New Dutch Waterline
The forts of the New Dutch Water Line pop up in the landscape where you least expect them. Discover the Netherlands biggest secret!
Together with embankments, locks, canals and bunkers, they form an ingenious system designed to protect the country from enemy troops during wartime. Though it’s the largest defence system in the Netherlands, it’s hidden in the landscape – which explains why the New Dutch Water Line has also been called the Netherlands’ biggest secret. It’s there, if only you know where to look!
The New Dutch Water Line is a series of defences stretching across 85 km. Varying from 3 to 5 km in width, it runs from Muiden to the Biesbosch National Park. Along the whole line are 45 forts, 6 fortresses, 2 castles, 85 artillery casemates, more than 700 concrete shelters and casemates and more than 100 military locks and waterworks.
The New Dutch Waterline has been given a new, peaceful function. Nowadays it is a beautiful green and open area with exciting buildings and a variety of possibilities for recreation. There are many special activities for visitors in the forts, as well as in the fortified towns and castles. Here, history comes to life.
Water as an ally
The Netherlands is renowned for its centuries-old struggle against the water. Less known is that water has also been a vital ally. Between 1815 and 1940, the Water Line made it impossible for enemies to cross into the western Netherlands. That’s because in times of war the land could be inundated to create a barrier blocking enemies from the east. A 50 cm layer of water was enough to make it too deep for soldiers, horses and vehicles to get through, yet too shallow for boats.
Water Line route
The Water Line route is a bike trail that takes you from the town of Abcoude, just south of Amsterdam, to Gorinchem, passing through a distinctive military landscape with some impressive forts. With its wealth of forts, locks, dykes, canals, bunkers, idyllic vistas and gastronomic restaurants, the beautiful, lush countryside is perfect for a multi-day cycling holiday. Just follow the numbered cycle junctions and you won’t miss a thing. You can choose between a day-trip or take several days to cycle the entire 373 km route. Bike-vlogger Jessica cycled the whole route from Abcoude to Gorinchem and made a video about it. Check it out below!