Exploring Norway’s South Coast
Exploring Norway’s South Coast
Route 44 on Norway’s southern coast is a spectacular tangled ribbon of road that weaves through a wild rocky landscape.
The narrow road snakes up and down the steeply undulating hills with tight switchbacks, it curves around sparkling blue lakes, passes through dramatic gorges and opens out onto moorland before revealing the sea as it escapes the confines of the terrain.
We met up with route 44 at Flekkefjord, after driving south from the mountains of Telemark the day before. The weather, for early May was ridiculously warm and sunny: the perfect weather for a coastal drive.
The 44 is truly a breathtaking road. After spending a week up in the mountains, this southern road couldn’t have been more of a contrast. It felt almost Mediterranean in the hot weather, with its arid features and barren, rock-strewn hills.
Around thirty kilometres along, the road sweeps down into a green gorge at Jøssingfjord, where nestled under a huge rock overhang stand two tiny wooden houses.
These houses have crouched under the shadow and protection of the rock for over two hundred years. The houses are known as Helleren – the word simply meaning rock overhang.
No-one lives in the houses anymore and you can wander into them and imagine living in such oppressive surroundings. The houses are maintained, and furnished very sparsely: on the table of blue house stood a small glass vase of spring sprigs and a visitor book.
There is a large rough carpark across from the houses and a picnic area, making it a perfect place to pause for lunch.
Historic Sogndalstand is picture postcard stuff: white timber houses line the main street which meanders down to the sea, while behind them colourful wooden buildings hang over the river begging for a photo.
It was the weekend and a few tourists wandered through the village clutching ice creams – it really felt like summer for a moment there!
Heading towards Egersund the road passed through some lovely open coastal scenery before winding down into this attractive town.
It was such a beautiful evening, we parked up in a small carpark a little further along, away from the 44 and took a stroll along a section an old railway line footpath at Hellvik.
The walk was flat and easy, and passed a number of lovely lakes and leafy woodland.
The following day we continued along the 44 to Stavanger, the scenery was less impressive than the earlier sections of the road: now we were driving through neat farmland that rolled flatly out to the sea.
We didn’t visit Stavanger, however we did detour out to the nearby Sverd i Fjell. These magnificent swords stand ten metres tall and they appear to be thrust into the stone beneath them.
They commemorate the battle of Hafrsfjord, when Harald Fairhair became the first King of all Norway in 872 and the fact that they’re thrust into the stone represents peace.
We had had to vacate our overnight spot early – some workman needed access to a gravel heap we’d parked in front of – so we had breakfast in the van, overlooking this impressive sculpture.
I took my coffee cup and sat on the rocks below the swords, gazing out over the bay. A little band of miniature vikings appeared and played amongst the giant weapons – they were having a playgroup dress-up picnic.
The drive was extraordinary, and now – three weeks later – I view the photos again, I have happy memories of this coastal jaunt. It’s a drive that I’d highly recommend if you find yourself in southern Norway.
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Have you driven the 44? Have I inspired you to?