An unbroken stretch of sandflats on Netherland’s Texel island promises seclusion

As holiday mementoes go, they were pretty unusual… four musket balls from 1672 and crumpled shells from a Lancaster bomber’s rear gun.

But then this is a pretty unusual vacation.

No villa with pool. No en-suite. No loo, come to that.

But calmness is in abundance, as is a feeling of serenity from spending time in a Mongolian yurt.

We’re on Texel Island, the largest of the Wadden isles and just a 20-minute ferry ride from Holland’s northern coast.

Twelve yurts are nestled in the dunes of a rambling, well-equipped campsite in Loodsmansduin, close to delightful Den Hoorn village.

As owner Piet Laan shows us our home for a week it feels like a real step back in time. A 23ft diameter canvas structure, with larch door, floor and a domed and vented roof, it absolutely knocked us out.

There is a log-burning stove, electricity, a lead sink with hand-pumped water, fridge, table and chairs, two armchairs, storage chests, pots, pans, crockery, floor cushions – not to mention the Highland cow skin rug.

Four wooden beds made by Piet, who spent 30 years as a carpenter, are surprisingly comfy.

But it’s the mood of the place that grabs you most. An aura of calm washes over you and any tasks – fetching wood, lighting the stove, strolling 50 yards with your pots to the washrooms – feel anything but a chore.

The yurts are held in a spiritual reverence in Mongolia. Even the layout seems relevant – almost steering your movements.

Piet’s wife Ina tells us: “You feel something as soon as you step inside.

“Everything in the yurt has a function. It is not there for decoration.”

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Texel is a two-hour drive from the Hook of Holland.

The Stena Line crossing from Harwich takes seven hours and having a spacious and comfortable overnight cabin was a real boon. It’s tempting to relax in and around the yurt. The campsite has a restaurant, outdoor pool (best suited to kids) and play area.

But there’s much to see and do on Texel. We hire bikes from the on-site rental shop – €36.50 a week – and are soon on our way up through the national park to the west coast.

Mile upon mile of deep sandy beaches are identified by Paals – marker points.

We have a surf lesson at the super-wide Paal 17 beach – €25 for kids, €35 for adults. The surf may have been up but me and my son Sam, 13, rarely were. Gruelling, but real fun.

Ecomare, a seal sanctuary and aquarium, is nearby. From here, 40-80 injured or abandoned seals are returned to the sea each year. A couple of miles inland is the Juttersmuseum – a fantastic, quirky collection of wrecked boats and belongings washed up on Texel shores.

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While walking the gorgeous purple-heathered moorland, we discover Paal 10 beach. And, blessed by a heatwave, it feels more like the South of France than the edge of the chilly North Sea.

The beach facilities are good – typically a snack shop with sunbed hire, plus smart restaurant (or two) serving really nice grub.

There are 14,500 islanders, largely employed in farming or tourism. A third live in Den Burg, a half-hour cycle from the yurts.

We go on market day and the town is bustling.

The cycle paths are fantastic and next day we ride east to Oudeschild, with a fabulous harbour where you can take a seal-watching trip (€15).

On the north of the island, se overlooks a deep and enormously wide beach where kite-surfing buggies thrash across the sand.

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On our last day we head a mile south to De Geul, a spectacular watering hole for wild cattle, horses and hundreds of geese.

Finally, after a hike through sand dunes, we hit upon De Hors beach, which dwarfs anything we have seen so far.

If you’re lucky you’ll spot a seal or two, including a 10ft-long beast nicknamed Torpedo by locals.

The shifting sands of Texel – the island is slowly creeping east – are a graveyard for sunken ships, plane wreckage and the skeletons of sailors and airmen who met their fate from 17th Century Anglo-Dutch wars through to World War Two.

Which takes us to the musket balls and the Lancaster shells, from a bomber downed on June 26, 1943.

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They are given to me by beachcomber Paul Dekker, whose coll-ection is mindboggling, far left.

A Lancaster wheel he found is on display at the Aviation and War Museum near De Cocksdorp.

As we chat, Paul produces the cartridge belt badge of a British soldier from 1799. Then four Inca coins, brought from South America by Dutch sailors in the 18th Century.

More proof, not that we needed it, that Texel – with its yurts, cycling, surf and fascinating history – truly is a treasure

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