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Celebrating the Dutch windmill
National Windmill Day takes place every second weekend in May. An ideal opportunity to get on your bike and try one of our windmill cycle route
Published on 27 April 2017 by Hilary Staples
The Dutch National Windmill Day takes place every second weekend in May. This year it's the 45th time the event is held. It's one of the few days in the year cyclists want it to be windy, as for this festive occasion the sails of most windmills will be turning. Over 900 windmills will be open to the public. An ideal opportunity to get on your bike and try one of our windmill cycle routes.
Stellingmolen De Vlinder in Enspijk . Photo © Holland-Cycling.com
Holland is famous for its windmills. No wonder, as much of the country is flat and open and there is usually plenty of wind. As we can see on old Dutch paintings, windmills dominated the Dutch skyline for centuries. At its peak there were an estimated nine thousand windmills in Holland!
Corn mills towered over the villages and cities in order to feed the nation. Polder mills were scattered around the countryside to pump away excess water to keep the polders dry and to reclaim land. Sometimes they were used on a very large scale: it took 52 polder mills 4 whole years to pump all the water out of the Schermer Lake to turn it into a polder!
Windmills were Holland’s earliest form of industrialisation. In the 18th century there were as many as 583 windmills in the Zaan region alone: saw mills, oil mills, paint mills and paper mills. The introduction of the steam engine and later the electric powered motor made the windmill obsolete. Today there are only 1,200 windmills left. These are all listed buildings and, if possible, they have been lovingly restored back to working order.
Types of windmill
Windmills are not only used for many different purposes, they also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be round, six-sided or eight-sided, made of wood or stone, have a balcony or not. Some types you will see all over Holland, others only in certain regions. The Dutch have names for each type of windmill.
To help you see the difference, we have put together a photo gallery with some typical Dutch windmill types (see below). Most of the windmills in the gallery are included in one of our Day trips. You will find a link to the route in the caption.
Top windmill cycle routes
Here's an overview of our top windmill cycle routes, day trips that focus on the Dutch windmill. Many of our other cycle routes will also take you past one or more windmills. Take a look at our Day trips section to find a cycle route in the area you're visiting.
Kinderdijk Cycle Route
Zaanse Schans Cycle Route
Leiden Lakes Cycle Route
Alkmaar Cycle Route
Amsterdam Amstel Cycle Route
Click on one of the photos to start the slide show.
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