Previously on my blog, I featured the Achel Abbey in a Beer & Bike: Achel post where I highlighted the beautiful countryside between the Belgian village of Neerpelt and the abbey which sits on the border with the Netherlands. As the COVID restrictions ease up all around Europe, I decided to loosen up a bit by venturing the furthest away from home that I have been since February (My trip to Bruges for the Brugse Bier Festival as a matter of fact). The Achel Abbey is about a 60-75 minute drive from Antwerpen.
As far as beer brewing, the Achel brewery produces the second lowest amount of Trappist beer in Belgium next to Westvleteren. However, out of all the Trappist breweries in Belgium, Achel has the nicest outdoor cafe, which is situated within the abbey complex. There is also a beer bottle shop on the premises where you can buy many different kinds of beer. Alas, neither were open at the moment of my visit due to the crisis. Achel makes two varieties of beer, a blond and a brown. The Achel blond is a strong blond in the vein of Omer but with a bit more of a wild, cellared taste to it. It is one of my favorite Trappists.
Just across the border from Achel in the Netherlands is a 4000-acre natural reserve called the Leenderbos. The Leenderbos is a mixture of open heathland with forests containing mainly Scotch Pines and Douglas Firs. I have mentioned a few times in recent posts about my love for the scent of pine. This forest permeates with it. Trails meander in seemingly every direction. Some have a paved path for bicycles, while others are more geared to hiking, mountain biking, or horse riding. On the route I created, I tried as much as possible to stay away from the paved sections as those are swarming with cyclists on a sunny day, but for convenience they are sometimes necessary.
Speaking of a sunny day, the paths are wide and the conifer trees neither broad enough nor spaced close enough together to offer any kind of consistent shade on the trails. Please take care for sun protection.
- Starting Point: Achel Abbey Parking Lot
- Ending Point: Roundtrip
- Distance: 16.6 km
- My moving time: 3 hrs 13 mins
- Eating Place: Achel Abbey (may not be open during COVID crisis)
- Komoot Link: Achelse Kluis Loop
After three and a half hours of both pure bliss and blistering sun, I welcomed the shade of the gardens in front of the abbey as I guzzled down the remnants of my final water bottle. I couldn’t help but contemplate how the landscape of the Leenderbos was completely unexpected as I shaked the sand from my hiking sneakers. Flat but rugged and unforgiving on a sun-drenched day yet so accessible that grandmothers on electric bikes were zipping thru parts of it like the shortcut to the supermarket. The Netherlands really has some remarkable and unique scenery, and for beer pilgrims, this makes a great hike to build up a thirst for some Achel beer. For the moment, unfortunately, that means pulling one from the fridge when you get home.