Two villages form the heart of the resort town of Burgh-Haamstede in the headland (‘kop’) of Schouwen island: Haamstede and Burgh. Haamstede was established in the 12th century, it is thought. Haam (aka heem) means ‘home’ and stede is ‘place’. The ancient castle is a tangible reminder of one of the best known residents of Haamstede: Witte van Haamstede, the illegitimate son of Count Floris V.
For its part, Burgh is named after the castle of the Carolingian era in the early Middle Ages, dating back to the end of the ninth century. It was part of the defences against the Norman invasion.
Tourism has been a significant factor in the area since the early 20th century. Before the Second World War, the new ‘Nieuw-Haamstede’ neighbourhood was built in a dune valley, in the main comprising wooden holiday homes. Later, they were replaced by brick houses.
A key connection to the mainland was maintained through the Haamstede airfield. It was used by German occupying forces, when a part of Haamstede was evacuated and the dunes were integrated in the Atlantikwall fortification. Remains are still visible, while the airfield is now used by the local gliding club.
The best-known construction of Haamstede is the 50-metre high Westerlichttoren lighthouse. As you may recall, it featured on the old 250 guilder (NLG) banknote. Built in 1837, it is one of the grandest of Dutch lighthouses and is marked by the upward red-and-white spiral which was painted on in the 1930s.
On the Weststraat in Burgh-Haamstede, one building with character is the De Bewaerschole, built in 1873 as a nursery school. It served that purpose well, for a great many local children,. until 1956. Then, after a varying career, in succession, as a gym, post office, rehearsal room for the local brass band and as a mortuary, it became an exhibition centre (hyperlink) in 1975. Come on in, the exhibitions change regularly.
Another structure with an even richer background is the Slot Haamstede castle. Its keep dates from the 13th century and after a fire in 1525 it was the only part of the castle left standing. The other parts were rebuilt, with today’s exterior being raised in the 18th century. An extensive restoration project was completed in 1973 and in 1981 Slot Haamstede, with its adjacent forest and sprawling dunes, was sold to the Dutch society for the preservation of nature monuments, known as Natuurmonumenten.
The ‘Zeepeduinen’ dunes are open all year round. Going along the walking paths (hyperlink), typically three to five km long, you’ll cross paths with strings of Shetland ponies, see the dune lakes and wonder at the dune flora. High up, the Walvisbunker command post from the Second World War, and scattered around, smaller bunkers which now serve as winter hibernation zones for bats. In the summer, they’re open for excursion groups. Details of these and others in the Activities Calendar (hyperlink) of Natuurmonumenten.
The vast beaches of Westenschouwen on the North Sea are impressively clean. There are various zones: family beaches, natural ones, beaches for water sports, naturist beaches and areas for extreme sports.
Above the entrance to Westenschouwen beaches, there flies the internationally recognised Blue Flag, awarded for their safety and cleanliness. There is also a lifeguard station.
Just on the edge of Burgh-Haamstede, the Plompe Toren (hyperlink) tower still stands as a relic of the former Koudekerke that once stood on Schouwen. The village finally disappeared in one of the many floods between 1475 and 1650.
Every year, Burgh-Haamstede is host to the Burghse Dag event, featuring such folklore as ring riding (lancing a ring on horseback), old crafts and people in traditional dress. You’ll find more details of this and other events in Burgh-Haamstede in our events calendar.