The Frisia Coast Trail is a long-distance path that, as the name gives away, follows the coastline of former Frisia and the Frisian lands. It explores the places the Frisians roamed and exploited according to the old sources. The trail does things different. To start with, it goes from Z to A. From inlet the Zwin (Sincfala) in Flanders, Belgium to the River Å, near the town of Ribe in Denmark. Total length of the trail is about 2,300 kilometres, about 1,400 miles. When the trails crosses the border between Germany and the Netherlands, you are more or less halfway. The trail is modulated to an average walker, so each day generally is on average about between 20-25 kilometres. Reckon if you are a thru-hiker about 100 days of walking.
Many surviving toponyms, from the west in the Netherlands to the northwest of Germany still remind the hiker of this: regio Westfriesland in province Noord Holland (NL), Provincie Fryslân (NL), Region Ostfriesland (DE), Landkreis Friesland (DE), and Kreis Nordfriesland (DE). With these toponyms most the Frisia Coast Trail is already covered.
Except for dunes, terps and dikes, the terrain is painstakingly flat. So, no climbing or rock scrambling during the trail. That sounds easy, but actually it is not. Every hiker knows a flat surface for long is taxing on (certain) muscles. There is a Friezenberg in the Netherlands part of a nature conservation area, which translates as ‘Frisians mountain’. However, this mountain is located off track in the region Twenthe in the Netherlands, and only still 40 metres high. Of course, part of Frisia is the isolated, red-rock island Heligoland, or Deät Lun ‘The Land’ in Halunder speech (a variant of Frisian) far out at the North Sea. Here you can climb the rocks up to 61 metres high. It is not on the trail, but you can make this sidetrip.
The roots of the people living along the Frisia Coast Trail is what scholars call une civilisation de l’eau. A water people with their own culture and history, different from cultures on the mainland. The Marsh Arabs of Europe. The coastline is essentially a delta. The Nile Delta but in a more humid climate. Yes, Frisia is a delta. Where sweet meets salt. Of rivers, creeks, dunes, islands, inlets, bays, sandbanks, dunes, barrier beaches, (former) peat lands, (former) woods and tidal marshlands. The delta is so huge that it drains a large part of the European continent, and it therefore spans several countries. When you rotate the map of Europe 45 degrees clockwise -top pointing northwest- you will see Frisia is but a big pimple on the southern fringes of the North Sea.
This itinerary of the Frisia Coast Trail is, in fact, not the first. Credits for the first itineary goes to a Welshman of Flemish descent, Wizo Flandrenis. Wizo fitz Walter, son of Walter, was born in Wiston Castle, Pembrokeshire around the year 1135. He hiked through Frisia in 1157. The reason for his travel was to return the relics of Saint Odolphus to the monastery of Stavoren in the southwest of province Friesland. In 830, Saint Odolphus founded a church at Stavoren. The relics were sold on the market by a Viking in London in 1034. The Vikings, however, declared the relics were sold to them by the monks of Stavoren themselves. Anyway, Wizo reported his travels in the Itinerarium Fresiae.
More recently (2020), the concept of travel through the cultural landscape of historic Frisia is picked up by local politician Siegmar Wallat (Bredstedt, Nordfriesland) who wants to create an Europäische Straße der Friesen ‘European way of the Frisians’ and challegend his students of the Fachhochschule Heide to make a business case. With his book De Friezen. Een geschiedenis ‘The Frisians. A history’ writer Van Doorn (IJlst, Friesland) describes the history of Frisia in the form of eleven journeys he made through the landscape (2021).
The trail requires constant maintenance. Through time the landscape was exeptional volatile because of the interaction of sea, rivers and humans. A process of continuously finding a new or better balance. Even since we started developing this trail, adjustment had to be made at the Estuary the Zwin region where the International Dike was demolished and the sea was give much more space again. Furthermore, the tidal marshlands of Noarderleech have been reshaped after building a new pumping station at the village of Hallum. In Nordfriesland, terps on the Hallig-islands are being hightened, because of the rising sea level. Currently the thirty-kilometers-long Afsluitdijk ‘enclosure dam’ is under construction and a brand new river will be created. And, of course, we are awaiting the opening of the sea dike at the village of Holwerd. And so forth, and so forth.
Lastly, when designing the trail, we made use of the trailblazers before us. Like the European Coastal Path (E9), Zuiderzeepad, Groot-Frieslandpad, Floris V-pad, Noord-Hollandpad, St. Odulphuspad, Waterliniepad, Pronkjewailpad, Kromme Rijnpad, Jabikspaad, Trekvogelpad, Romeinse Limespad, Klompepaden, and many many more.
Maps and Charts
Above the best map we have traced covering the former lands of Frisia or of Frisians in the ninth century, and more or less the basis for the Frisia Coast Trail.
The first nautical charts in northern Europe were created in the region of (former) Frisia. This because navigation in the tidal water was particular dangerous. The first charts were quite simple representations but with the large-format atlas Spieghel van de Zeevaerdt by the Westfrisian (born in Enkhuizen) Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer, published in AD 1584-1585, cartography made a huge step forward. For the first time the coast of Frisia was properly mapped (and the rest of the world too).
Below Waghenaer’s nautical charts starting in the south at Flanders, Belgium following the coast to southern Jutland, Denmark; the Frisia Coast Trail as it were:
chart 1 – province Zeeland (left) and county Flanders (right)
chart 1 - from county Flanders (right) to the River Ems (left)
chart 3 - region Noord Holland w. region Westfriesland (right) and (part of) province Friesland (left)
chart 3 - region Groningen (right) and region Ostfriesland (left)
chart 5 - German Bight with (fRtL) regions Ostfriesland, Land Wursten, Butjadingen, Land Hadeln, Dithmarschen and Nordfriesland
chart 6 - region Nordfriesland (right) and region southern Jutland (left)
If the charts above are too unpractical for you to hike the Frisia Coast Trail, we have provided for an up-to-date Google Map with the trail. All different stages and sections separately available, including walking distance. Also, we have added different layers to the map, namely:
Points of (historic) interest
Parks & Conservation areas
Shelter & Sleeping
“History makes borders, the rest is geography” (Devoldere 2022). Following the very nature of the coast, we decided to split the hike by the rivers that subdivide the delta, and historically subdivided the different regions of Frisia. In total there are 9 stages to cover. In the drop down menu ‘The Trail’ you will find a description of each stage, including a link with a first, visual impression of the stage.
Navigate on the map above or open this link.
Here we go!