Tourism Ireland

Trazee In-Depth: History-Inspired Cycling Tours

by Angelique Platas

Dec 30, 2018

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Trends / Sports

Any excuse to visit European destinations filled with history and cultural significance should be reason enough to plan a trip. With the wide range of activities available along guided tours, it’s always fun finding new and interesting ways to mix up the vacation and explore like a curious local.

 

Whether an active traveler looking for any excuse to get outside or a history buff seeking immersive experience to enjoy at your own pace, Freewheel Holiday Tours has a few options for you. Having the freedom to explore on your own, but with added guidance of a tour, can elevate your vacation level. You may know Freewheel as a division of Sports Tours International, but the self-guided tour company is a fun blend of leisure time, sightseeing and expert-level guidance and information.

 

Follow the leader and pedal on your own enjoying whatever surrounding you choose. If that’s not quite enough, maybe the moss-covered bunkers, centuries-old villages and scenic stops along the tour might do the trick.

 

While known as The Great War, World War I history is often forgotten in comparison to WWII and more recent battles. The new summer tour by Freewheel Holidays is basically a cycle down memory lane and showcases all that exists now and what was 1914–1918.

 

The new tour is available for booking, Western-Flanders to Bruges, the Coast and Flanders Fields, and extends eight days. Cycle through western Flanders and explore the territory known as the Bruges–Panne–Ypres triangle.

 

The focal point of the whole tour, once known as the Western Front, is along the ride in the excursion dedicated to shining a light on the lesser-known history of WWI battlegrounds, memorials and more — with a breathtaking mix of natural beauty, incredible landscape and authentic culture experiences.

 

Discover the preserved and whimsical setting of Bruges. Riders pedal pass picturesque lakes, cobblestone streets and a medieval village. Almost completely destroyed during WWI, Bruges was restored to a complete replica of its 13th-century self. Known for hand-woven fabrics and textiles, the region remains a quaint town loaded with history.

 

Neighboring town Ypres may impress even the greatest culture junkies in your group, with Lakenhalle, also known as Cloth Hall, remaining from the 1300s. The town never forgot the devastation of WWI, as buglers play every night to honor the unidentified fallen soldiers.

 

Another town along the way, Veurne boasts a town square and local market, considered one of the finest in Belgium. Ride along uncrowded streets, easy paths and through nature reserves complete with wetlands, wildflower fields and lush meadows.

 

Now, if you’re thinking this sounds like a lot of riding, it’s about 29–30 miles a day. While that might sound like a lot to novice riders, don’t worry, there are ample breaks and most rides are at a scenic and leisurely pace.

 

Pass through the heavily wooded area of Houtland, filled with impossibly beautiful estates and castles. Picture resort farm towns and incredible architecture from days of yore.

 

Menen is another town you will ride through to visit museums and historic cemeteries. Take in a day of cycling between hearty meals and interesting information about the locals.

 

The last full day of riding brings guests through Lijssenthoek, known to house large British field hospitals in 1915 and with a high success rate for survival — nearly 97 percent of the wounded passing through these hospitals survived.

 

Leaving Lijssenthoek and passing through to the Gothic-style churches and architecture of Poperinge, guests can indulge in an obligatory Belgium beer brewed by local monks. Check out the local digs along the way and learn more about the beer from the makers themselves.

Read more about all the tour entails before booking. Freewheel excursions include not only the experience as a whole, but also hotel stays, breakfast, rental bikes, luggage transfers, tax and expert-level guidance. Tours begin in the summer of 2019 and begin at $898 per rider.

 

The tour, beginning to end, is actually designed to be a leisure experience for tourists. Freewheel designs the tours to have guests simply sign up, show up and enjoy the experience. While it’s technically eight days of on and off rides, it’s a fun experience — and never boring.

 

Participants learn all about local history from an inside perspective. The ability to take in the full scope of the damage and recovery of some of these locales is a really unique experience. While a historic endeavor and educational, for sure, riders will pass the coast, deep woods, quaint villages, flower-filled fields and picturesque wildlife along the way.

 

While there are ample museums to visit and books to read, there is something special about hopping on a bike and exploring the destinations firsthand.

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