Enjoy a short or longer walk around the Schulensmeer – Flanders’ largest man-made lake. It’s a fine way to spend a couple of hours or a whole day.
In this post I introduce you to the Schulensmeer (Schulen Lake), which I visited recently. It’s the largest man-made lake in Flanders. I describe some of the activities you can enjoy there. And I give the details of a short 6k walk around the lake, and a longer 13k walk that takes in the surrounding countryside.
The area used to be a huge flood plain that was under water several times a year. In the 1970s it was converted into an actual lake as a back-up water basin to collect excess water from the River Demer. Over the years it’s developed into quite a multi-activity site, with something for everyone.
The Schulensmeer is a popular location for various water sports. You can bring your own equipment to surf, sail, kayak or row, or rent something on site.
The perimeter is ringed by anglers, although registration is necessary. Some of them take to the water in a variety of boats.
Sports and nature camps are regularly organized for children during the school holidays, always in Dutch as far as I can see.
The lake and surrounding fields form one of the largest nature reserves in Flanders. It’s therefore a top location for birdwatchers. In Spring some of the paths are closed to walkers to give the breeding birds some peace and quiet. But at other times you can walk through the reserve and often come face to face with geese.
No fewer than 250 different bird species have been spotted on and around the Schulensmeer, and in the surrounding Schulensbroek nature reserve.
After your chosen activity you can always retire to Brasserie t’Vloot and enjoy a drink or something to eat. In fine weather you’ll want to sit on the large terrace and enjoy the view over the lake.
HOW TO REACH THE SCHULENSMEER
The Schulensmeer is located in the west of the province of Limburg, in the triangle formed by the municipalities of Herk-de-Stad, Lummen and Halen.
By car it’s accessible via the E314 and the E313. Head towards Halen and then Linkhout and then follow the signposts indicating “Schulensmeer”. By train, the nearest station is Schulen. From there it’s a 3.7 km walk to the visitor centre. But this walk can be incorporated into the longer hike I mention below that goes all around the lake and back to the station. By bus, De Lijn buses 92 from Diest and 35 from Hasselt stop at Linkhout Schansstraat. From there it’s just a 5-minute walk down Schansstraat to the visitor centre.
A SHORT WALK AROUND THE SCHULENSMEER
Several signposted footpaths depart from the visitor centre. It’s easy to choose a route of the distance you can manage. For example, you can start at the car park/Brasserie t’Vloot and walk around the perimeter of the lake. This is a distance of 6.8 km.
The path is broad and flat, and would be suitable for a baby buggy. There’s no chance of a child falling into the water as there’s a bit of distance between the path and the lake itself. You can even take your dog as long as it’s on a lead.
There are a couple of benches en route. And you can get some lovely views from wherever you are.
And you might meet the well-known Schulensmeer sheep:
A LONGER WALK AROUND THE SCHULENSMEER
If you want to stretch your legs, here is a 13k walk. You could start and finish at the car park/Brasserie t’Vloot. Or, as indicated on the map below, you could start from the Schulen railway station. This is therefore ideal if you’re arriving by train. You’ll also notice that you can make a short-cut from the 8 km mark to shorten the route a little.
The whole 13k route thus takes you around the Schulensmeer, through part of the adjoining Schulensbroek nature reserve, and touches on the village of Schulen. You can also make a diversion into the village where you can find a café. (For example, Brasserie ‘t Krievelkuut at Kiezelweg 99). You can download the GPX file of this 13k route from my page at RouteYou.
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Finally, my friend Dieter The Photographer has been up in the air with his drone camera over the Schulensmeer. Here’s his end result: