Known collectively as Het Gooi, the sprawling suburbs that spread southeast from Amsterdam towards Amersfoort and Utrecht (see p.000) are interrupted by open heaths, lakes, canals and woods, reminders of the time when this was a sparsely inhabited district largely devoted to sheep farming. The turning point was the construction of the Amsterdam–Amersfoort railway in 1874, which allowed hundreds of middle-class Amsterdammers to build their country homes here, nowhere more so than in well-heeled Hilversum, long the area’s main settlement and nowadays pretty much a dormitory town despite the best efforts of the Dutch media, much of which has decamped here. Hilversum is a possible target for a day-trip on account of its modern architecture, most notably the work of Willem Dudok, although Het Gooi’s two other prime attractions, the immaculate star-shaped fortifications of Naarden and the handsome medieval castle at Muiden, are frankly more appealing.