Rupert Parker steps into the slow lane as reviews Kystlandet in Jutland
On the east coast of Jutland is Kystlandet – it means Coastal Land in Danish and it’s a low-lying rural area of fields, forests and scattered farmhouses. The sea takes a giant chunk out of it, the Horsens Fjord, with the capital of the region sitting on the shore, at its head. Out on the water are a scattering of small islands, pristine and untainted by cars, and there’s good fishing here.
Horsens, the region’s capital, dates back to Viking times with its port strategically located on sea routes. It quickly developed as a trading hub and the city’s medieval history is still represented by the charming half-timbered houses and cobbled streets in the old town centre. The Horsens Museum tells the story and also that of the city’s most famous son, Vitus Jonassen Bering.
He was born here in 1681 and ran away to join the Danish navy. There he learned navigation, cartography and sailing techniques and in 1725 set out on the Great Northern Expedition, sponsored by Peter the Great of Russia. His objective was to explore Siberia and find a land bridge between Asia and North America. In fact there wasn’t one but the waterway between them is still known as the Bering Strait. On his second expedition he died of scurvy on a Siberian Island which bears his name.
Horsens Fjord has a 52km cycling and hiking trail around its shores, known as Fjordmino. It requires some island hopping to complete all of it but you can sample shorter stretches without getting your feet wet. There’s a very pleasant 10km from Amstrup Meadows to Sondrup Beach, which takes around three hours. It’s a gently undulating path through private forest offering stunning views over the fjord and islands. At the end of it is a beach and long jetty, perfect for taking a dip in the cool waters.
Inland from Horsens, around the Gudenå River, is Bakkelandet, an area of lakes, forests, and some of Denmark’s highest peaks, only a measly few hundred metres. A cycling and hiking trail leads from Horsens to Silkeborg along the track of a former railway line. The biggest attraction is The Uncovered Bridge, one of the largest railway bridges in Denmark when it was built. Later the Gudenå River was dammed, and it was covered in earth, hidden for 85 years. Now it’s back in use as a cycle path and is popular bathing spot.
Snaptun is a twenty-minute drive east from Horsens and the jumping off point for visiting the islands in the mouth of the fjord. The ferry takes just ten minutes to travel 500m to the tiny island of Hjarnø, population 150. Yet it’s been occupied since 9,500 BC as shown by archaeological finds from the Stone and the Iron Ages. The Vikings left their mark, in the form of Calf Stones, marking out graves in the shape of their ships. It also has one of the smallest churches in Denmark, dating back to the Middle Ages, although the present building is from the 19th century.
From here, a charming bicycle ferry takes 25 minutes to reach the larger island of Alrø, also inhabited since the Stone Age. Cars are allowed and the strong winds makes it ideal for kite surfing. Strangely bison are farmed here, and you can sample their meat at Alrø Købmagergaard, in the form of their renowned bison burger.
A longer ferry ride, almost an hour out to the sea, brings you to Tunø Island where there are no cars. Instead you can take a Traxa-Vagn, a tractor cab which takes around 15 people. Better, though to walk and a good path takes you all around the island’s shores, around two hours, including a stop for a swim. Back in the island’s tiny town, it’s worth visiting the church where the 18m tower doubles as lighthouse. A salty and smoky fish lunch at Røgeriet Tunø by the ferry completes a relaxing day.
Kystlandet is a slow destination and none the worse for that. This is a place for those who love the freedom of the outdoors and it’s criss-crossed with hiking and biking trails, easy exercise since it’s so flat. Slightly more demanding is exploring the fjord’s waters by kayak, stopping off at small islands. But if that’s too much, just allow the many ferries to take you wandering through this Coastal Land.
Tell Me More About Kystlandet, The Coastal Land, Denmark
Destination Kystlandet has information about Kystlandet region.
Visit Denmark has information about the country.
Ryanair flies direct from London Stansted to Billund.
Jørgensen’s Hotel, the oldest building in Horsens, is an excellent four-star hotel.
Café Ella in Horsens Art Museum serves prize winning giant burgers.
Dollys in Horsens’ old harbour is known for its pork knuckles.
JI-MI’s offers fine dining and tasting menus in Horsens.
Røgeriet Tunø, on the quay at Tunø, smokes their own fish.
Alrø Købmandsgård on Alrø specialises in Bison meat.