Spending a week exploring the Lofoten Islands with special guest Nicky’s mum
DAY 5 (Saturday) – Eggum coast + beach walk
This day we planned a more local explore, so we headed west a short while before turning off the E10 to follow a narrow road around the headland in the direction of Eggum. We reached the end of the road and paid a voluntary 20 NOK to continue along a gravel track and park up next to a stone fort ruin. There was a closed café built into the side of the small hill the fort sat on, within a stone circular courtyard outside. We braved the high winds to look around the fort then set off to walk along the path by the sea front. We soon came upon another of the notable artwork installations that dominate the tourist literature, such as the previously visited The Man from The Sea. This one was a partial statue of a head, layered and cut back from various perspectives. It was much smaller than expected from photos of the artwork, and distinctly disappointing.
We followed the path that led past a deep lake surrounded by high, craggy mountains with sharp ridges that reminded us of Helvellyn in the English Lake District. We reached a point a few kilometres along where we could view into the next valley, a scene lit bright by the sun escaping through an occasional break in the clouds. The day was grey and overcast, but the air was fresh and there was a wonderful, light-enhancing glow that belied the weather; perfect for painting or photography. We all sat on a nearby rock to enjoy the view before returning the same route back, the strong cross winds still blowing us sideways all the way.
We tried to visit Eggum’s sandy beach but could find no way to access it, but a few kilometres out of town we found a parking place at a small harbour and walked back along other similar beaches. The white sands and large, sea-carved rocks made these beautiful stretches of sand resemble those in the Seychelles, or the Western Isles of Scotland, especially when the sun came out and lit them up. We enjoyed a wander and scramble across the sands, the temptation to swim never too far from our minds. Instead we headed back home to set up for a party. Today was designated as Nicky’s mum’s ‘on tour’ birthday, as we’d not yet be home on the actual date in September. Starting with G&Ts on the terrace, we had birthday balloons, candles and a home-cooked meal planned. We found and played a few tense games of the Viking board game Hnefatafl as many more drinks were rolled out and a night of drunken, giggling silliness soon followed – what better way to spend your 70th year on our beautiful planet?
DAY 6 (Sunday) – LOFOTR Viking Museum
We waited until Sunday, the final day of the annual Viking festival, to visit LOFOTR, the Viking museum. The weather was kind that morning, and with the site less than 15 minutes from our cabin we arrived and parked up right on time and were amongst the first visitors through the door. The reception building was bright and modern, its curved glass roof structure based on the Viking longhouse. Shops lined the sides of the central seating area. We decided to see the outdoor items first as the weather was bright and dry, so bypassed the audio-guided museum and headed to the reconstructed longhouse. The building dominated the site from the road, nestled solidly on top of a hill as if growing directly out of the earth.
The approach uphill showed off the longhouse building wonderfully against the sky. The timber detailing of the doorways and carved roof tiles added a level of convincing authenticity to the recreation. We enjoyed the attention to detail, as even when modern life intruded on the longhouse, insisting on statutory fire escape signage, it was made tongue-in-cheek as a running Viking man complete with helmet and sword. Inside we explored the various rooms and chatted to the costumed staff, before playing dress-up with Viking clothes and weaponry. Nicky’s mum posed with an axe, wearing heavy chain mail that was quite a complication to remove. We lay on a bed lined with thick, soft furs, saw intricate deep wood carvings and swung axes and swords with abandon; it was quality, child-like fun.
The main festival tents were at a remote portion of the site, on the banks of a lake. We walked there, passing foundations from discovered Iron Age settlements and a stone pen with two huge boars and their many cute piglets. There were market stalls within billowing white tents all over the bottom site, selling all manner of items from jewellery to knitwear to bows and arrows. We visited the blacksmith hut with hope for a demonstration, but the smith was struggling to light his forge, even with his inauthentic cigarette lighter, so we left him to his struggles. We passed another Viking who loudly announced his upcoming story-telling intentions in the boathouse, so we headed there to listen. We were seated and regaled with ancient tales of adversity and intrigue, of mischievous Gods and the hapless or greedy mortals who fell foul to their scheming. It was a great thespian performance.
Outside the boathouse we had spotted a Viking ship, awaiting its crew. We put on the necessary life jackets and hopped on board, and when enough others followed we were set to sail. The wind had picked up to such a level that the long oars were discarded and our lake circumnavigation would rely solely on travelling under sail. The square sail was quickly raised, caught sharply in the wind and the ship took off, cutting through the water at a rate of knots. The expert guys sailing the ship trimmed the sail and jibed with the wind in order to achieve an out and back route by sailing close to the wind, the best way to manage the strong wind conditions in a simple way with a dozen guests on board and a limited time slot. Seeing the traditional striped Viking sail taut in front of a lovely green hilly landscape and rippled sea was simply beautiful.
After our exhilarating sail, our next stop was to try our hand at both archery and axe throwing. We shot weighted arrows from long-bows at the target boards only 15 metres or so away, nicely clustering them on occasion. The ‘axes’ were formed from a single piece of cut metal, a little bent and blunt, so were much harder to control, but we managed a few satisfying throws that sunk deeply into the battered fibrous target. We returned to Benny for an hour to grab a bite of lunch, and during this time the rains returned, dampening the day. This was our cue to now visit the internal exhibitions, so we collected audio guides and walked the display rooms, listening to descriptions of various items. We watched an informative and moving short film on Viking life, all filmed on site, some rooms being familiar to us from our morning’s explore.
We returned to the festival site where we browsed the stalls before watching the Viking ship sail by again. A puppet show, all in Norwegian, entertained us until the festival finale began, with fire-juggling, music and wonderful soulful singing drawing the day to a close. We returned slowly back via the longhouse and reception and returned home tired, full of Viking memories.
DAY 7 (Monday) – Ballstad fishing village + Haukland beach
Today we headed west again, first to the town of Leknes. We simply passed through again, before turning of south to visit the fishing village of Ballstad. We parked up on the empty harbour front and walked a little around the town, but with a constant light drizzle in the air we found little to inspire us. There were colourful houses and huts across the water, somewhat reminiscent of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. We completed a slow loop of the central village through what was mostly residential areas, deciding which pretty house we’d prefer to live in, and why. It was a nice walk to clear away the cobwebs from the previous night’s exuberance.
We headed back north of Leknes, this time turning onto a different headland and following the road around to visit Haukland Beach. The rain was on with a force by now, coming in sideways in sheets. We had a bite of lunch as we sat out the weather and enjoyed watching the wildness roll over the beach outside. We thought we could fit in a short walk in a window when the rain had quietened, but as soon as we were far enough along the sands, the heavens opened fully again and we got utterly drenched on the beautiful beach. The wind blew the rain at us from all angles and we couldn’t have been wetter if we’d had a dip in the sea. It was strangely invigorating and exciting though, even if we were all a dripping mess on return.
Still damp but feeling alive, we headed back home to spend a cosy afternoon, our last, in the quirky red cabin. We mostly packed up and readied ourselves to leave, eating and drinking up all the remaining provisions, our week on the Lofoten Islands at a close.
Day 8 (Tuesday) – Return to Evenes and goodbyes
We cleared up and headed out, saying our goodbyes to the red cabin and, for the final time, disappeared down the narrow coast road. We joined the E10 and retraced our steps back through Svolvær and beyond, passing all the familiar places and viewpoints we had stopped at on the way in. We made good progress and had enough time to pause in a picnic place for a last lunch together before Mum’s flight was due. We chatted about the islands, disappointed that the weather had driven so much of our experiences and activities, but still excited about the parts we had managed to include; beach, coast and mountain walks, Viking ship sailing, axe wielding, sea swimming and a special birthday meal.
We left mum at the airport and said all our goodbyes, until our return to the UK for a pit stop in a few months. We were two again, back on the open road and now with exactly nothing in our diary until mid-October. What to do? We guessed it was time to turn ourselves south and see what the central west coast region of Norway had to offer.