Thousands of years ago, before cars filled the roads and before railways linked the major cities, the largest thoroughfare through Jutland followed the rivers. Wandering here were people from all walks of life - pilgrims, robbers, noblemen, beggars, artisans, traders, drovers with their cattle and kings with their armies.
The Ancient Road was never planned. It was a trodden track that wound through the landscape where the seasons permitted people to pass. A network of humble gravel roads and wheel tracks taking you from town to town, the Ancient Road was one with the landscape. From northern Jutland to the German border and on into the wider world the wheel tracks carved their way through unspoiled and rugged scenery. Today’s cycling and hiking trails thus originally consisted of a network of mud tracks and gravel roads.
On your trip from Nørre Snede to Bække you pass some of Jutland’s most scenic landscapes. The 62-km journey can be expanded by taking the regional cycling routes Bindeballestien and Engelsholmruten and visit the town of Vejle. The journey is around 35 km.
Signage, guidebook and app
The Ancient Road cycling route is signposted as National Route 3.
A detailed guidebook to the Ancient Road cycling route is available from VisitVejle: www.visitvejle.com/ln-int/vejle/bicycle-guidebooks-and-maps
The Ancient Road app can be downloaded free from Google Play and the App Store.
The Ancient Road offers ample opportunity to camp or stay at inns, Bed & Breakfast or hostels.
The route’s attractions (north to south):
The countryside around Rørbæk Sø (lake) features woodlands, meadows, pine plantations and heaths. You also find the wild oak forests of Tinnet Krat and Kollemorten Krat, which are among Denmark’s largest. Toward the south you find Margrethediget, a 150-meter rampart perpendicular to the Ancient Road. There are designated areas for campfires and barbecues. There is also put & take fishing and canoe rental.
East of the Ancient Road you find the springs of two of Denmark’s largest rivers - Gudenåen and Skjernåen – just a few hundred meters apart in the same valley.
Øster Nykirke is the church in Denmark located at the highest altitude (127 meters above sea level). The church was constructed between 1150 and1200 AD to serve pilgrims travelling to the spring of Saint Peter – Sct. Peders Helligkilde – just East of the church (a small well reconstructed in Medieval style).
Givskud Zoo is a five-starred safari park experience. Get close to more than 700 different species from around the world with the safari bus. Visit the large gorilla habitat, the African village, the jungle gym and much more.
Harresø Kro, a historic inn of royal privilege located south of Givskud, is considered one of the oldest inns along the Ancient Road, dating from 1609. Here you can experience the old stables and the regular table of one of Denmark’s most influential thinkers, N. F. Grundtvig.
Jelling features some of Europe’s finest Viking Age monuments: Denmark’s two largest royal burial mounds and two rune stones with the oldest runic inscription bearing reference to the nation of Denmark. This is the final resting place of King Gorm the Old and this is where King Harald Bluetooth introduced Christianity in Denmark. The monuments and Jelling Church enjoy UNESCO patronage. The Kongernes Jelling experience centre lets you explore the world of the Vikings and the history of the Jelling Monuments through interactive exhibitions.
The scenic surroundings of Fårup Sø (lake) include numerous natural springs, wide woodlands and open meadows. Along the eastern bank you find a campsite, an inn, a place for paddleboat and rowing boat rental, a kiosk and good summer fishing opportunities – and even a reconstructed Viking ship.
Nørup Kirke (church) features baroque interiors and has an onion-shaped spire, as has Engelshom Slot (castle) on the opposite side of Engelsholm Sø (lake). Engelsholm Slot (castle) is today a folk high school but the estate gardens are open to the public.
The protected Randbøl Hede is Denmark’s largest inland sandy heath. In the pine plantations of Frederikshåb Plantage you can experience areas of heath and the “Seven year lakes”. East of Randbøl Hede (heath) you find the rune stone Store Rygbjergstenen, which carries what is believed to be Denmark’s first love poem.
By Randbøl Kirke (church), the Ancient Road passes Kong Rans Høj (King Ran’s Mound) and the Bronze Age barrows Firhøje.
In the scenic valley of Randbøldal you find the Randbøldal Museum, which is a heritage activity and visitor’s centre for waterpower and arts and craft. And in Vejle Ådal (valley) you find a reconstruction of the 750-meter bridge Ravningbroen from the Viking Age. An exhibition about the bridge is to be found at Ravning Station.
At Tørskind Grusgrav (former gravel pit) modern art melts into the landscape with impressive land art sculptures by Robert Jacobsen and Jean Clareboudt.
Bindeballe Station features an exhibition on the history of the Vandel railway line. Here you also find kitchen, WC and showering facilities for ramblers and cyclists and a small campsite. Bindeballe Købmandsgård from 1897 is a charming old-fashioned general store with Denmark’s largest merchant museum, a pavilion, cabins for rent, etc.
Frederikshåb Møllepark (windmill park) features five classic windmills and two watermills, which are all constructed to half size. Several of the impressive mills can be experienced inside too.
The Egtved Girl’s Barrow is one of Denmark’s best-preserved Bronze Age graves. Today the site features a reconstructed barrow and a small museum that relates the story of the grave.
Hamborggårdstenen is a 50-ton glacial rock that was carried with the icecap from the lakes of Åland 15,000 years ago. Legend has it that King Harald Bluetooth was preparing to haul the stone to Jelling when he was told that his son, Svend Forkbeard, had rebelled and he then left the stone.
Klebæk Høje is one of the most inspiring prehistoric monuments along the Ancient Road. In the Bronze Age, about 3,000 years ago, two barrows were erected here, which later in the Viking Age were extended with a 45-meter long stone ship.
The Bække Church rune stone was found in the cemetery dike in 1807, the stone is dated to 925 and features the runic inscription: “Tue Ravnsunge and Funden and Gnyble, the three made Thyre’s barrow.”