Hirtshals is a thriving fishing and trading town, whose commercial port is one of the nation’s largest with ferry connections to Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. There are fine beaches, an authentic fishing harbour environment and open views to the North Sea from the unique stairs that connect the central square, Grønne Plads, with the harbour. Hirtshals Museum is housed in a fisherman's cottage from 1880. The museum features an interactive exhibition about Hirtshals Harbour, the Hirtshals fishing industry in addition to a separate section about Signe Hansen and the local aquavit called Bjesk.
Hirtshals Church was designed by architect Carl Valdemar Hansen-Harild and was completed in 1908. Until that time the locals had to travel 5-6 kilometres to Horne to attend church.
At the invitation of the local Fishery and Marine Association, a memorial to local fishermen and seafarers lost at sea was erected in 1951.
Before heading south along the Ancient Road, you can follow Nordsøstien (the North Sea Route) a few hundred meters eastwards and visit the North Sea Oceanarium, which houses one of Scandinavia’s largest tanks with 4.5 million litres of water.
Hirtshals Lighthouse and Bunker Museum
South along the Ancient Road you reach Hirtshals Lighthouse – the town's landmark, which became operational in 1863. The lighthouse guided seafarers for more than 150 years. There is access to the lighthouse every day between 10:00 and 17:00. Venture up the 144 steps and enjoy the stunning views over the North Sea, the region of western Vendsyssel and the town itself.
The next stop is the Bunker Museum in Hirtshals (Bunkermuseum) – one of the best-preserved German WW2 fortifications in Denmark. The 450 X 750 meter fortification is still operational and is today an open-air museum.
The Ancient Road follows along Tornby Beach where it meanders inland through the beautiful woodlands of Tornby Klitplantage, which is a wind-swept coastal conifer plantation where the centuries-old drifting dunes are easily spotted in the forest undergrowth. The hilly terrain offers deep, lush valleys and high vantage points with magnificent sea views.
Here you can take a detour to Tornby Church further inland. The church was constructed in approx. 1200 and there is a light-hearted runic inscription in the church. The altarpiece features a beautiful wood carving from the 1400s, where you can see St. Nicholas, the original Santa Claus and the patron saint of sailors.
When in Tornby, visit the 200-year-old village merchant house, Tornby Gl. Købmandsgaard, which is furnished as it was in 1860 when the local trade with seafaring vessels using shallow-hulled, beach-friendly boats was at its peak.
The merchant house and its coffee room and bjesk-serving salon is open year-round (including the exhibition). Located just 300 meters south of Tornby Gl. Købmandsgård, the over 4,000-year-old Neolithic dolmen, Tornby Dyssen, is also worth a visit.
Towering 84 metres over sea level, the hillscape of Tornby Bjerg offers magnificent views of Northwest Vendsyssel and its undulating landscape shaped by Ice Age glaciers. The sea and the vast dune plantations stretch to the north and northwest as far as the eye can see. If the weather is clear you can even catch a glimpse of the dunes of Skagen, the very tip of Denmark. To the east and southeast you look inland towards the town of Hjørring, and here the landscape is lush, green and hilly.
Back on the Ancient Road, you head towards the beach of Kærsgård Strand and onwards to the river estuary of Liver Å. A little south of the parking lot at beach behind the dunes there is a water-covered hollow. The area is called Vandplasken and is a great location for nature walks and bird watching. The area is protected and there is no direct access but there are fine views of this wetland from the dunes by road. Continuing along the Ancient Road you reach open countryside where you can see birds such as linnet, whitethroat, meadow pipit, and whinchat. Maybe you are also lucky enough to come across a red-backed shrike.
Travelling inland from Nørlev Strand you reach the dunes of Skallerup. The distinctive dunes were shaped by shifting sands from the 1500s until the 1800s when farming got the better of the menacing sand drift. Sand drift was a disaster for the peasants at the time, who had to abandon their homes to the shifting sands. Inland sand dunes offer very distinctive flora and fauna.
Next stop is the famous Skallerup Seaside Resort where there is also a convenience store. Skallerup Seaside Resort offers plenty of experiences, including a waterpark, Roman baths, and an equestrian centre as well as farm visits.
A looped detour of three kilometres allows you to visit Skallerup Church. Before his appointment as bishop in 1518, the illustrious Stygge Krumpen was a dean with Skallerup Church as his seat. The church was originally consecrated to Saint Nicholas, who is also a patron saint of sailors. There is a finely carved crucifix and a beautiful oak cabinet from the 1500s. Uniquely, there is a stone checkerboard, which has served as a combined board game, calculation board and as a warning against the sin of gaming.
Back on the Ancient Road we now head to the seaside town of Lønstrup.
THE NEXT STAGE: LØNSTRUP – BØRGLUM ABBEY – THISE