The trip in brief
A stroll in Gammel Lejre leads through some of the most important places in the early Iron and Viking Ages (500-1000 AD). You are allowed to freely roam the stone ships on Viking burial grounds and the grassy area where actual Viking settlements stood for 500 years. Markings on the ground indicate the shape of some of their impressive buildings. Visit Lejre Museum and learn about various archaeological finds in Lejre. In the middle of the village is Gl. Kongsgård museum, whose rooms and fine herb garden depict what country life was like 100 years ago and more. Outside the museum are picnic tables and information boards highlighting important information.
Activities along the way
This section provides a brief summary of what there is to experience on your journey. Before you go, read more using the links below.
Embankment from the Middle Ages (1)
From the museum walk along the embankment across the Lejre river valley to the stone ships. The embankment is from the Middle Ages (approx. 1500) and an even older one existed just north of the current one. When the gravel road turns left, the embankment continues straight ahead to another stream, Kornerup Stream. At one point, the stream in Lejre was blocked and the water diverted to Kornerup Stream, presumably to feed the water to mills along its banks. The landscape does not provide any clues indicating how the Vikings crossed to access their grave sites 500 years ago.
Stone ships (2)
The traces of two stone ships, one presumably having replaced the other, are located on the headland between two streams. They represent the Viking burials of important individuals. More than 50 other graves have been found below the surface under the stones, which means they were most likely there first. A stone ship comprises large stones placed in the shape of a ship with the deceased buried in the middle and then covered with a mound of earth, which has sunk and eroded away. In recent times the inhabitants of Lejre have tried to blow even the large stones into pieces to remove them or to use them elsewhere. Fortunately they gave up this enterprise and the area became protected in 1923, when acquired by astute individuals interested in history. According to old maps, additional stone ships existed north of the ones visible here. Read more about the finds on the information board.
Beside the stone ships is Grydehøj, a princely burial mound from around 650 AD. The identity of the individual buried here is unknown, but excavations from 1958 show that the deceased, along with his grave goods, was burned on a large funeral pyre. Small threads of gold indicate that the deceased was dressed in a suit partially woven with gold. Grydehøj, once twice as tall and just as pronounced as the other mounds in the surrounding landscape, owes its current flattened state to being ploughed over and cultivated.
Ravnshøj (4) and Hyldehøj (5)
These two burial mounds have not been excavated, but originate from Lejre’s time as a centre of power. Towering over the river valley’s upper edge, they were built to be visible from miles around. Ravnshøj provides a view of the entire protected area and is reachable from the paved road on its east side. Hyldehøj is not accessible.
Cattle track (6)
Follow the cattle track along the boundary toward Lejre Stream. Although beautiful, this part of the route might prove to be a bit of a challenge because the infrequently used path can be overgrown with tall grass in mid-summer. Cattle normally graze in the area. At the bottom of the hill, head left, to a footbridge marked with red poles that crosses the stream leading away from the headland with the graves to the ‘land of the living’ village, where a town has existed since the Iron Age. Cross Orehøjvej to reach the burial mound of Harald Hildetand.
Harald Hildetands Høj (7)
According to chronicles and myths this burial mound contains the remains of Harald Hildetand, who legend says was the last descendant of Scyld, the royal family of Lejre. It is said that Harald Hildetand fell in the Battle of Bråvalla in Sweden against a rival king, whose great admiration of his enemy led him to allow Harald Hildetand to be brought to Lejre from Bråvalla and laid to rest in this burial mound.
Long and narrow, Harald Hildetands Høj, however, is considerably older than the Viking Age and was built in the Neolithic period around 3500 BC. Perhaps Harald Hildetand’s urn was brought to Lejre and placed in the 3000-year-old Stone Age grave by the Vikings in his attendance. Excavations have never been conducted and no traces of Harald Hildetand have ever been found on the site. What do you think happened back then? An information board is located at the mound.
Continue to point (8) along the village street, but wait until later to visit Gl. Kongsgård and the galleries, so you have a better overview of the history of the Vikings.
Viking settlements (8)
Archaeological excavations on the pronounced ridge west of the village over the past thirty years have uncovered settlements from the sixth and seventh centuries at Fredshøj and from the seventh to the eleventh century by Mysselhøjgård. At one point in the seventh century, the settlement moved 500 meters to the south and was expanded greatly, with larger buildings constructed. The perimeter of some of these buildings is marked in the field with grass turf, providing a good impression of their size and unique location. In one of the chieftain’s halls, a small silver figure of the Norse god Odin sitting on his throne surrounded by Hugin and Munin was discovered. Read more about Lejre’s archaeology and check out the information boards at the site.
This burial mound has never been excavated so it is not known whether it is from the Bronze Age or the Iron Age. There is an information board and the mound is accessible from a dirt road. From its top is a view of the same landscape the Vikings saw when they looked out over their settlement to watch the daily activities of their lives unfold: the noise of children, craftspeople at work, cattle, sheep and pigs, streams, the graves on the headland, numerous small fields and roads leading to the outside world.
The beach and the fjord are located three kilometres to the north, protecting Lejre from quick attacks. Excavations in Gevninge and the bay in Lejre indicate that there was an outpost to warn the inhabitants of Lejre when an enemy ship was in sight in the bay. Did they use smoke signals sent from the highest elevations or did they have a rider who could quickly reach Lejre with a message?
Gl. Kongsgård Museum (10)
In the middle of the village street of Orehøjvej, lies a small local museum with a unique history comprised of a farmhouse that has not changed much since it was built in the 1700s. The small rooms have low ceilings and behind the house is a fine herb garden with medicinal plants and spices. The Gl. Kongsgårds website lists the opening hours and events. Outside there are tables and benches where you can enjoy a picnic, even when the museum is closed.
Galleri Gammel Lejre (11)
On the way back to the starting point, you come upon Galleri Gammel Lejre at Orehøjvej 1a. The gallery exhibits contemporary Danish and international art in collaboration with the artists. Check out the link Galleri Gl. Lejre for opening hours and exhibitions.
The artists’ pottery workshop and exhibition of ceramic art are located at Orehøjvej 1c. Stop by and visit their showroom on the days announced on the Regius website.