Stuck out in the Waddenzee, Texel (pronounced “Tessel”) is the westernmost of the string of islands that band the northern coast of the Netherlands. Some 25km long and up to 9km wide, Texel is a mixture of natural island – in its southeast reaches – and reclaimed polder, mostly on the western side. Overall it’s a flat landscape of green pasture land dotted with chunks of woodland, speckled with small villages and protected by long sea defences. The west coast boasts magnificent stretches of sand that reach from one end of the island to the other, its numbered markers (paal) – from 6 in the south to 33 in the north – distinguishing one section from another. Behind the beach, a belt of sand dunes widens as it approaches both ends of the island. In the north it spreads out into two nature reserves – De Muy and De Slufter –the latter incorporates Texel’s finest scenery in a tidal inlet where a deep cove of salt marsh, lagoon and dune has been left beyond the sea defences, exposed to the ocean. It’s this landscape, and of course the beaches, combined with the island’s laid-back rural charms, that attracts holidaying Dutch and Germans by the ferryload in summer, and the island has scores of holiday bungalows and cottages, plus a scattering of hotels and campsites. The island’s villages are fairly humdrum places, though the “capital”, Den Burg, has its lively moments. Den Hoorn, is probably the prettiest place on the island, while Oudeschild still boats a working harbour with a small fishing fleet. Overall, for UK visitors at least, it’s a bit of an untouched gem.