Over 5,000 acres full of woodlands, grasslands, lakes, a museum and enough cycles to take you wherever you want to go: The Hoge Veluwe in The Netherlands makes an ideal getaway…

What do you do when you're in a remarkably stunning location, surrounded by scenery so dramatic that it would easily make poets and painters out of the common man? I don't know about you — perhaps you would whip out your PDA and quickly compose an ode — but I generally find a nice, stout rock, sit down and sob. Beauty, you see, moves me immensely. Usually, it's just very, very embarrassing, particularly for the people I'm with; but on three separate occasions — all of them at the Hoge Veluwe, Netherlands' magnificent National Park — it cost me quite dearly.

The Hoge Veluwe (very tricky to pronounce, plus the Dutch laugh anyway), bang in the middle of the tiny country, is — as a good majority of the locals insist — its loveliest bit. Acres and acres of woodlands, picture-perfect lakes, a world-class museum, lots of lovely grassland, and, as if that weren't enough, the largest drifting sands in all of Europe make-up the 5,500 hectare Park. And this being Holland, it's got (naturally!) heaps of bicycles.

Except, you don't just ride any old thing here — the Veluwe is famous for its 1,700 witte fietsen (white bicycles), up for grabs free of cost, all around the park. Apparently, a professional cyclist, Jack van der Slikke, was involved in designing these recreational bicycles, and the simple, sturdy design is brilliant, except for one titchy problem — all of them are fitted with leg brakes. And that, trust me, is vastly annoying, especially if you're: (1) rubbish at riding cycles with leg-brakes; (2) blinded by tears whenever it gets overwhelmingly beautiful (which at the Veluwe is just about always).

A thing of beauty…

Given its diverse landscapes, colours and textures, the Veluwe is fascinating any time of the year. We timed our first visit to catch the riotous autumn foliage fade into an ascetically stark winter, in a marvellous flurry of leaves. The next time, we were lucky to witness early spring flowers and lusty bird-songs announcing the end of a raw, nasty winter; and our last visit coincided with the soft-spring colours blossoming into a gloriously lush summer.

Arriving at the park nice and early, we would grab a cycle each, and spend the whole day on the saddle. At least, that's what the others did. I would get terribly distracted by the sunlight dancing on the coppery-gold forest floor; I would pause to sniff the pungent, gaudily coloured mushrooms and the gloriously scented heaths; and my eyes would well-up at the sight of the gorgeous lake, its still waters reflecting the handsome Hunting Lodge. For weeks afterwards, the family would teasingly recall how I was behind them one minute, furiously pedalling away, and the next, they would find me by the tracks, a loudly moaning humty-dumpty, startling wildlife for miles around…

Surreal landscape

Given my penchant for tumbling down, I was, not surprisingly, strictly forbidden from carrying the camera… and I still regret not clicking a picture of that inexplicably twisted tree, patiently sculpted over the years by howling winds, a lone, misshapen monument in the middle of that great, sandy desert. Or for that matter, that narrow, winding cycle-path in the woods, where the tall, leafy branches came together to form an orange-brown dome, the showy autumn colours sharply contrasting the spongy moss-green ground. Could you really blame the husband for asking, in an awe-stricken whisper, ‘pinch me somebody, or am I in a dream-land?'

It did feel like a dream, a dream originally conceived by Helene Müller and Anton Kröller, who, before their death in the late 1930s, bequeathed the land — all 5,000+ hectares, and the museum with its priceless Van Gogh collection — to the country. Thanks to their magnanimity, visitors now enjoy the rare masterpieces in surreal surroundings and if lucky, catch a glimpse or two of the park's red deer and wild boar. But we never saw them…I suppose it's fair to assume that they run far away from cyclists who fall over noisily and cry because it's so incredibly beautiful…

Fact-file

Just over an hour's drive from Amsterdam, the Veluwe — with its exceptionally lovely walking and cycling paths — is also well-connected by public transport (take a train to Apeldoorn, hop on to bus 108 to Hoenderloo, switch to bus 106, which takes you to the park).

The park is open round the year. The entry price (adults € 7.50, children € 3.75) includes a visit to the museum at the visitor's centre. (For details, please refer www.hogeveluwe.nl)