Come to Have Your Senses Touched and Calmed
Rustic, intimate and comfortable rooms, stunning, calming views of the sea and mountains alongside top notch fish based menus makes Svinøya Rorbuer a blissful Arctic oasis
Review by Justine Gosling
From the moment we stepped off the Hurtigruten ship onto the little island of Svolvær, I knew it was a special place. Svolvær is the main town the Lofoten archipelago in arctic Norway, on the 67th Parallel. Immediately upon docking, the salty smell in the air reminded me of my childhood home. The smaller island of Svinoya is the location of our accommodation choice, Svinøya Rorbuer and is accessed via a bridge.
Nestled between the steep mountains on one side and the sea on the other the small island of Svinøya is surrounded by dozens of little rocky islands that only just break the water’s surface and is the place sea birds land to rest. The huts are idyllically situated among fishing boat landing stations, wharfs, wooden fish racks and old buildings. Dotted along the water’s edge, Svinøya Rorbuer has 33 restored fisherman’s cabins, spread out over the tiny island village in-between locals houses, making us feel as though we part of the close knit island fishing community.
To get to our hut we walked along the decked path raised above the water that connected the chain of Svinøya Rorbuer’s traditionally red painted huts. Considerable emphasis has been invested in maintaining the authenticity of the huts giving them a very rustic feel. Traditional craftsman’s skills were utilised to blend new and original timber to give a feeling of how the “rorbu life” (hut life) was for the fishermen back in the days of ores and sails.
The hut was original but restored and updated to allow modern comforts such as underfloor heating. Built on stilts over the water the hut offered stunning views from every window. Upon opening the weathered wooden door we entered the hall way leading to our large bathroom and two bedrooms. The stairs to the second level was built with single tree branch bannisters and steps made of halved tree trunks which wonderfully creaked with each step, reminding us of the age of this building. Simple Scandic interiors brought nature into the living space and effortlessly blended into its ocean surroundings. The second level was open plan and housed a fully equipped kitchen, a dining table and a cosy snug area that was positioned to make the best of the sea views. All the cabins are well insulated and open all year round, including when the island is feet under snow in the depths of arctic winter.
The view from every window of the jagged mountains and blue skies was reflected on the flat water, I could have spent hours gazing at it. It felt so calming to wake up each morning sat with a coffee in the comfy chairs by the window and look out to sea. The low light in the arctic makes for golden sunrises and exploding pink sunsets I got lost staring at. Svinøya Rorbuer is the perfect place to chill and become absorbed in the beauty of nature and allow any stress to be blown out to sea.
The fisheries are still of primary importance to the region, and the Lofoten Cod Fishery has always formed the basis of existence for the local people here. Having the opportunity to observe these activities at close quarters in Svinøya is an experience in its own right. You can’t fail to miss the wooden pyramid cod drying racks, a method of preserving cod for essential protein invented by the Vikings that is still in use today.
The hotel’s Børsen Spiseri Restaurant is a must for those who enjoy good food and want to sample the local flavours. Locally sourced stock fish is the speciality here and, in many ways, is the reason for the islands residents settling in the area thousands of years ago. I am told it is on the menu as they are very proud of their stock fish and want to preserve and honour their history. The chef refers to stock fish as “untraveled food”. This is because the fish has been delivered to the fish landing station just 50 meters from the restaurant. It is then hung up to dry on the fish racks just outside the huts for two to three months before being taken inside and sorted into different qualities in the stockfish loft. Before it can be served in the restaurant it is soaked in water for between six and seven days where it regains almost all its density. The dish was even served to the Norwegian Queen in 2007.
The Gunnar Berg gallery, part of Svinøya Rorbuer takes you back in time to 1863 – 1893. The perfectly preserved general store from 1828, allows you to imagine you are in the time warp, looking for items to purchase and pay for at the vintage check out tills.
During my stay, I was lucky enough to see the famed Aurora Borealis, or northern lights. It was the most wonderful surprise to step out of the restaurant at 9pm to see the crazed ribbons of bright green dancing in the sky. That night I lay in bed with my curtains open and watched the magical show until I blissfully fell asleep. Svinøya Rorbuer also offers local activities such cod fishing, kayaking, mountain hikes, northern lights hunt, snowshoe hikes and skiing to complete your arctic nature experience.
Our stay at Svinøya Rorbuer was deeply calming and immersive in the local culture, nature and history. Every sense was touched from the fishy smell of the sea air, tasty food, the wind in our hair and our eyes by the Aurora. Come and have your senses touched and calmed.