Out towards the coast, 10km northwest of Alkmaar and beyond the artists’ retreat of Bergen, the village of Bergen-aan-Zee marks the northerly limit of the Noordhollands Duinreservaat (North Holland Dune Reserve), whose bumpy sand dunes stretch north from the suburbs of IJmuiden, and the southern boundary of the Schoorlse Duinen Nationaalpark (Schoorl Dunes National Park), where a band of sweeping, wooded dunes, up to 5km wide, extends north as far as Camperduin – one of the widest undeveloped portions of the whole Dutch coastline. The dune reserve and the national park are both crisscrossed by footpaths and cycling trails, but the most lauded is the well-signposted, 42km-long De Brede Duinen route that takes cyclists on a loop through Alkmaar, Bergen, Bergen-aan-Zee, Schoorl and Camperduin, passing the highest of the national park’s sand dunes (54m) on the way. Both Bergen and Alkmaar tourist offices sell detailed maps of local hiking and cycling routes but if you just want a taster of the landscape, there’s a carpark and and access to marked trails halfway between Bergen and Bergen-aan-Zee on Uilenvangersweg.

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