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Rolder Es

2 hour 13 minutes (10.0 km)
Managed by: Recreatieschap Drenthe

In the past, traveling was quite an endeavour, but this is one place where hikers never got lost. Rolde’s high tower showed them the way. Much has changed since then, but Rolde, known for its high tower, and Balloo remain characteristic esdorpen, a traditional type of village.

The 9.5-kilometre ‘Rolder Es’ trail takes you through the Drenthe landscape between Rolde and Balloo. For a delicious snack or a refreshing drink during your hike, there are plenty of opportunities at the start and end of the trail in Rolde.

In earlier centuries, famed hikers sang the praises o…

In the past, traveling was quite an endeavour, but this is one place where hikers never got lost. Rolde’s high tower showed them the way. Much has changed since then, but Rolde, known for its high tower, and Balloo remain characteristic esdorpen, a traditional type of village.

The 9.5-kilometre ‘Rolder Es’ trail takes you through the Drenthe landscape between Rolde and Balloo. For a delicious snack or a refreshing drink during your hike, there are plenty of opportunities at the start and end of the trail in Rolde.

In earlier centuries, famed hikers sang the praises of this beautiful area, though heathland did not enjoy much of a reputation. There was too much of it, making the landscape overly monotonous. Nothing would excite travellers more than encountering a village. Although travelling used to be quite an endeavour, visitors would never get lost around Rolde, with the high tower showing them the way. Much has changed since, but the church tower still stands to this day and Rolde and Balloo have remained typical old villages.

This trail offers a lot of variety. You will walk along a former railway embankment, burial mounds and dolmens, an old church path and a pit shrouded in mystery.

Sights on this route

Starting point: Hoofdstraat 23
9451 BA Rolde

Grolloërstraat 1
9451 KA Rolde

Rolde

Grote Brink 24
9451 BR Rolde
Rolde

Grote Brink 1
9451 BP Rolde

Asserstraat 23
9451 AA Rolde

Asserstraat 23
9451 AA Rolde

Tumuliboslaan
9451 TC Rolde

Balloo 52
9458 TC Balloo

Balloo
9458 TC Balloo

Wilhelminalaan 7
9451 AG Rolde

Stationsstraat 16
9451 AJ Rolde

Kerkbrink 7
9451 AL Rolde

Kerkbrink 5
9451 AL Rolde

Dolmen D17 and D18

9451 Rolde
Dolmen D17 and D18

Hoofdstraat 11
9451 BA Rolde
End point: Hoofdstraat 23
9451 BA Rolde

Directions

Starting point: Hoofdstraat 23
9451 BA Rolde
  • Before 1813, Rolde was the main village of the province of Drenthe. Rolde is an original esdorp village with several village squares located on the Rolderrug. The octagonal mill dating from 1873, sitting atop a platform, is the defining feature of the Grote Brink, the large village square. This corn mill has two sets of millstones and was accompanied by a second windmill until 1919. Since 1785, the open grass square of the Grote Brink has hosted the Roldermarkt every second Tuesday in September. The statue of the horn blower was placed here in 1985 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the market. The Dutch Reformed Church dates from the 15th century, but excavations have shown that this site was home to a wooden church as early as the 9th or 10th century, which was replaced by a stone church in the 13th century. Until 1688, the sessions of the Etstoel, the highest court in Drenthe, were held in this church. The choir windows feature stained glass windows that symbolise Drenthe’s six former dingspels, or judicial regions.
  • The trail starts in the centre of Rolde and after crossing the Grote Brink, you leave the village. You will immediately notice the stark tree lines. Looking at the map, you will discover that the southern tree lines all face Rolde’s church tower, due to so-called ‘tower parcelling’. Until 1848, these lands were the common property of the farmer’s march, an administrative predecessor of today’s municipalities. Due to agricultural innovations, it became possible for individual shareholders to request a separation of property. In Rolde, such separations were typically requested by shareholders from outside the village circle, which ‘was cause for little enthusiasm’. Perhaps that is why the village opted for the easiest way to divide the land: drawing straight lines from the outer limits to the church tower. The Drentsch Landbouw Genootschap (Drenthe Agricultural Society) would later officially condemn this clumsy method. This is the only place in Drenthe were this method of dividing the land is still clearly recognisable.
  • Near the former holiday colony ‘t Ruige Veld, the wrought iron gate of the Jewish cemetery stands next to the only sweet chestnut tree among the pines. There is only one tombstone left, belonging to Aron Leezer.
  • The trail continues over the railway embankment that used to connect Assen with the Stadskanaal, which was opened by the N.V. Noord-Ooster Locaal Spoorweg (Northeastern Local Railway, or NOLS) in 1905. This railway line would later be acquired by the Staatsspoorwegen (S.S.), which merged with the Hollandse Ijzeren Spoorweg Maatschappij (H.IJ.S.M.) to form the N.V. Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or NS, which still exists today. In its glory days, this stretch of railway would see eight trains make the round trip every day, until passenger transport was discontinued in 1947. Cargo transport would continue until the 1970s, when the railway was used to transport natural gas pipelines for Gasunie. After the railway line was closed, it was not possible to obtain sufficient support and funds to turn it into protected historical railway section.
  • The trail continues through the Tumulibos, a forest named after tumuli, the Latin word for burial mounds. More than 35 prehistoric burial mounds can still be found in this area, although there were originally as many as 150. The mounds are in a wooded area, situated between the road from Assen to Rolde, near Balloo.
  • Balloo is famous for the many archaeological finds in the area. The old agricultural landscape, which was home to thousands of years of farming, can still be recognised to this day. The original esdorp village already had seven farmyards in the early Middle Ages, which all paid a form of tax. The three homesteads, however, did not, as these episcopal farms belonged to the lord of the land, the bishop of Utrecht.
  • On the outskirts of Balloo, the trail crosses straight through a meadow, along the centuries-old Kerkenpad that leads to Rolde. Though many have disappeared, there are still some trails that lead directly from the countryside to the church. The oldest of these were created after the introduction of strict regulations for the orderly burial of the dead in the 8th century.   For centuries, these roads became go-to routes through fields and meadows, as they are here.
  • After passing Balloo, you reach the Balloërkuil monument, a pit of drifting sand purchased by the province in 1846. The history of this pit, as told by unclear sources and overly eager historians, is vague, but it has been suggested that this mystical pit served as a court of law in the distant past. From a geological point of view, this cannot be the same pit as the one in which people congregated in the Middle Ages, but the Balloërkuil remains an interesting place surrounded by a beautiful myth.
  • A little further on, you will find Rolde’s old train station, which was once built by the NOLS and is now a residential home.
  • There are three dolmens in the area surrounding Rolde, two of which (D17 and D18) you will encounter during this trail. These two are some of the best-known dolmens in the country and were built by the first real farmers who populated Drenthe. Archaeologists believe that they are the products of what they have dubbed the Funnelbeaker culture, owing to the remarkable shape of their funnel-shaped pots. Around 2850 BC, the Funnelbeaker culture came to an end, after which dolmens were replaced with burial mounds intended for individual occupants.
  • This is the end of the ‘Rolder Es’ trail. Sit back and relax in one of the many great local cafés or restaurants and look back at this beautiful hike.
End point: Hoofdstraat 23
9451 BA Rolde

Attributes

  • Starting point:
  • Signposted: Yes
  • Explanation marking: