There will be few children from the northern provinces of the Netherlands who have never been there on a school trip: Appelscha. The name has an almost magical sound for many people from the North. The special appeal is expressed, for example, in the name ’Kobus goes to Appelscha’ (a successful punk band from the 1980s) and the ’Greetings from Appelscha’ program by Omrop Fryslân.
Appelscha and its surroundings have been a tourist attraction since the 1920s. And that is not surprising: the border area between Friesland and Drenthe is of unparalleled beauty here. Arable land, pasture, forest, heath and sand drifts alternate and form the picturesque backdrop for numerous cycling, walking and riding routes. In 2007 the conclusion of a scientific study in which thousands of people put together their favorite landscape and scientists searched the locations for it, was that Appelscha has the most beautiful landscape in the Netherlands.
The area includes one of the largest nature reserves in the Netherlands, the Drents-Friese Wold National Park: more than 6,000 hectares of forest, heathland, drifting sand and brook valley grasslands. The park is intersected by various walking, cycling, mountain biking, riding and driving routes and has a number of specific facilities and attractions for families with children. Lake Canada is suitable for swimming. There is a visitor center in Appelscha and an information center in Diever.
But there is more to enjoy when it comes to nature and landscape. Take Fochteloërveen, for example: one of the last remnants of ’living’ high peat in the Netherlands. The peat layer is still growing in this 2500-hectare area. Due to the lack of buildings and roads in the wider area, there is still real peace and quiet here. These unique circumstances lead to very special and rich flora and fauna. The crane, which places very high demands on its habitat, is perhaps the most striking example of this.
A smaller but just as interesting nature reserve is the Schaopedobbe near Elsloo, a heathland of 98 hectares with peat bogs, sand drift and groups of trees.
The area is also more than worth it from a cultural-historical point of view. The peat mining history can still be clearly seen in the landscape. The peat was excavated systematically from the higher areas. A very regular landscape with perfectly straight ’neighborhoods’ emerged: ditches along which the peat was transported in small boats to the larger canals such as the Opsterlandse Compagnonsvaart and the Hoofdvaart in Drenthe. Both are part of the so-called (large) Turfroute, a 230-kilometer sailing route through Friesland, Drenthe and Overijssel.
It is clear: this area really has everything to offer for an unforgettable stay. Nowhere is the cliché ’something for everyone’ more appropriate than here: nature, tranquility, cultural history, attractions, water sports, cycling, walking, horse riding ...
The region literally offers too much to mention. A final ’highlight’ that should not, however, remain unmentioned is the unique prison village of Veenhuizen, directly north of the Fochteloërveen. The prison museum not only brings the history of the forced labor colony to life but also offers a glimpse of contemporary prison life. It is not for nothing that the Gevagenismuseum was named the "Best historical museum in the Netherlands" in 2007.