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Haugalandet - Norway's birthplace
Haugalandet which includes the coastal city of Haugesund may not register in many people's minds as a holiday destination; it is an area mostly unknown to British travellers. This changed with the arrival of low cost airline Ryan Air. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty ranging from stunning coastline, desolate but beautiful moor land and dramatic fjords. Situated on Norway's west coast the North Sea port of Haugesund is a town that is just waiting to be discovered.
Haugesund has an ancient history dating back to Viking times. It is the ancient capital of Norway with a rich history as a fishing port due to the herring catch. Today, it is a vibrant town where the oil and gas industry has replaced fishing as the main source of income without spoiling the charm of the town where many of the picture perfect timbered houses remain dotted throughout. Haugesund has retained its historical buildings with the striking Radhus (town hall) of particular note. Also well worth a visit is the local museum where there is an impressive window display of departed residents. Stroll along the inner quay on Smedasundet Sound taking in the brisk sea air, perhaps stopping for a drink at the numerous cafes, bars and restaurants the area has to offer. During the summer Haugesund is home to two major cultural events both held in August. The increasingly popular Sildajazz (Jazz Festival) and Norwegian Film Festival both bring visitors flocking to the town.
Only 5km from Haugesund is the Norwegian Museum of History, at Avaldsnes, it is one of Norway's most important cultural centres. Steeped in history it is the historical seat of Harald Fairhair the founder of Norway who unified the country after winning the battle of Hatrsfjord. At The History Centre you will learn all about the crowned heads who once ruled Norway, all told by Harald Fairhair. Next to the Museum is King Hakin Hakonson's stone church St Olavs at Avaldsnes, the adjacent spire known as the Virgin Mary's needle leans towards the church. Local legend decrees that should it ever fall against the church then judgement day is upon us. Luckily the day we arrived it was still standing.
South of Haugesund is the perfectly preserved, picture book pretty town of Skudeneshavn. The picturesque town dates to the early 19th century and all the stunning timbered houses are from that period. Well worth a visit is the local museum, Maelandsgarden with many period exhibits. The museum even boasts its own resident ghost who fortunately didn't decide to make an appearance on the day of our visit. One of the most unforgettable parts of our trip was a visit to the car free island of Rovaer. The ferry operates four times a day taking only 20 minutes and runs regardless of the weather, allowing some islanders to commute by ferry to Haugesund. Here life is taken at a gentle pace; making it the ideal destination for walkers or just those who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of modern living. The recently opened Rovaer Kulturhotell is open year round and it is run by two friends. whose great ambition was to provide the island with its own hotel. Rovaer Island makes a stunning contrast to the cosmopolitan ambiance of Haugesund and gives the visitor a chance to appreciate the diversity the region has to offer.
Haugalandet is a remarkable region with much to offer the visitor. Although more expensive than many European destinations it is not prohibitely so and standards are extremely high. We found that the SAS Radison hotel located just outside the main town offer a combined dinner, bed and breakfast package at very reasonable rates per room per night. The people are some of the most friendly and welcoming that you could hope to meet and see genuinely pleased that you have taken the time to visit their beautiful country. The area has a micro climate so is much milder than most other areas of Norway. The combination of stunning countryside, culture and seascape makes the region a destination with something for everyone. Haugalandet is as yet undiscovered by the British, now is the perfect time to make that introduction.