stage 3: West Frisia
River IJ river (NL) to River Vlie (NL)
Length: 385 km (240 miles) in 13 sections
Terrain: mostly flat except section 3.8
Region: West Frisia
From the River IJ (also River Oer-IJ) to the area called Wieringen, for centuries an island, where once the River Vlie separated West Frisia (present-day provinces North Holland, South Holland, Zeeland and part of province Utrecht) from Mid- or Central Frisia (present-day province Friesland).
section 3.1: Island Marken – Den Ilp
section 3.2: Den Ilp – Wormerveer
section 3.3: Wormerveer – Spaarnwoude
section 3.4: Spaarnwoude – Haarlem
section 3.5: Haarlem – Velsen Zuid
section 3.6: Velsen Noord – Egmond Binnen
section 3.7: Egmond Binnen – Schoorl aan Zee
section 3.8: Schoorl aan Zee – Schagen
section 3.9: Schagen – Medemblik
section 3.10: Medemblik – Wieringerwerf
section 3.11: Wieringerwerf – Westerland
section 3.12: Westerland – Den Oever
section 3.13: Den Oever – Kop Afsluitdijk
According to the early-medieval law code the Lex Frisionum ‘Law of the Frisians’ this area belonged to the sub-region West Frisia, the area ‘inter Fli et Sincfalam’ (between River Vie and inlet the Zwin).
After stage 2 you return at the North Sea coast, and hike along one of Europe’s broadest and longest beaches. Behind these superb beaches is the typical dune landscape. It is the former pagus 'district' of Kinnin or today’s name Kennemerland. This includes Nature Park De Schoorlse Duinen, the broadest dune-area in the Netherlands, and with 55 metres the highest point of the Frisia Coast Trail too. So, come prepared for high altitude.
From the coast you hike east into the region Westfriesland, enclosed by its Omringdijk. A circular dike enclosing the whole region, a dike of nearly a 1,000 years old. The dam indicates a change of landscape, from the sandy beaches and dunes of the North Sea coast into former wet peat areas. During the early Middle Ages and before, this impenetrable landscape made up a third of current Netherlands.
From Westfriesland you turn north, toward the former island of Wiron, or Wieringen as it is called today. During the Viking Age this might have been a stronghold of Vikings (or native occupational Frisian Vikings), indicated by no less than three hoards that have been found here. Or, were it Frisians behaving like Vikings? Also, watch out for the Necker (Nykr, in Old-Norwegian). A grey water spirit that lures people with his harp play to the depths of the sea.
From the eastern point of this former island you cross the 31 km of water along the Afsluitdijk 'Enclosure Dam', splitting a sea into two, almost like Moses and the Red Sea.
At the River IJ the Roman Empire suffered serious defeats against the Frisians at Bahundenna woods, and their castellum ‘castle’ Flevum at the present-day town Velsen was destroyed. When crossing the River IJ to the north, you enter what was in Roman times called the territory of the Frisii ‘Frisians’ more or less modern provinces Noord Holland and Friesland.
Region Kennemerland, especially the area around Egmond aan Zee, Heiloo and Castricum is found to be a Central-Place-Complex, similar as can be found in southern Scandinavia. This indicates an elite powerbase during the Early Middle Ages. The old name of Egmond was Hallem, not be confused with the village Hallum in province Friesland. This name suggest the former presence of a hall, as we know from the Old-English epic Beowulf. It has been suggested that the Viking dukes ruling on behalf of the Frankish kings over West Frisia had their seat in this region. Of course, the Abbey Adalbert in Egmond-Binnen is the oldest in the Netherlands, and was important for the counts of West Frisia, who later renamed themselves counts of Holland. Read our blog post The Abbey of Egmond and the Rise of the Gerulfings.
The area of Kennemerland around Heiloo and Egmond-Binnen is also loaded with religious history, and also a stronghold of Catholics surrounded by Protestants. Different (former) monasteries where you can stay (recommended!), several chapels you can visit, and three miracle wells close together. Check the aforementioned blog post about the Abbey of Egmond.
During the High Middle Ages region Westfriesland was the first of the Seven Sealands. But the free republic Westfriesland had to admit its defeat after two centuries of battle against the counts of West Frisia (later to become the counts of Holland, as said). Read more about the history of Westfriesland in our blog post. For long the western part of the Netherlands was named Holland and Westfriesland. To this day, Westfrisians consider themselves a specific region with its own separate speech derived from Old-Frisian and Dutch.
Recommended posts for this stage
For a visual impression of this stage, click here.