RoadTrip #16.1: The Stone Ship (Stenskeppet) in Strömstad and the Tanum World Heritage site (Rock Carvings @ Vitlycke Museum) – a journey through time

Some time in October 2021, we took a weekend trip to the southwest of Sweden. Since it was preomicron, restrictions in crossing the borders were eased and we had no troubles traveling in and out of Norway. The roadtrip was pretty spontaneous. We didn’t plan our destination – we just drove southward in the hope of finding something interesting. We first visited Blomsholm in Strömstad, home to the massive Stone Ship on a grave field. We also enjoyed the Vitlycke museum in the World Heritage Site of Tanum, where about 600 rock art sites are situated.

Crossing the border in Svinesund

Our first random stop was the Old Ship in Blomsholm in Strömstad. Don’t expect a real ship though. It is a rock installation 41 x 9 meters in size, which is the third biggest in Sweden. Composed of 49 stones, the height ranges from 1 meter to 4 meters. Blomsholm was said to be a center of power and wealth at that time. Covered in water then, it was an important port where merchants traded their goods.

Where parked and started walking towards the Stone Ship
Info board about Blomsholm
The massive Stone Ship
One could use a dash of imagination here
We’re “in” the ship

It is pretty hard to imagine now that the fields were covered in seawater in ancient times. At present, major roads and woods are found there, but as mentioned, there are many artefacts in grave fields and burial mounds found in Blomsholm in Bohuslän county. Read more about the Blomsholm here:

Helpful information board that tells the story of the ship

After that, we continued driving downwards, along the coasts of western Sweden until we passed by Tanumshede.

Driving in Sweden
Windmills – markers that tell you you’re near the border between Sweden and Norway

I’d known then that the municipality of Tanum was famous for something, but I couldn’t remember what, until we saw the road signs pointing to the rock carvings. Oh yes, it is home to numerous bronze and iron age rock carvings or petroglyphs (in Scandinavian, “helleristninger”), that the place made it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. The Swedes built a museum with an exhibition, a cafe and a shop by the area, and made the rock art sites easily accessible for everybody by lining them with wooden pathways.

Vitlycke museum

In Vitlycke Museum, you can either join a group tour with a guide or explore the sites on your own (like what we did). There are informative boards by the rocks, with helpful illustrations as well. Some of the figures we saw carved on rocks are humans like warriors and humans doing rituals, ships, animals and weapons. They were really very interesting. We also saw how they actually look like without the red paint. I would say that, bare and without the paint, it might be difficult to recognize the artwork on rocks when one happens to see them while walking through the woods. Some of the rocks were also covered for restoration, and in winter, to protect them from weathering.

Informative board
Open for many interpretations
Ancient history “book”?
Or random drawings to kill boredom?

The main site was huge but not that difficult to explore. It was actually nice that the area was a forest, so it’s like visiting a nature park as well.

Swedish nature
Just follow the red sign posts
The huge pile of stones is a cairn used for burial purposes
To the cairns
One of the most unique museums ever
One drawing with many (contextual) interpretations

Carl and I had a really good time looking at the figures, reading about them, trying to figure out what they can truly be with our own guesses and interpretations.. It was funny. 😀

Let me tell you a story..
“Warriors fighting”

The site by the Vitlycka Museum is probably where the most concentration of rock carvings are, but there are other sites located in nearby places within Tanum. We managed to visit one more of them, after enjoying lunch in Fjällbacka, a very picturesque seaside village. I will write about it and the other rock art site in the next entry. 🙂

After buying some postcards, we left Vitlycka at around 1:30 pm.

Vitlycka Museum

More information about Vitlycka Museum and Tanum here:

Some spontaneity can be really good, and we’re glad we visited the heritage site in Tanum! The roadtrip continues…




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