Category Archives: Hiking

Posts relating to long hiking days in the mountains

Hiking to Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen)

Hiking to the famous Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) overlooking Lysefjord, Norway

Keen to get to Preikestolen, we were up early, buzzing and busy, as we were parked up in Oanes, a good half hour drive away.  We had been expecting a rather miserable, grey day and were happily surprised the weather forecast had again been proven wrong.  The skies had cleared overnight and we were treated to a bright, still cloudy but occasionally sunny day for our trek.  Sun makes everything on a walk so much more enjoyable and beautiful, especially one that ends at such an iconic place as Preikestolen.  It’s the one site that we’ve been seeing in stunning photographs ever since we first decided to visit Norway, so was unmissable.

Pulpit Rock - (the walk begins)

After our half hour drive we arrived in the main car-park just before 9am, to find the designated motorhome area very nearly full.  There was no way that all those vans, neatly levelled and closed up, had all managed to arrive here and settle in before us this morning, so they must have stayed overnight.  Many large posted signs said that overnighting in the car-park was absolutely prohibited, but that is clearly not enforced.  It cost 200 NOK to park, so we assumed this becomes the overnight fee for those who stay over.  If we’d known, we could have been here the night before too and had a slightly lazier start.

Pulpit Rock - (a on route up)

We squeezed into the only space we could find and readied ourselves for the walk.  Despite good advice on the signs, there were still groups of people heading up the path in woefully inadequate footwear and clothing, with no rucksacks, jackets or water with them.  The start of the trail immediately headed steeply up a gravel path, before it reached built-stone steps that climbed quickly to a flat-boulder plateau with a panoramic view. Here there was a small timber hut, not yet opened as we passed, where you could pay to zip-line back down to the car-park rather than complete the walk.  The ride opened at noon, in time to catch the first of those who had visited Preikestolen as they returned along the path.

Pulpit Rock - (beautiful swim pools)

We found ourselves passing lots of others on the route up, with many already struggling, looking like it will be a very long day for them.  We didn’t find the path to be particularly difficult, but we do a lot of hill-walking and I guess it makes a difference.  After a short up and down stretch, we passed some beautiful lakes on either side of the path, where we saw a couple drying off after swimming.  We wished we’d known there was the possibility and had brought our togs, as it would have been a great spot to spend a bit of time on the way down.  But Norway has an embarrassing abundance of great places to swim, so we’ll find others.

Pulpit Rock - (n on path)

The path led on, over some timber decking pathways and built timber steps that eased the difficulty in several areas, making the route fully accessible to all.  Views of the fjord below began to open out as we neared our destination, with glimpses of the sparkling grey-blue appearing to our left.  We strolled up a flat granite slope where we suddenly hit the edge of the fjord cliff, and we could finally see the full extent of the vertical drop down to the sea below.  To our right we could just see the corner of Preikestolen, jutting out, eerily familiar from so many photos.  A few walkers hugged the cliff to the right rather than walk near the open edge as they made their way to the expansive flat area.

Pulpit Rock - (first view of the fjord)

Pulpit Rock - (first view)

Pulpit Rock - (the rock on approach)

Pulpit Rock - (overview)

It took us a little under an hour to cover the 3.8km distance listed (4.1km tracked by my Polar Flow watch, but this was from our parking spot), so we made good time.  When we first arrived there were perhaps fifteen or twenty people already milling around on the rock, many of whom had camped there overnight, their tents and cooking utensils still strewn around.  Some others were in the process of packing up their pop-up tents, so there must have been quite a party on the rock overnight.  Splits and cavities in the rocks were filled up with discarded bottles, cans and other litter; it’s quite a shame how selfish and lazy people can be sometimes.

Pulpit Rock - (the fjord below)

Pulpit Rock - (us on the rock)

Pulpit Rock - (n posing)

Two buzzing drones scooted around overhead, filming or photographing the rock and the current inhabitants, including us.  We posed for some photos of our own on the iconic corner, showing the vertical drop down to Lysefjord fjord over 600 metres below. We were glad to have this time to play and photograph whist Pulpit Rock was still relatively unoccupied, and we took time to savour the view and the situation.  We were always aware the milling crowds were on their way and the reflective, relative quiet of our early moments on Preikestolen would be lost to the crowds eventually.

Pulpit Rock - (n looking out)

Pulpit Rock - (az sitting)

Pulpit Rock - (n on the edge)

Pulpit Rock - (a straddles crack)

Satisfied, we moved away from the flat rock to examine it from a different perspective.  We followed a path up and over the cliff behind to view Preikestolen from above, where we could watch the slow trickle of people arrive, like colourful ants.  We sat here a while, simply watching and absorbing the view.  The weather had cleared more than we could have hoped, and the slight mist hanging in the air added a level of grandeur to the full vista.  We could see right along Lysefjord in both directions, with a blanket of wispy clouds sitting just above the adjacent mountains.  We felt very fortunate to have timed our walk to coincide with such a stunning weather window.

Pulpit Rock - (n with view)

Pulpit Rock - (a with view)

Pulpit Rock - (looking out)

The crowds we met coming up as we returned grew thicker with every minute walked, and we were extremely glad to have made the effort to arrive early.  Preikestolen must have been groaning with the weight of people once they all arrived at the top.  The weather was also deteriorating as we descended, clouding over a little and throwing a thin blanket of grey over the trail. We reached the plateau where we resisted the urge to zip-line down the last portion of the walk.

Pulpit Rock - (us above the rock)

Pulpit Rock - (selfie with rock)

Pulpit Rock - (rock and fjord)

Pulpit Rock - (on return)

Arriving back at the busy car-park we enjoyed the satisfying acts of removing our walking boots and having a celebratory cup of tea.  It was still not yet lunch-time and we felt we had already experienced a full day, so we skipped out of the car-park and headed northwards with smiles on our faces.

Norway – Lidneses Fyr & Sandvika Beach

Leaving the comfort of Marivoll behind we left the coast road and cut inland, to visit a few out of the way places listed in our new favourite book – “Wild Guide Scandinavia – swim, camp, canoe and explore Europe’s greatest wilderness”.  After driving along winding roads and through grand mountains, we arrived first at Digelva Waterfall, where we parked in a small, gravel lay-by adjacent to a pristine, still lake.  The lake feeding the waterfall was the more interesting part and we considered a dip, but never succumbed on this occasion.  The waterfall was pleasant enough to see but there would be much grander examples in days to come, so after a brief walk we moved on.

Digelva waterfall - visit

We drove on to our second designated stop at Vennesla, to undertake a quirky walk along an unused timber log flume.  This now dry canal was used to transport cut timber from higher upstream, allowing logs to bypass a long area of rapids on the foaming Otra river below.  There was no parking nearby, but we located a suitable gravel pull-off a few hundred metres along the road from where we could start our walk.

Vennesla - (n on log flume)

The flat-bottomed V-shaped flume was not quite wide enough for two to walk alongside, but the sides were high enough to feel nicely enclosed and relatively safe.  There was a lot of groaning from the wood as we walked, and a few missing or rotted boards left sizable holes to see through to the raging river below.  Not too difficult in terms of navigation though, so we scooted along easily and quickly, enjoying the views.

Vennesla - (through the trees)

Vennesla - (n on bridge)

The route passed over two tall, thin steel suspension bridges, where the creaking timber boards experienced even more vertical movement, combined with a little sideways sway.  The extent of the infrastructure to allow logs to safely pass the rapids was impressive, and the views around and through the trees was quite beautiful.  There were a few places where the sides had been cut back and steps added, to allow other forest paths to join the flume, or users to escape and visit nearby viewpoints and picnic tables.

Vennesla - (flume under rock)

Vennesla - (structure)

The end of the route promised a low, damp and creepy tunnel, but on our visit this was boarded off and signed that entry was forbidden, so it became our turning back point.  We walked an out and back route of just over 6km, a really enjoyable and different hike along a river bank.

Vennesla - (picnic spot)

Vennesla - (tunnel)

We drove on to a small, quiet lay-by at the village of Snig, where there was room for six carefully parked vans (or three French vans) but luckily we arrived first.  It was quite a popular spot, and there was a constant stream of vans arriving in search of a park right up until 10pm, then leaving disappointed.  Between weather breaks and bouts of laziness we had a few short beach front walks and played in the picnic area kid’s park, before having an early night.

Snig (sand spits)

Snig (play on swings)

Next morning we woke early and after a quick breakfast drove down the coast to Lidneses Fyr, arriving there before 8 am; sometimes we even surprise ourselves.  We happily discovered that outside of official opening hours (10am – 5pm) all access to the surrounding site is free, so we clambered around the most southerly rocks with abandon.  We had views over the paid aire in Lidneses Fyr, where we imagined many of those who didn’t find a place at Snig ended up staying.

Lidnese Fyr - (signposts)

Lidnese Fyr - (aire and visitor centre)

We were the only people up and active at this early hour as we wandered around the lighthouse, over the rocks and through tunnels, briefly becoming the most southerly people in all of Norway.  We learned a little about life in this region from the well-written information boards scattered around the rocks. We read of the local kids, when the weather was particularly stormy, having to be roped up to make their journey to school.

Lidnese Fyr - (anemometers)

Lidnese Fyr - (lighthouse)

There was a large collection of colourful, quirky anemometers, like there had been a school competition to design them.  We followed the stone tunnels that providing refuge from the weather for the workers needing to visit other parts of the working site.  One built cave housed a stunning photographic presentation of the history of the lighthouse and of similar lighthouses all across Norway.

Lidnese Fyr - (tunnels)

Lidnese Fyr - (cave display)

We drove on, up and over some narrow hairpins and down deep valleys with each turn bringing a new but spectacular view over a fjord or lake.  Although we had not yet reached the big mountains, the scale of the scenery was such a contrast to our previous month in flat Denmark, and we were simply mesmerised.  Lake, sea, mountain, sky; all combined effortlessly to build vista after vista of extreme grandeur.  Norway was showing off for us, and we loved it.

Norway road - scenery

Over many miles the scenery slowly but quite dramatically evolved, with the change not in the scale but in appearance.  We passed into a large area that formed part of a Magma Geopark, a national park area.  Gone were the tree-covered hillsides and high grassy banks.  Now hulking, curvaceous granite outcrops surrounded us, mostly bare of greenery, cracked and deep-lined like an old man’s weathered face.  Small, black lakes rested between each progressive rock formation, reflecting the hard stone and occasional building like a mirror, doubling the visual effect.

Roligheten - view of village

Sandvika Beach (walk in over Blofjell)

We followed a very narrow offshoot road down to the coast.  Our recent visit to the Isle of Mull was proving fine preparation for the roads we were now travelling – mostly winding single track with narrow passing places, slow going and requiring focused concentration. We found a large and empty car-park, in the village of Roligheten, and walked to the end of the road, only a few hundred metres further.  At points we could, when holding hands, both stretch out and simultaneously touch the rock face or house on each side of the road, such was the narrowness of the tiny road to the harbour.  When the road ended we hiked across a steep muddy hillside, named Brufjell, through some lovely light forest with well-marked trails, to reach our target – Sandvika beach.

Sandvika beach - arrival

Sandvika Beach (a on shore)

This small inlet was a white pebble oasis, with a narrow sea opening flanked with high, granite cliffs.  It looked incredibly inviting for swimming in photos we’d seen, but when we arrived the sea was raging and foaming, fighting violently with the cliffs and beach.  We considered swimming, or at least a quick dip, but it was just too wild to be safe.  The breaking waves clawed at the white pebbles, dragging them down and under with each surging line.  It proved difficult to simply stand upright at the water’s edge, as the pebbles rolled out underfoot with the incessant pull underneath.  Instead, we sat a while and watched the savage sea beat-up the shore, mesmerised by the simple, constant movement and the display of raw energy.

Denmark – Løkken & Rubjerg Knude

Løkken & Rubjerg Knude

We said our sad goodbyes to all at the WorkAway in Solbjerg, before driving off to explore the north of Denmark.  We headed north, first through Aalborg, before turning left to reach the west coast at Løkken.  This stretch of coast was quite built-up and spotted with holiday cabins and campsites, obviously a popular holiday destination for locals.  With little in the way of aires or wild-camping opportunities, we decided to continue our recent lazy indulgence by checking into an ACSI registered place a few miles south of Løkken, where we had most of the site all to ourselves.

Lokken campsite pitch

Lokken deer at campsite

We slowly tidied our van, sun-bathed and read all through the afternoon, having no particular plans to be anywhere.  Later in the afternoon we undertook a quick walk to the local beach, which was not the 700m away that we were told by reception, but turned out to be 2.4km distant.  It was a lovely, if longer than expected, and quiet wander to the wide stretch of white sandy beach that was so flat it doubled as the local coast road.  We saw several cars driving along on the hard sand, with a few others parked up where a group of paragliders were testing their rigs and harnesses, readying for take-off.

Lokken paragliders

Lokken beach walk

We walked a little way along the beach, watching the test flights of the paragliders with their colourful parachutes pulling hard in the strong beach wind.  There were several motorhomes on the sand and we considered whether overnighting was possible here, but later saw signs prohibiting it.  We returned home the same straight path and enjoyed a lazy evening overlooking our local lake with swans and deer in residence.  The next morning we decided to stay put another night, enabling us to cycle up the coast to visit an abandoned lighthouse in a drifting sand dune, at nearby Rubjerg Knude.

Rubjerg Knude on the dunes

Rubjerg Knude approach path

The sun was out today, a bright and clear sky with few clouds, although the ever-present wind was still keeping close company. We cycled through clusters of holiday camps and row after row of similar timber cabins, most of which were empty but looking primed and ready for the summer influx.  We had a few attempts to forge shortcut paths through the dunes, but the dotted lines shown on our GPS turned out to be narrow, deep sandy paths that were all but unpassable on bikes, so we ended up back on the road on each occasion.  We found a short forest trail that we followed through the trees, before we locked our bikes to a convenient tree and continued on foot.

Rubjerg Knude climbing dunes

Rubjerg Knude approaching lighthouse

We walked onto the deep, white sand, noted as one of the largest sand dunes in northern Europe.  (similar to the Dune du Pilat we visited in France last year).  There was a huge drop to the beach on the coast, with wild waves crashing into the flat sands below. We were south of the lighthouse, taking a little used route for our quiet approach, with the busier main car-park positioned to the north.  We saw no one else on the way, except for more colourful paragliders passing overhead, until we reached the abandoned, decaying lighthouse that the encroaching sands were slowly swallowing.

Rubjerg Knude a at lighthouse

Rubjerg Knude coastline

Another outbuilding or tower must have previously stood on the site that was now littered with thousands of individual bricks, looking messy and forlorn.  We climbed the empty shell of the tall, white lighthouse, now with steel stairs added internally for visitors to take in the view. People had utilised the multitude of loose bricks around to write messages or their names in the surrounding dunes, but the overall impression was sadly of neglect and mess.

Rubjerg Knude up close mess

Rubjerg Knude top of the dunes

Rubjerg Knude dune top

Everything looked much more impressive and grand from a distance, where the clean white dunes dominated the skyline and all human intervention was kept to a minimum.  We ate lunch in a sheltered hollow out of the wind before we returned to our bikes for the trip home.  We varied our route south, finding some forest trails and more off-road tracks that added a variation and additional interest to our 46km cycle.

Rubjerg Knude lighthouse and dunes

Rubjerg Knude bike stop

We had planned to follow the coast north, but we had an issue with leaking water on our kitchen floor, so we prudently decided to use a day to return south of Aalborg to visit the only large motorhome service dealer we could find, to see if they could resolve the issue.  After an initial look, they ascertained the problem lay not with the condenser on the fridge as we had suspected, but with the connection to the base of the tap.  They had no suitable replacement tap in stock, but could order one in, so we decided to spend the night locally and revisit the following day.

Rold Skov - trees

We retired to a spacious aire in the grounds of a large hotel, where we were welcome to overnight for free.  It was on the edge of forests we had previously visited, Rold Skov, so we had an afternoon stroll through the beautiful woods.  The quality of light catching the gnarled and twisted trunks of the old forest trees meant it was a delight to walk through.  We saw many deer roaming silently through the trees, alongside fenced paddocks housing small flocks of sheep with still-tiny lambs in tow.

Rold Skov - forest deer

Rold Skov - lake

We returned to the motorhome dealer the following day at the agreed time to find the tap ordered and couriered especially for us was the wrong one, and they could only fit it with a proposed bodge-job involving bending lengths of copper pipes and cutting out side panels.  We refused the work and decided to live with the leak until we found a registered Benimar dealer in Norway who could perform the work correctly and under warranty.  We can catch the water in a small tub under the tap, now knowing that it only leaks when the tap is in use, so it is not too vexing.

Rold Skov - panorama

After our unproductive maintenance detour we headed north again, passing Aalborg for the third time in as many days.  We kept on right up to the tip of Jutland this time, stopping just short of Skagen in the region of Råbjerg Mile; the very north awaits.

Denmark – Thy National Park & Aggersborg

Thy National Park

After our 3km walk around the lake in Silkeborg we had a quick walk to a local shop to pick up a few items, then we spent the rest of night in Benny, under attack from heavy rain.  Large drips bounced on our roof all night, their awkward percussion accompanied by falling twigs and the occasional booming acorn, giving us a rather restless night.

Silkeborg - A walks around lake

In the morning we drove into town and parked by the bus station.  We walked the short distance into the town centre, in persistent light rain, it a fine misty drizzle but exceptionally wet.  There were only a few people around and we found nothing much inspiring to see, outside of boutique and standard chain stores, but we aren’t much for shopping.  We returned and sat a while in Benny hoping the weather would abate, stealing Wi-Fi from afar from the passing buses.  We had planned to mountain bike in a nearby forest, but we had little desire to ride heavily churned up muddy tracks when we have no means of properly cleaning our bikes before packing them away for onward travel.  Or we could be drifting into the territory of being picky, fair-weather bikers.

Skive - local church

Skive - farm stop

Instead we drove north-west to near Skive to stay on a dairy farm run by a friendly family of keen travellers who are happy to accept motorhomers as guests for free in their cobbled yard.  The lady of the house told us of how they had experienced kindness on their travels when younger, and now wished to return the favour to others; a very noble gesture, and most welcome to us. We rested up here until the rains abated, listening to (and smelling) the cows in the nearby sheds.   During a rain break we quickly went for a local walk, to see a lovely, tidy church with a neatly tended graveyard.  From checking out the headstones, most people buried there lived long into their 90s; it must be a very healthy part of the nation.

Nørre Vorupør - N on beach

As it was a working farm we had an early wake-up call, from the constant mooing of cows from the shed opposite.  We chatted with the owner again as we organised to leave and thanked her again for her generosity.  We drove north through Skive, across several large bridges joining islands to reach Thy National Park, where we stopped at Stenbjerg Landingsplads to look around the mostly closed buildings on a short street leading to the beach.  There were huge sand-drifts blown into doorways and along the street, giving the impression that the road had been abandoned for a long time, but given the strength of Danish winds this could have happened overnight. We decided to park here and cycle to another area of the National Park where we knew of some single track MTB trails through the forests.

Thy National Park - N on beach street

Thy National Park - fire tracks

We passed through Nørre Vorupør village, where we poked our heads into the museum before we stopped briefly at the beach and marina to look at the colourful fishing boats high on the sand. The cycle path soon cut left through sandy moorland on a smooth gravel path, leading into the forest and we dutifully followed.  We rode on neat fire tracks for a few miles, passing small lakes and lovely ‘Nature Areas’ allowing free camping, campfires and providing mono-pitched timber shelters for cycle tourers, a hugely popular pastime in the flatlands of Denmark.

Thy National Park - N cycles in moorland

Thy National Park - single track

The most surprising item of the day was the complete lack of others; we had the entire forest to ourselves, not having seen any other cyclists, or indeed anyone, since we turned off the road in Nørre Vorupør.  We found the MTB single track we were looking for and joined it, running over tree roots, burns and fallen pine cones.  The narrow trail was built with lots of bumpy steps, steep hills, bone-shaking holes and the occasional plank bridge to cross; we absolutely loved it.  The changing light in the trees as we rushed by lit up our heightened senses, with only the sound of bird calls and our groaning tyres for company.

Thy National Park - lunch

Thy National Park - return to benny

We returned, tired but happy, through the forest by different fire tracks, re-joining our outward route back near the village of Nørre Vorupør.  On the way home we passed a field with a feisty, sandy-coloured horse that excitedly cantered right alongside us, head dipping and rearing, it looking so happy to have someone to run and play with; a picture of pure joy.

Oslos - beach parking

We had hoped to overnight at the lighthouse further north in Hanstholm, but found that it was having works completed and the car-park was full with construction vehicles and building materials. So we moved on, to near the small town of Oslos, where we could wild camp by the beach in a very nice grassy lay-by with picnic tables and a well-kept WC. We passed a pleasant and quiet night as the only visitors on this stretch of stony beach; an ideal wild camp spot, with our own picnic table and beach frontage.

Oslos - free aire

The following morning we drove back north into the Thy National Park again.  We headed first to Lild Strand where we had a brief look around the town, before retracing our steps to park up on the cliff edge near Bulbjerg. We were directly above the only bird-roosting cliff in Denmark, the sign informed us.  We climbed down the timber steps on the side of the cliff to the beach, where we could see the cliff-face and the many pairs of kittiwakes that mate there.

Bulbjerg - roosting cliff

Bulbjerg - beach walk

Bulbjerg - walking in dunes

We had a long, slow beach walk along the water’s edge to Lild Strand, where we ate lunch, before returning via the dunes on a well-marked national footpath.  We shared the beach with only a few others, walking their dogs.  On our return we visited the Bunkermuseet ved Bulbjerg, an old German war-time bunker now utilised as an information centre with nature displays that tell the story of the complex history, geology and ecology of the local area.  From here we drove to another free aire on another friendly Dane’s farm, to overnight, near the small town of Korum, not far from Løgstør.

Bulbjerg - ecology bunker

Bulbjerg - information centre

Aggersborg – Church and Viking Fort

The following morning we crossed back over Aggersundbroen, the Aggersund bridge, where a few miles on we parked adjacent to Aggersborg Kirke, a typically white Danish church surrounded with wind-swept trees.  We had come to visit Aggersborg’s 10th century Viking fort, the oldest in Denmark.  It was constructed with solid earth ramparts in a perfect circle, complete with an external moat.  The walls were made with four main gates, each on a cardinal compass point, allowing controlled entry and trade. The circle was large enough to encompass 48 timber longhouses in a symmetrical pattern, with twelve groups of four homes each set around a central, shared courtyard.

Aggersborg - ring fort and church

Skørping - woodland trails

From here we began making our way east, in the direction of our upcoming WorkAway hosts in Solbjerg. On the way we paused for a few hours on the outskirts of the large town of Skørping.  The sun was out and the sky populated with fluffy white clouds.  Here we had a very pleasant walk around Vedsted Skov, an area of woodland and parkland punctuated with many small lakes, located just north-west of the centre.  From here it was only a short drive on to meet up with the family at our very first WorkAway, where we would be spending the coming week (or longer), helping out with all that we could.

Denmark – Skovsnogen, Hou & Aarhus

Skovsnogen – Open air Art Exhibition

Heading reluctantly away from our relaxing beach at Blåvand we headed east and north, to visit a forest display of art exhibits we had read about. Despite seeing very few vehicles on the road on our drive, we ended up parked in a nearby lay-by, as the Skovsnogen Art installation car-park was entirely full with badly-parked cars that left no space for us.  We wondered if we had stumbled onto a celebration event or a party, given the numbers, but we saw little sign of people on the path around the exhibits.  We never were sure where all the car owners had gone.

Skovsnogen (creepy statue)

Skovsnogen (N examines the art)

We followed the designated route through the forest, passing many different installations in varied materials, from timber snakes to aluminium bubbles to wiry insects.  As is often the case, those who are passionate, energetic and have the requisite spare time to produce open-air art are not necessarily the most talented artists. We could see time and endeavour in many pieces, but found little inspiration or thoughtfulness. The art may have been rather lacklustre, but the walk was beautiful and the lightly rolling countryside by a tumbling river was a delight to be in, especially as it was a lovely, sunny spring day.  The light penetrating the forest illuminated the lime-coloured leaves so brightly that nature simply outshone the imperfect human additions.

Skovsnogen (A sits on art)

Skovsnogen (n and the ball)

We overnighted at the welcoming home of Karen and Thomas, near Norre Snede, who provide a delightful free aire for fellow travellers, along with a WC, water supply and even a small summer room to use during our stay, if desired.  It is an incredibly generous gesture to open up your home to strangers like they do, with no payment asked for in return other than a greeting, a conversation or an interesting story. We passed a lovely afternoon in the sun, gently exercising and sketching up possible ideas for murals that may be painted at our upcoming WorkAway project.

Norre Snede (danish countryside)

Norre Snede (relaxing afternoon)

Hou Beach

The next morning we continued across Denmark, reaching the east coast at Hou beach only 26 short hours after leaving Blåvand on the west. The weather had turned and the wind had returned with a vengeance; the sea at Hou could not have been more different from Blåvand; spitting white horses topped off rough breakers in five or six foot swells rolling in angrily from the north east.  We had hoped to swim, but there was no chance we were entering the water in those conditions, and even walking the gravel path along the beach edge was a struggle in the biting, high winds.

Hou Beach (sheltering from the wind)

Hou Beach (timber jetty)

We walked into the town, pausing briefly on timber jetties on the way, and returned back through the empty streets, wondering why there always seems to be no one around in Denmark; it’s so quiet.  We drove on to a small commercial aire on a farm on the outskirts of Odder where we met the owner Jørgen and again spent a relaxing afternoon reading in the sun on a nice little patio area provided for visitors, nicely sheltered from the wind.

Moesgård (university building)

Moesgård (forest)

Next morning we headed off again to the coast.  We parked up at the nearby Moesgård Museum.  There were construction works all around and we couldn’t find any way of reaching the interestingly shaped museum; shame.  Instead we passed a University campus building painted pink, with decorative lakes and various artwork installations scattered in the grounds.  We checked a signboard map and followed a local forest trail that took us on a gentle walk through beautiful woodland areas to a sandy beach.

Moesgård (playing)

Moesgård (forest walk)

We walked through beautiful, leafy trees with wonderful light breaking through the tight-knit trunks.  We followed the course of a small river, passing over small bridges to see timber-frame houses painted in black and white with neatly thatched roofs. In one area reenactment actors in medieval costumes were giving history lessons to groups of primary school-aged kids.  We heard wild screaming and charging noises replicating the sound of battle or an ambush in the forest, which could have been quite disconcerting had we not already passed a few actors in full garb.

Moesgård (timber buildings)

Aarhus

We returned from the beach by a different but equally pretty route, before moving on to the nearby town of Aarhus.  The morning’s sun disappeared en route, to be replaced by a mass of grey clouds.  On our approach we were treated to our first traffic jam in Denmark – so this is where all the people have been hiding.  We parked in an odd, inefficient circular car-park at the Botanic Gardens and wandered in to look at their displays of plants and butterflies.  Inside one large dome we climbed a spiral timber staircase to enjoy the view over the tropical plants.  Not quite Kew gardens or the Eden Project in scale, but an interesting distraction on a grey and increasingly rainy afternoon.

Aarhus (rainbow walkway)

Aarhus (art musuen)

We later walked into town where we saw some graffiti and litter, the first signs we’d spotted of Denmark not being entirely pristine and neat. We walked through the centre to the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, the Art Museum, but we did not visit the spectacular-looking rainbow gallery viewing platform on the roof. It was dull, rainy and grey outside, so the views would have been poor, and our appetite for exploration was a little muted.  We looked in the main cathedral and the difficult to find Viking Museum.  It proved hard to locate as there was only a single doorway leading down a flight of stairs to the museum, and on our visit this was mostly hidden by construction hoarding.  The displays were interesting and we read them all as we lingered in the warm, cosy space so as not to have to re-join the dull wetness outside.

Aarhus (cathedral)

Aarhus (viking museum)

We struggled through busy traffic to escape Aarhus and headed to overnight on the outskirts of the town of Silkeborg, where we wild camped by a lake in a gravel car-park.  We enjoyed a lovely walk around the 3km loop of the adjacent lake after dinner, loving the long, bright evenings that will only get longer as we head further and further north.

Scotland Tour – Part 4

Part 4: Bays and harbours

After our arrival at Calgary bay, we walked along the beach to a farm track on the opposite side, before cutting right to a public car-park and walking up the road to see the local artist’s studio and workshops, Calgary Art in Nature.  We had a brief look in the store window before following signs for a woodland sculpture walk up through their garden and over the local hills.

Calgary Bay - art installation

We passed many interesting and colourful installations, from wood carvings to pottery to bronze castings, all integrated into the trees or the elaborate pathways created for ease of exploration.  At the top we surprisingly arrived at a short light aircraft landing strip, ideal for microlights, before descending again past more sculptural oddities to reach the road.

Calgary Bay - (beach view)

Tiny little Calgary bay on this remote north-west corner of the Isle of Mull was also the seed for a much larger settlement.  A gentleman named McLeod, an officer in the Canadian Mounties, had once stayed at Calgary Castle.  On his return to Alberta he was tasked with the naming of a new fort and, with fond memories of his visit, he chose the name ‘Calgary’.  From this fort, the modern city of Calgary was eventually born.

Calgary Bay - (sculpture walk end)

The next day we awoke to more rain, but by the time we had dressed for our planned walk the changeable clouds had evaporated and the sun lit up the beach.  We headed up the farm track we discovered before, hugging the coastline on the north side of the bay on narrow sheep tracks all the way to the rocky headland.  From here we walked across the end fields with superb elevated views out to Tiree, Coll and South Uist.

Calgary Bay - (coast walk)

Calgary Bay - (headland blue skies)

A bright sun and a glorious blue sky greeted us as we clambered around this green, bumpy headland.  We climbed the steep mossy banks behind to reach the boggy high plateau above, skirting along the edge of the bay at a much higher elevation than before.  We passed difficult, jaggy trees and curious sheep before dropping back down on another farm track and returned to the beach by the same route we originally took out.

Calgary Bay - (on the headland)

Calgary Bay - (plateau view to bay)

We made it back just as the changeable weather turned again into a sodden deluge, so we passed the remainder of the afternoon snug in Benny as we watched the rain fall outside.  We organised our next steps, deciding that it was off to the main town of Tobermory the following morning for us; no island visit is complete without at least a short visit to the obligatory whisky distillery.

We set off in the morning, with the rain back in full force, and slowly made our way along the narrow, single track roads back to Dervaig and through on to Tobermory where we parked up at the harbour with a delightful view over the water to the well-known colourful facades of the town’s main street.

Tobermory - harbour

The persistent drizzle, or dreich weather, continued unabated for our time in the town, so we had only a short wander to the opposite end.  We returned the same way and heading indoors, into the Tobermory Distillery.  The small shop and reception was a little disappointing for not having much to browse, and we didn’t feel quite up for a full tour, having been on many similar jaunts before.  So we decided to move on and call our time on Mull to an end.  We drove south to Craignure and sneaked on the next ferry back to Oban, having to wait for only a few short minutes before being allowed to board.

We drove east from Oban, following the same route on the A85 as before, passing Ben Lui, now buried deep in cloud. The weather was a far cry from what we had experienced when we climbed the peak just a week or so ago.  We changed tact at Crianlarich and went south to Dunbarton, through Glasgow, and on to just south of Dumfries, to the quaint village of New Abbey to overnight.

New Abbey - abbey

We parked up at the old abbey and relaxed, after our long drive.  We spent a very pleasant evening and early morning here, before heading off for the final five hours of driving back to our base in Lincolnshire.  This marked the end of another lovely little tour in Benny, with the final preparations and packing for our main summer jaunt to the northern wilds of Norway now set to begin; we will be off in only a few short weeks.

Scotland Tour – Part 3

Part 3: Beaches and Islands

From the moment of our arrival at Fidden Farm, we settled in quickly and loved the natural beauty of our position. We walked a while around the white sandy beach, clambered over the rugged seaweed-covered rocks and enjoyed the beautiful views over to the nearby island of Iona.  We spotted two seals swimming nearby, their heads comically bobbing around in the clear water, with us hoping they would join us in our shallow, sheltered bay; no such luck.

Fidden - (exploring beaches)

Fidden - (Benny parked at beach)

We crossed the damp beach and climbed the largest grassy mound in the bay, simply for the walk and the views. It felt good to explore the pools, humps and bumps of the beach, child-like and investigative.  It may have been only light exercise, but mentally it felt restorative and renewing, and lots of fun.  We enjoyed a lovely afternoon and evening, watching the sea slowly rise and the sun slowly set on our pretty corner of the bay.

Fidden - (rocky beach)

The following morning, as we had already decided to spend a second night here, we readied our bikes for a short cycle to the ferry port in Fionnphort and packed a nice lunch.  We set off through the quiet, moorland hills, enjoying the quiet ride.  It was a shorter trip than expected, maybe two miles, and we arrived at the slipway with the ferry in port and a short queue of pedestrians waiting to board.  We dismounted and joined them, bought a day return ticket, then deposited our bikes on the lower deck before climbing to the top to watch our jaunt over to the island of Iona.

Fidden - (cycle to ferry)

On arrival, we pushed our bikes off the ferry behind a lady and man struggling to push a large wooden cart full of vegetables, before cycling north past the monastery and tourist centre, to reach the end of the road.  Here we parked our bikes and walked through a field of sheep and spring lambs to reach the north coast of the island.  We discovered stretches of beautiful white sandy beaches in volcanic black rocky coves, flanked by long, flowing lime-green sand dune grasses; picture postcard perfect.  We walked over and around the rocks before following the coastline around to an even larger expanse of white beach punctuated with more jagged, black volcanic outbursts.

Iona - (north coast beaches)

Iona - (exploring beaches)

We returned to our bikes and this time headed south along the same road.  We briefly stopped into the island’s community shop and welcome office where we bought postcards for family, before continuing back past the ferry slipway and onwards, to an open area of machair, sandy grasslands, that bordered the sea on the west side of Iona.  Here we cycled to the far end of the beach and sat a while to eat our lunch, looking over the beach and out to sea.  With immaculate timing the sun arrived to warm us, so we laid down on the soft grass and enjoyed a restful snooze.

Iona - (beachfront cycle)

Iona - (machair lunchspot)

Deciding we had to visit the highest point of the island, we returned to the north end again by bike.  We found a footpath to the left leading to the Bishop’s Walk up to Dùn I, the largest hill on the tiny island at 101 metres.  It took us all of seven minutes to reach the top, from where we could see almost the full extent of Iona.  We pointed out the northern beaches and our western lunch spot as we pottered around the trig point and beehive stone cairn.  From this vantage point the island reminded us a little of Easter Island, Isla de Pascua, with its rolling green fields, a distinct lack of trees and rugged, sea-battered coasts, but without the multitude of Moai.

Iona - (on highest point)

Iona - (island view)

We later caught the ferry back to Mull and cycled the short distance back to Fidden where we passed another relaxing evening exploring the beaches and watching out for seals.  We held out a small hope for the aurora to visit us this night, but it wasn’t to be as there was a full moon instead and the night never really got very dark.

Fidden - post cycle

In the morning, with the dull grey clouds bringing light rain, we packed up and headed off for a long drive to the furthest point of the island from us; Calgary bay, on the far north west corner.  To reach it, we had to return to Craignure on the east and then head north.  We stopped for lunch in a damp picnic spot near Fishnish, before making the remainder of the drive on tiny single track roads to Dervaig and then to the wild camping spot at Calgary Bay.

Calgary Bay - (sands)

After hearing nothing but good things about this area, we arrived in heavy rain to see a puddle-strewn grassy pitch by a scruffy river and were at first slightly underwhelmed.  But we squeezed onto the site, picked our place and settled in, waiting for the rain to abate.  A few hours later the clouds cleared and blue skies appeared, lighting up the surrounding hills and giving us the signal to get our boots on and go explore.  We crossed the river and the local machair to reach an impressively wide expanse of white sandy beach that wasn’t visible from our site, and we instantly saw the appeal of this setting.  The calm blue sea rolled in gently, with tall grassy cliffs on both sides framing the view.

Part 4 to follow.