Rubjerg Knude lighthouse in northern Jutland (“Nordjylland” in Danish) is in a precarious situation. Huge sand dunes whipped up by vicious North Sea winds are threatening to swallow it completely, and the coastline that it stands proudly upon is being eroded alarmingly quickly. Buried by sand or collapsing into the sea? Recent estimates suggest that it will grace the Danish coastline for another 5-10 years at most. We’re lucky we got to see this hauntingly beautiful structure before Mother Nature claims it as her own.
The constantly-shifting sands of this part of Denmark are complemented perfectly by the ever-changing light. The combination of wide skies, a permanent sea breeze and golden strands create an intoxicating ethereal impression, like nothing we have ever witnessed before. We’re not the first to have noticed this: painters have flocked to nearby Skagen for generations in an effort to capture this magical light on canvas. We are no artists, but having heard rumours of this natural phenomenon, we wanted to spend as much time as possible outdoors in northern Denmark, which is why we chose to go camping there.
Something that we always need to consider with our Outwell Bear Lake 6É is that it is occasionally a tight squeeze into camping pitches. However, this has never been a problem to date: we simply phone ahead stating the dimensions of our tent, and the campsite finds a suitable place for us. At Camping Guldager near Blokhus they went one step further: setting aside an entire section of their campsite for us, convenient to the spotless sanitary / kitchen facilities and extensive playground.
With our impenetrable shelter from the relentless wind duly installed, we set out to explore the local area. A hidden path from our campsite took us into a wonderland of dune and heath, where grass-roofed holiday homes blended effortlessly into the background, fragrant wild mint lined the well-trodden trails, and dog-roses added dots of pink and white to our Scandinavian chiaroscuro of green, blue and brown.
A half-hour walk led us to the biggest, widest and sandiest beach we have ever seen, stretching as far as the eye could see in both directions.
With the light and clouds locked together in their eternal battle, mesmerising patterns on the sea and sand were created, and the kids took turns to hurdle waves and play amidst the sheltered dunes.
But here’s a secret: the sun doesn’t always shine in Nordjylland and on a dull day with clouds hanging heavy in the sky, the light is as barren as anywhere else in the world. On a day like that, there is another secret lurking here, a secret lurking in the deep (as one might say…).
We have visited plenty of aquariums as a family, but Nordsøen Oceanarium is quite probably the best we have ever seen (sorry Oceanário de Lisboa, but you are too crowded now, and not anywhere near as engaging as your Danish rival). Crab fishing, feeding time, interactive exhibits (in English, German and Danish) at every turn, a truly wonderful playground, a hurricane simulator (seriously), playful seals and lip-smackingly good ice cream: the delights of Nordsøen seemed never-ending.
We had intended on following in the footsteps of the Skagen artists, but the Oceanarium captivated us for too long. We would have lingered in the region for longer, too, but the overnight ferry to Norway had been booked long in advance. As we sailed off into the Skagerrak sea we watched the light shift over the tip of Denmark one final time.
Like the skies over Nordjylland, our own travel plans transform and evolve constantly, and someday we shall surely return to this land of enchanted light.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING NORDJYLLAND
- Rubjerg Knude lighthouse is situated just south of Lønstrup.
- Oddly for Denmark, it is not particularly well signposted. Arriving from the south, continue for about 1km past the Rubjerg Knude Visitor Centre, where you will find the car park to your left. From there it is a 20-30 minute walk through the shifting dunes.
- Parking and admission to the lighthouse are free of charge (how wonderful is that?).
- Remember: it is expected to survive +/- another 10 years. So be quick if you wish to visit it!
- Nordsøen Oceanarium is located in Hirtshals, very close to the ferry terminal (well-signposted).
- Tickets cost 170DKK (+/- €23) for adults and 90DKK (+/- €12) for children aged 3-11 (as at August 2017); parking is extensive and free.
- In addition to the attractions, there is an excellent (and reasonably-priced) restaurant on the top floor.
- Expect to spend the best part of a day here, especially if you have multiple little ones in tow.
- Interesting – and rather sad – fact: the original Nordsøen Oceanarium was destroyed by fire in 2003. An Oceanarium. Millions of litres of water. Fire. Weird.
- Arriving from the south, there are excellent toll-free roads to Nordjylland throughout Denmark. From the north, there are ferries to/from Norway (Stavanger and Kristiansand to Hirtshals) and Sweden (Gothenburg to Frederickshavn).
Disclosure: We are a tester family for Outwell Tents. As such, they provided us with our Bear Lake 6É tent and assorted camping equipment. All views and opinions are entirely our own.
(c) 2017 Jonathan Orr
Daisy the bus visited Nordjylland in July / August 2017