Trains to Calais, Boulogne or Dunkerque from Holland (or Belgium, or Germany)... with a bike?
August 15, 2006 6:41 AM   Subscribe

If I want to get a ferry to Dover, I'm starting from Holland, and I want to travel by bike or train, what route should I take?

What I'd like to do is work out what places offer direct or near-direct trains to one of the 3 main ferry ports (Calais, Boulogne, Dunkerque).

I'll be travelling from Tilburg in Holland, and doing at least part of the route by bike. I've got about 5 days. I could cycle straight there - it's about 150 miles to Dunkerque I think. But it's all along the coast, and that might be a bit dull and windy. I'm actually happy to cycle in completely the wrong direction for 5 days and then catch a train, as long as it's interesting there aren't too many changes. Searching that famous German train site is proving awkward - it keeps wanting to send me via Osnabruck and Paris with 9 changes.
posted by handee to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total)
I've cycled from Bruges to Dover and although Bruges was lovely, the cycling experience nearly killed me. It's a long, flat and boring ride along endless canals into the face of the prevailing wind.

This constant west wind, with no high ground to afford any shelter, is a real obstacle to cycling pleasure in that part of the world. The trick is to be heading the other way.

For train information it seems you'll need to pick your way through the respective national systems:

Belgian Railways
Dutch Railways

The Dutch site will allow you to book through to Lille or Brussels. Whatever route you take you are likely to pass through these cities.

You could do worse than start from there and explore the French/Belgian border, striking out to the lower Ardennes.

Alternatively the countryside immediately around Boulogne (and Boulogne itself to a lesser degree) has some charm, lovely pine beaches around Le Touquet, Montreil is a wonderful hilltop fort. Its possible to get quite lost in the rural backwaters of Pas de Calais and much prettier than the rather suburban flatlands to the north and east.

If I were you though (and silly as this sounds) I would get a train to Koblenz in Germany, then pedal up the Moselle valley at a leisurely pace to pick up a train at Luxembourg and go straight through to Calais. I know this is out of your way - but it's cycling heaven among the vineyards - one of Europe's finest sights.

The problem with Holland and Belgium is frankly that once you've seen the first 1,000 cows/canals/fields/prim suburban bungalows, you've seen them all.
posted by grahamwell at 7:41 AM on August 15, 2006

The Man in Seat Sixty-One is a good resource for all European rail travel. Here's the section on taking bicycles on European trains.
posted by tnai at 8:13 AM on August 15, 2006

More on the Moselle. There's a well established cycle route with its own English guidebook.

The train to Koblenz is 3.5 hours (change at Arnhem and Koln). The train from Luxembourg to Calais is also 3.5 hours, through Brussels and Lille. It's very do-able.
posted by grahamwell at 8:35 AM on August 15, 2006

Here's another site you may find handy.
posted by tellurian at 11:04 PM on August 23, 2006

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