SE Sweden – Sandhammaren & Ystad

SE Sweden – Stopping to see the beach and lighthouse at Sandhammaren, walking the standing stones of Ales Stenar & visiting Ystad, Falsterbo and Kalgshamn.

On our space on the damp cobbles of Skillinge marina, we awoke inside a deep white bubble, visibility reduced to metres in the grey low cloud, full with rain.  With little sign of coming change, we sat out the worst of the continuing rain in bed then finally stirred for a late breakfast as the mist began to lift, ever so slightly.  Our first target to visit was Glimmingehus, a medieval stronghold turned museum that dominated all the local literature, as it was only a few kilometres from us.  We had a short look and wander around their shop, but didn’t pay to enter the grounds.  Instead we kept on moving along the coast to see Sandhammaren.  We parked up in the sandy car-park where several other motorhomes had overnighted, and walked first to see Sandhammaren Fyr and rescue station.  It was a tall skeletal red steel lighthouse with outbuildings that looked tired and forlorn in this weather.

Sandhammaren (lighthouse)

Sandhammaren (wild beach)

We retraced our steps to reach the wide sandy beach, said to be one of the finest in Sweden. Today, it was a little rainy with strong sea winds, and the frothing waves were breaking high right along the coast as far as we could see.  It was a wild, and invigorating sight, but not a place for us to linger too long.  Sandhammaren was established as a protected nature reserve in 1987, to retain the value of the area for both natural and cultural reasons. The beach is at the southernmost point of Sweden.  Beyond its fine sands and wild weather, it also has a sinister past.  Due to the many sandbars and spits, it was a popular stretch of coast for pirates to ply their trade.  They would use false lights to lure passing ships aground on the sandbars to then plunder their goods; the coast is littered with the corpses of unlucky or unwary ships.

Ales Stenar (stones from low level)

Ales Stenar (aaron at stone)

We drove next to Kåseberga, parking in the town in a large, free car-park from where we walked to view the main tourist site.  Positioned high on the steep coastline of Kåsehuvud is Ale’s Stones, or Ales Stenar, a large ancient construction of standing stones in the notional shape of a Viking ship, set out to reflect the annual movements of the sun.  It is Sweden’s largest preserved stone ship of this type, with 59 large standing stones precisely positioned to create the elliptical ship-like form, stretching to 67m long and 19m wide.  This type of stone-ship design has been noted in history annals since the early Bronze Age, from as early as 1100 BCE.  These specific stones are difficult to accurately date, but were likely erected in their current form by Vikings between 500-1000 CE.

Ales Stenar (stone ship)

Ales Stenar (nicky in stones)

Along with the symbolic boat form, the stones are also positioned to act as an astronomical calendar.  Certain key stones mark sunrise positions for each passing month, with the central end stone marking the Summer Solstice.  When viewed from the central position of the ship, the rising and setting sun traces a route across exactly one quarter of the stones at each solstice.  At each equinox, there are an equal number of stones positioned between day and night.  For a brief time we had the entire hillside site to ourselves and enjoyed walking between the tall stones, imagining the site as it may have been in those times.  We wandered over to the nearby cliff edge, looking both out to sea and back at the stones.  It was an impressive site.

Ystad (busy aire)

Leaving the Viking-laid stones in peace, we next doodled along the coast to reach the main regional town of Ystad, where we planned to overnight in a large, free aire with a view of the sea on the outskirts of town.  We found it quite busy, more so than most aires we’d passed in recent months, but still with plenty of room available.  After picking out a dry and almost level spot, we decided on a short walk to see the local beach, but would leave off exploring the nearby town until tomorrow.  The weather was poor, grey and damp, so we snuggled in and watched the sea boil and fluster for the comfort of Benny.

Ystad (colourful streets)

Ystad (town view)

Ystad (walk around towm)

In the morning we walked along the coast into Ystad. We had no real expectations, not having researched it before arrival, but it turned out to be a surprising delight.  Once we had successfully negotiated crossing the rather restrictive coastal railway line, we wandered through the town with no goals or plans, happily enjoying its quaint neatness and the gentle exercise.  We found the lovely square outside St. Mary’s church and many pretty streets of colourful timber buildings, much like Ribe in Denmark.  After a decent, exploratory walk around the town centre, around 8km in total, we returned to Benny and spent the afternoon sketching and relaxing in the sun, looking out over the sea. We lazily sat here, wine glass later replacing pencils, until the sun set calmly over the sea.

Ystad (reading at aire)

Ystad (sunset from aire)

The next morning we moved on, first passing through the town of Trelleborg where we picked up a useful map, then on to Falsterbo on the south west corner of Sweden. Our newly-acquired map told us of long coastal walks around the headlands, so we found suitable parking at one small nature reserve car-park and set off for a long, flat walk.  We started out across flatlands similar to parts of Lincolnshire or Norfolk, peaty moorland and scrub woodland that was likely below sea level.  The land was sparse, the sky huge.

Falsterbo (on the beach)

Falsterbo (beachwalk to pier)

After a few miles we reached sand dunes and behind them a tiny sliver of sandy beach.  We followed the beach, passing a long timber pier, before cutting a little inland to skirt around a protected nature area, where we saw lots of bird-watchers, and a busy golf course.  A small lighthouse stood on the edge of the golf course.  From there we cut back along empty roads, through extensive residential areas with many beautiful, interesting houses.  This had the feel of a retirement village, with large neat plots, expensive housing and proximity to easy walks and golf courses.  We finally returned along a long, straight cycle path, to close our varied and interesting 16km loop of the coastal peninsula.

Kalgshamn (view of bridge)

Kalgshamn (harbour)

From here we drove north, to reach a large beach parking area, at Kalgshamn, about 10km short of Malmö.  We parked up, with only one other van in residence, and walked to where we could see the bridge leading across to Denmark.  This was, sadly, to be our last night in Sweden, after 51 days in-country.  We walked around the small harbour behind the beach to watch the slowly developing sunset.  We returned to Benny and finished off all our remaining wine in celebration of our wonderful times in Sweden, sipping thoughtfully with a view of the spectacular Öresund Bridge, our route ahead, ever onward, stretching out away from us across the misty white sea.

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