in the Netherlands. Visitors can enjoy a tour through the castle, with its imposing Knight's Hall, dungeon, towers and chapel, as well as the armory, which boasts an impressive collection of ancient armor. The castle's gardens include herb and vegetable gardens, and in the summer months falconry displays are a highlight of any visit to Muiderslot.
Other features of the New Dutch Waterline are the Fortress Museum, the Hollandse Waterlinie Information Center at Fort Vechten, and the Castle Slot Loevestein. Some of the historic forts have been turned into accommodation and restaurants, while other forts have campgrounds. There is certainly plenty to see and do along the New Dutch Waterline.