For as far back as history records, Skagen’s Skaw Reef has been the site of violent shipwrecks. While a curse for medieval mariners, this wasn’t so bad for the locals, for whom these wrecks provided a welcome source of income. That all changed in 1560, when Denmark’s King Frederik II commanded the head of his navy to set up a lighthouse in Skagen.
The first such structure, lit by firewood and known as the Parrot Lighthouse, had to be relocated several times due to flooding. In 1633, it was moved closer to Skagen. Later, in the 17th century, the lighthouse was moved to Fyrbakken and rebuilt as what is now known as the Bascular Lighthouse. Every year on Midsummer’s Eve, a re-creation of the original lighthouse is lit in celebration of Skagen’s seafaring past. Made of simple metal and timber, it’s considered both a piece of history and a tribute to the art of ingenuity.
The Bascular Lighthouse
The Bascular Light (Vippefyr) was built in 1626 and consisted of a simple lever with a bucket into which wood or coal was placed, set on fire and hoisted aloft.
The White Lighthouse
The White Lighthouse (Hvidefyr), was erected circa 1747. With the turbulent meeting of the two seas at the tip of the Grenen peninsula, the dangerous water and shifting reef made lighthouses of utmost importance.
The Grey Lighthouse
The Grey Lighthouse (Gråfyr), built in 1858, is still in use today. As the peninsula grew and new dunes formed on the northern coast, the old lighthouses were abandoned and new ones were built.
The Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse
The Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse (Rubjerg Knude Fyr), also in Jutland, was completed in 1900 and continued to operate until 1968. The evolution of Skagen’s lighthouses serves as a testament to the functional beauty of Danish design, and the determination of the townspeople to work with and around their natural environment.
Skagen West Lighthouse
The Skagen West Lighthouse (Skagen West Fyr), built in 1956, is the most recent beacon: it’s also the only lighthouse in Skagen that sits on the northern coast facing the Skagerrak (which becomes the North Sea); the others sit on the south coast facing the Kattegat (which becomes the Baltic Sea).