Millions of visitors head to Gouda to taste the Holland cheese. That’s a shame, because in Leiden area you can find some real tasty farmer cheeses. Today we cycle the Leiden cheese and dairy route. It takes us to a family farm where they make cheese from cow ánd goat. In the Netherlands this is quite unique.
Where to rent a kids bike in Leiden?
The bike ride starts at Leiden Centraal train station where you can rent an OV- fiets, a regular bike or electric bike. Do you have small children? Unfortunately they do not rent out kids bikes or child seats at the train station. The nearest bike rental shop which rents out children’s bicycles is 3.5km away. I usually ask them to deliver them to the train station or ask my participants to come to the cycle rental shop.
Leiden water & the Roman canal
Leiden has 28km of water ways. For me, one of the most impressive canals is the Rijn-Schiekanaal, which starts in Rotterdam and leads all the way to Leiden. Some say Roman general Corbulo dug a canal at exactly the same place in the 1st century AC.
Polder & café
Cycle towards this canal and cross it. You should now be in front of the Park Cronesteyn. This is a beautiful polder park, meaning it’s a piece of reclaimed land. The Leiden municipality has created different zones in which you can see the different essential elements of the park: water, marsh land and forest. Many walking- and cycling paths run through the park and you’ll see that they’ll all lead to my favorite bio local café in Leiden area: De Tuin van de Smid, a polderoasis.
After you’ve eaten the delicious home made apple pie, it’s hard to get back on the bicycle. Do try, because there’s so much more too see (and taste).
From dairy farm to church
Cross the big bridge over the A4 and head towards Zoeterwoude Dorp. From here you’ll spot the Leiden cheese and dairy farms. You could now follow the Noordbuurtse & Zuidbuurtseweg. It’s more fun though to take one of the cycle paths that run through the polders. You’ll cycle past small canals, between meadows full of grazing cows, horses and sheep. In the past, these paths were created for farmers to quickly get to church. They are also referred to as ‘kerkpaden’ (church paths).
One of these very small and challenging paths leads to a windmill. You’ll have a view on the Heineken brewery as well. You’re now in Weipoort. Weipoort is Leiden cheese heaven.
Butter and Leiden cheese
When Gouda made name as Cheese City, Leiden was known for the production of butter. Of the skimmed milk that was left after making butter, they made cheese. This is why the original Leiden cheese does not contain as much fat as Gouda cheese, but is a much lighter cheese ( 20+ fatt)
The taste of Leiden cheese is also much more subtle, which is why Leiden cheese farmers add herbs to create a richer taste.
Local Leiden cheese and dairy farm shops
On the Weipoortseweg you’ll find several Leiden cheese farmers. Most of them have started making full fat Gouda cheeses and in their local cheese shops sell both Leiden as well as Gouda cheese. At most of the farms you can also buy other dairy products and local products such as eggs or juices.
The Leiden family- run farm
Our last stop of today is located near the Zoetermeer lake Noord Aa. This is a complete family friendly farm where you can pet and feed goats, pigs, cows and other farm animal. They do guided tours and cheese making workshops as well. A great stop to have lunch or swap the bicycle for a canoe.
To get back to Leiden, either take the Zuidbuurtseweg or go a bit more west and find the Rijn Schiekanaal.
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