In 2018 a new cycle route has been launched: the Roman Limes Route (Romeinse Limesroute). This 220 km-route takes your along the Dutch section of the 'Limes' - the northern border of the Roman Empire - from the North Sea at Katwijk to the German border at Millingen, ending in Nijmegen. This route is not to be confused with the Limes Route, an international cycle route from the North Sea in Holland to the Black Sea in Romania.
Signpost for the new Roman Limes Route. Photo © Holland-Cycling.com
The northern border of the Roman Empire followed the rivers Rhine and Danube, we learnt that at school. The Dutch towns of Nijmegen, Wijk bij Duurstede, Utrecht and Katwijk were associated with ancient Roman forts defending the border. But if the name 'Limes' was ever mentioned, it never stuck. No wonder, as all visible traces of the Roman forts, which in Holland were largely made out of wood, have long disappeared above ground.
In recent years, however, new archaeological finds - including several Roman ships - have kindled an interest in Holland's Roman past. The Roman Limes is now considered the largest archaeological monument in the country and much is done to make this invisible history visible again. Replicas have been made of several forts and ships, the ancient border has been marked with posts and new museums have sprung up. In 2021 the Dutch section of the Limes and part of the German section are to be nominated for the UNESO World Heritage List.
To make sure the Limes can be enjoyed by the general public, a number of themed cycle routes and walks have been made along the ancient Roman border. You will find an overview of all the options on the Roman Limes website (only in Dutch). It lists a number of shorter local routes that can be done in one day. And there are longer routes, such as the new Roman Limes Route, which is part of the national long distance network and signposted, and the international Limes Route (not signposted!), which we reviewed in 2014.
Although the new Roman Limes Route and the Dutch section of the international Limes Route both take you from the North Sea at Katwijk to the German border at Millingen, they do not overlap entirely. The reason for this is that the Roman border used to follow the River Rhine as it ran in Roman times. In the flat river delta, the Rhine has changed its course over the centuries. Also there has been some dispute about the exact location of one of the forts near Arnhem.
From Katwijk to Kesteren the differences between the routes are not significant. But from Kesteren the routes each follow their own way. The new Roman Limes Route goes via Arnhem to Millingen to include fort Castra Herculis and then turns back to Nijmegen. The international Limes Route goes directly to Nijmegen (via the location where Castra Herculis was supposed to be according to the famous Roman Peutinger map) and then continues along the river to Millingen and into Germany.
Not all about the Romans
The Roman Limes Routes might have a Roman focus, but, to be honest, little of the Roman past is visible along the route, so it is mainly an excuse to cycle through Holland and enjoy some of its most beautiful scenery and oldest towns in the present day. Imagining what it would have been like two thousand years ago is merely an added bonus to a wonderful cycling experience!