On the journey from Viborg, Nørre Snede is the first slightly larger town, along the Hærvej and has been a meeting point for travellers for many centuries. It was the site of a holy spring, dedicated to St. Knud, which attracted many pilgrims and from the remains of ox shelters found in the woods, it is known that drovers used the town as a resting place. The churchyard contains a grave mound, which creates a link with the past, while the romantic period church has a distinctive christening font from the 1100’s with carved lion heads.
A few kilometers west of the route is the magnificent scenery around Rørbæk Lake, where you can find hilly terrain with steep slopes, heath lands, juniper bushes and plantations. There are many excellent hiking paths, which offer a wonderful view over the lake, where you can also find campfire and grill facilities, a landscape exhibition and a small cafeteria. South of the lake is the public building Ballesbækgård. You can also take a relaxing canoe trip on Skjernå River.
On the stretch between Koutrup and Tinnet Krat, around 4 km of the Hærvej is nature conservation area, and the route winds through a quiet landscape with woods, heath and meadows. At Koutrupgård, which used to be one of the old wayside inns, a nature centre has been opened, with a nature school and campsite. The area has a large network of hiking trails.
Sources of the Gudenå and Skjernå
A kilometer west of the Hærvej lie the sources of the Gudenå and Skjernå rivers, which are only a few hundred meters apart. The Skjernå River starts in a small lake and runs westward, becoming Denmark’s largest river before finishing in Ringkøbing Fjord. The Gudenå River has its start in an impressive spring site, running first towards the east and then later northwards, when it empties 160 km later in Randers Fjord, making it the longest river in the country.
Largest single oak forest in the country
The woodlands west of the Hærvej on this stage, are the largest single connected oak forest in the country. Oak has been part of Denmark’s natural flora, long before beech trees were found. Oaks are often found with several trunks, which is the result of the growth of new shoots, after having been cut down many years ago. Today, the forest is composed mostly of 40 - 60 year old tree trunks, while their roots may be several hundred years old. Part of the forest is maintained as nature conservation woodland.
Immediately south of Tinnet is the Margrethediget, a 150 meter long defensive dike constructed perpendicular to the Hærvej. It is not known when the dike was built, or which Margrethe was responsible for it.
Lying 127 meters above sea level, Øster Nykirke is one of Denmark’s highest situated churches and is an easily identified landmark on the route. The church was built as a pilgrims church in 1150-1200 next to the holy St. Peter spring, where many sought healing. In the spring itself, which today is surrounded by a copy of a Middle Ages well top, pottery fragments have been found, presumably from sacrifices. The water is now still and not very inviting.
South of Øster Nykirke, the road passes a granite way marker from 1856. The town Kollemorten, just like the Danish feast “Morten’s Eve” is named after “Cold Bishop Martin” - St. Martin of Tours.
Some of the Hærvej trails south of Givskud are not accessible for either walkers or bicyclists, as they are in fact in Givskud Zoo, and access is restricted - for obvious reasons - to those in motor vehicles.
TO THE NEXT STAGE: GIVSKUD - JELLING - BINDEBALLE