If you want to be impressed, then this hunebed on the northern outskirts of the village of Havelte is the place to go. Hunebed D53 Havelte is second only to D27 Borger in size, with a length of 18.9 metres. The grave chamber is complete, with nine capstones resting upon 23 side stones and two endstones; and there is a beautiful entrance portal with its capstone resting on four sidestones. This hunebed still retains ten of its original 40 kerbstones. Unlike the hunebed at Borger, however, which is heavily shaded by mature trees, D53 stands in open heathland, and presents an imposing spectacle from all directions (as well as an impromptu climbing frame for the younger generation).
D53 was thoroughly excavated by archaeologist A E van Giffen as long ago as 1918, when thousands of potshards were unearthed from beneath the floor of the burial chamber, the remains of some 665 items of pottery. Additional finds included three flint axes, an arrowhead, a hammer and beads of jet and amber.
If you are travelling to Havelte from the direction of Meppel (the nearest sizeable town), follow the N353 (Van Helomaweg) which skirts the west of Havelte, following signs to Vlinderparadijs (a display centre for exotic butterflies). Continue past Vlinderparadijs in a generally northward direction for about 800 metres till you encounter a cafe, Theehuis 't Hunebed, on the left hand side of the road. Almost immediately opposite is Hunebeddenweg. Follow this road and D53 will come into view after a 200 metre walk.
Bang! Start with a good 'un if you can. D53 has nine capstones all up thanks to a post-war restoration and is the second biggest hunebed in the Netherlands. Amid sandy, heathery heathland away from the village this is a beast! With picnic tables and seats aplenty it's clearly THE local beauty spot, though today we had it more or less to ourselves. The rain made the stones glisten and they looked so gorgeous I was immediately frustrated that I wouldn't be able to sketch it with the drizzle coming down. D53 also has a capstoned portal, which is quite unusual. I felt so happy here! So happy that I ran the 50 metres or so up to D54, clearly visible on the rising dune further up the road. Another lovely site, this one with six capstones, all up. What a beautiful pair!
In 1945, during World War II, D53 Havelte—the second largest hunebed in the Netherlands after D27 Borger—faced iminent destruction. The occupying German authorities had earmarked an area close by as the site for a new airfield, and considered that the proximity of this huge monument would simply draw attention to the airfield and act as a marker for allied bombing missions.
Fortunately, professor Albert van Giffen was able to strike a deal whereby the hunebed was dismantled and its 50 or so boulders stored in a six metre deep pit nearby. The smaller D54 Havelte was left standing, but was camouflaged beneath a hill of sand.
Immediately after the war, the components of D53 were dug up again, and by the end of 1949 the task of reconstructing the passage grave was under way, based on detailed drawings and photographs made by Van Giffen during his 1918 survey of the monument. By early 1950, just three months later, the hunebed was fully restored on its site, as if it had never been removed.