Uplifting sights    

A high point (literally) of any visit to Västernorrland is its long coastline along the Gulf of Bothnia, rising from the water's edge in a dazzling array of sheer cliffs, high mountains, deep-cut bays and inlets, and staggering views.

In particular, the view from the observation tower at Flataklocken – forest, water, far horizons under a big blue sky – takes some beating as an introduction to this magnificent county.

Flataklocken, on the shores of Lake Munkby in Ånge Municipality, happens to be the exact geographical centre of Sweden... to be precise, latitude: 62º 23' 15'' N, longitude: 16º 19' 32'' E, and 465 metres above sea level. The site, a popular tourist attraction, also features a cafe and conference room.

The northern part of this coastline, known as "the High Coast", has been designated a World Heritage Site as the best known example of a certain type of geology created by glaciation, glacial retreat and "uplift", the emergence of new land from the sea.

The region comprises the coastal cliffs of Ångermanland from the promontory of Skags Udde to the Ångermanälven estuary. The only hilly landscape around the Baltic, its unique beauty and grandeur make it one of northern Europe's most exciting tourist destinations.

Many visitors head straight for Skuleberget, a landmark mountain and archaeological site, including a legendary cave, with a comprehensive information centre housing one of Sweden's biggest natural history exhibitions, plus an openair theatre and adventure trail. Others make a beeline for Nämforsen in Näsåker, site of one of the largest collections of rock carvings in northern Europe, where over 2000 different figures and lines from as early as 4000 B.C. are visible on the rocky islands of Notön, Brådön, Laxön and their adjacent shores close to the rapids of the river Ångermanälven.

Like much of the county, the coastal areas and islands are wild and largely unsettled, with the exception of a few remote valleys where agriculture is possible. Skuleskogen national park, part of the World Heritage site, is a heavily undulating rift valley adjoining the coast, featuring forest and outcrops of flat bedrock, in pristine condition with flora and fauna to match.

The County Administrative Board promises visitors to the park "the opportunity of enjoying fabulous experiences of unspoilt nature... and, not least, magnificent views of the archipelago". Some 30 km of marked trails offer the hiker several alternative circular routes (the High Coast Trail itself also runs through the park), and overnight cabins at convenient intervals.

Year-round fishing
With 3500 lakes and three major rivers in the county (about 8000 kilometres of rivers and streams altogether), fishing is a major year-round activity. Salmon, brown trout, grayling, northern pike, perch and char are abundant, as are fishing camps with guides and well-stocked waters. In peaceful fishing villages such as Bönhamn, Norrfällsviken and Trysunda, relaxation in a resort atmosphere is an added bonus.

Västernorrland is also proud of its status as the nation's largest producer of surströmming, a pungent northern Swedish delicacy consisting of fermented Baltic herring that arouses strong feelings (in either direction!) among visitors who try it.

Even in Sundsvall, the largest town in the county, boasting an international casino and the largest shopping area in northern Sweden, the official emphasis is on "nature within easy reach". However, the municipal authorities are also quick to point out that students of architecture and planning regularly visit in order to study the town centre, "one of the most beautiful in the country, with long boulevards and richly decorated buildings in neo-Renaissance style, built as the town rose from the ashes of a devastating fire in 1888 that made 9000 people homeless".

Photo: Lars Guvå, High Coast World Heritage Site
Photo: Kramfors Turism, Pelle Norlander
Landmark site: Skuleberget

Photo: Lars Guvå, High Coast World Heritage Site Photo: Comstock Images Photo: Anders Thorsell, Sundsvalls kommun
High Coast idyll Unspoilt nature Sundsvall: Neo-Renaissance style