When you think of a trip to The Netherlands your first idea might be to visit Amsterdam. It is well known all over the world and for sure a desirable travel destination as are the other bigger cities; but there is so much more to discover in this tiny but o so beautiful low country. As it is our native country we are of course slightly prejudiced, but you must really believe us.
Just a two-hour drive from the somewhat over populated ‘Randstad’, roughly the area between Amsterdam – Utrecht and Rotterdam, you will find a lovely district called Twente. Although Twente is a quite urbanized part (but nothing compared to the big cities in the Western part), it is renowned for its scenic countryside. This is sometimes characterized as a ‘bocage’ landscape, attracting many tourists from other parts of the country, with a modest collection of popular sights. Since Twente's economy is reliant on agriculture, this leaves its marks on the landscape, with lots of meadows and pastures, alternating with undergrowth, scrubs and copse. There are several fens, marshes and peat bogs, which long made Twente less accessible for the rest of the Netherlands, and which formed some natural defense.
In the beautiful region of Twente we are staying at the 13-hectare Holtweijde estate. Landgoed De Holtweijde is, we have to say, a real treat. To start with our drive into this rural area totally calms us down. Suddenly we notice the hotel almost hidden in it surroundings. From a distant it resembles an historic farm with a beautiful wooden roof structure. It brilliantly blends in the décor of slightly rolling fields and patches of low growing trees and bushes.
As we finally pull up at the hotel the girls are delighted to see a vast collection of all kind of bikes near the entrance: “Can we go on a bike tour?”. “O, no we first want to go to the pool!”. “Look there: a trampoline!”. So, there we have it: the paradox of choice. Fortunately, we have two full days at the Holtweijde, so we should be able to fit this all in our itinerary. Accommodation wise we have a real scope as we are one of the first guests to enjoy the totally refurbished country houses. Built in keeping with the Saxon style they are dotted together in a small park at a short distance of the main building. Each cottage has a living room with a fireplace, kitchenette, two bedrooms with private bathroom and a royal terrace with a private garden, all on the ground floor. We love the new décor with its subdued color schema, matching wall paper and nature images. And finally, all the small but very attentive details: the handwritten welcome card, detailed maps of the surrounding area, coloring books for the girls and, yummy: artisan chocolates!
As we nestle ourselves on the terrace with a freshly brewed coffee to savor the sweet delicatessen, the kids are off to the small playground. Although the weather here is mostly a kind of a mixed bag in spring we now enjoy a warm sun with a very light breeze. Great timing since just across the main building we find three pitch & putting greens, complete with bunkers. Golf clubs are available at the reception. Why not challenge your family for a hole in one? If you still got some energy left there are also two all-weather tennis courts waiting. You will return from this holiday as a sport pro.
For the culinary buff we highly recommend the Holtweijde restaurant. It starts with the setting in a large open dining room with old oak beams in sight, comfortable chairs and modern art on the walls. But although impressive, the real deal you are here for, is the food. For example what about a veal rump steak with smoked marrow, almonds, leeks, Twente shiitakes and Twente ‘Kuiernat’ (vanilla-flavored liquor)? Or would you rather go for the sampling of lamb accompanied by lavas, preserved lemon, courgette, candied potato and green asparagus. The food is of excellent quality and although the atmosphere in the restaurant is a little formal, it is still a place to bring the kids. Assuming they are somewhat well behaved as this is not the place to run around and stand on your chair. If the younger ones need to blow of steam the playground is just past the glassed patio surrounding the restaurant.
After our meals everyone is exhausted from our first day, not only because of the activities but also by all the positive impressions the Holtweijde enlaced on us. For example, the delightful owners couple Marcel and Marlies Vlek – Wijnbergen who welcome us with open arms and both spend some time with us during our stay chatting about their ambitions and vision for the hotel. Again, we realize the strength of a real family owned business. Experiencing the distinctive touch and genuine hospitality with all the staff, from the reception, the cheerful ladies in the breakfast room to the housekeeping: it brings a big smile on our face.
Although we really like the renovated cottage, there is also a whole array of beautiful suites at the Holtweijde. The double suite for example features a spacious sleeping and sitting area, where as the junior suite adds a private sun terrace, more space and extras like a Nespresso coffee machine. If you need even more space, you could book the also partly refurbished and redecorated 18 royal suites or Scottish royal suites. Some of the suites are still in a more classic country style although most of them are brought to the new level step by step.
As we stay at our very comfortable and cosy cottage, and sit around the fireplace, we did not really stay at the lobby/billiard area. But in fact that is somewhat of a pity as it is a wonderful place to just relax in one of the huge sofas and pick up one of the coffee table books that lay around. A nice detail again: a stack of kid’s books and games to play for them.
But before they have the time and peace to sit down, the girls need to blow of some steam in the impressive 20-meter indoor pool. Hailed as one of the most beautiful hotel swimming pools in the Netherlands and we completely agree. It is not only huge but also boast floor to ceiling windows that open to a small terrace where, if the weather permits, you can indulge in some sunbathing. Furthermore, The Holtweijde offers saunas and at the Health & Wellness Centre professional staff is on standby to pamper you.
So you could easily spend a couple of days lingering in and around the hotel but there's more. For instance the history of Twente. Named after the Tuihanti or Tvihanti, a Germanic tribe that settled there more than 2000 years ago and was mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus. The region's borders are defined by the Overijssel region of Salland in the northwest and west, the German County of Bentheim in the northeast and east and the Gelderland region of the Achterhoek in the south.
There are also numerous activities in this region. One thing we really recommend is a visit to the picturesque town of Ootmarsum. This very old smattering of historic buildings received city rights in 1325. The town was then converted into a fortress with ditches and earthworks. In the 16th century Ootmarsum was occupied by the Spanish during the Eighty Years War but in 1597 it was captured by Maurice, Prince of Orange. A cannonball from the siege can be seen today still embedded in the church. Now it is a bit of a tourist magnet which, besides of the beautiful traditional buildings, has to do with the high concentration of renowned artist. Most have a gallery so be prepared and bring your wallet.
And don’t forget to visit the Cosmos observatory in Lattrop during your stay. It’s small and mainly run by volunteers, but the tour to the dome with the telescope gives you some nice views of the sky and points out some constellations. Just across the border you will find the Tiergarten Nordhorn in Germany, a versatile zoo with lots of various kinds of mammals, some of which you might not have seen before at zoos. Keep an eye out for the fun feeding sessions which are accompanied by explanations about the animals.
But an absolute highlight to go for, is a visit to the Avatarz Nature Park. An outdoor challenge for the young ones, as well as the adults without fear of heights! You can climb through nature from treetop to treetop with rope, rope bridges and everything in the most save way, after thorough instructions from the friendly personnel.
This weekend we are happy our enthusiastic niece Lot is joining us. And speaking of nature: her parents own the highly recommendable, eco-friendly fruit garden and -shop ‘Fruittuin van West’ near Amsterdam. So, you'll probably visit this city anyway :-)
# Landgoed De Holtweijde is a real family hotel; the owners are almost always around and candid in the way to relate with the guests. You feel absolutely at home.
# The region of Twente is one of the most remarkable areas in the Netherlands. Just imagine waking up with the most wonderful view over meadows with grazing cows accompanied by a soundtrack of scores of birds.
# Although everything at the hotel is of high standard, it is not stuffy or pretentious. Kids are more than welcome, and they do not blink an eye on some kids running around or muddy shoes. Just have them tune down a little in the restaurant.