Memories of the Weather Islands

Cathy Cooper, 09 February, 2018
Photographer Cathy Cooper reminisces about a past visit to Sweden's remote Weather Islands, where she almost ended up as an unexpected extra in a BBC production!

My most enduring and unusual memory of the Weather Islands is sitting in a sauna looking out onto the ocean through a large window when suddenly a BBC TV crew walked past and glanced in. With nothing to hide my modesty, I gave them a quick cheery wave. After all I was in Sweden where inhibitions are blown to the wind.

This short and sweet visit to Väderöarna or the Weather Islands came at the end of a week’s adventure along the west coast of Sweden. These rocky islands were our ultimate destination, a remote-feeling outpost surrounded by notoriously rough seas yet only an exhilarating 30-minute boat ride from the mainland.

There were huge crashing waves as the boat sped towards its destination but inside the cabin, I felt safe.

The Bernese Mountain dog next to me seemed completely unperturbed.

Our boat in calmer waters near the landing stage.

A Swedish Salty Dog – a man you could trust with your life.

I was with a friend who was writing a travel article. It was just our luck that our overnight stay at the quiet and secluded guesthouse coincided with a visit by a BBC TV production. A celebrity chef and his crew were travelling around Scandinavia to make a cookery series. We were invited to join in with the filming but as we only had a few hours and one night here, we wanted to investigate the islands.

Our twin room in the guesthouse was named after the wife of a pilot. It was light and comfortable with views to the sea. There were no en-suite facilities, but the loos and showers were just down the stairs.

We dumped our bags and went out to explore.

Besides the one hotel, there were several wooden cabins scattered nearby which served as extra accommodation.

We climbed to a high vantage point close to the hotel and were rewarded with a view of the islands’ layout, and the typical red painted houses once occupied by fishermen.

The terrain was very rocky but there were marked paths with handrails and stairs for the steeper sections. It would only take a couple of hours to walk around the whole perimeter, but this was not a place to rush. We stopped many times to sit on pink, grey and green granite boulders and gaze at the sea. We spotted a colony of seals performing tricks, jumping high out of the water while arctic terns swooped down from the skies.

One of the attractions on the island was the ‘jungle’, a deep ravine densely populated by trees. To reach it we climbed down a ladder then followed a boardwalk through it. It was a bit like an adventure playground but without people – a complete contrast to the barren rocky landscape above.

Ladders were everywhere, even down to the sea for those brave enough to attempt a swim.

Compass Rock where a symbol had been etched into the stone. We found many other similar carvings in rocks around the islands.

At the highest point we found the pilot station. This iconic structure is used to advertise the island’s merchandise (on sale in the guesthouse). But the sturdy supports weren’t built as a design feature. Weather played a major part in the history of these islands off the Bohuslän archipelago, as we found out after visiting the small museum. A display of photographs showed the people who had lived and worked here. Life was hard and death from shipwreck was commonplace.

We felt blessed that the weather was treating us so well for our short stay here.

We had an early supper in the restaurant. The food was delicious and healthy as it had been throughout our tour of Sweden – prawn cocktail and rocket to start, followed by hake, mashed potatoes and herbs, then a dessert of strawberries and ice cream.

The BBC crew were out filming, and a party of Norwegians were expected to turn up for a celebration. They were sailing here and mooring their yacht in one of the inlets. Wanting peace and quiet we escaped to the sauna cabin when they arrived.

This was when my memorable moment happened. Whilst we were sitting on the wooden benches sweating away the cares of the world, the TV chef walked right past the window carrying the fish he had just caught. I don’t know which of us was the more embarrassed but afterwards I grabbed my towel and camera and rushed outside to get a photo.

After getting dressed, it was time to sit patiently on a rock to watch the spectacular sunset. The other guests were dotted around doing the same. Once the disc had disappeared below the horizon and the sky had turned a deep shade of red, we headed back to the hotel for a glass of wine. The Norwegians had gone and the only people there were the TV crew enjoying their last night of filming with guitars and singing.

The next morning after breakfast we all caught the boat back to Fjällbacka and said goodbye to the beautiful Weather Islands.

On the way, I asked the pilot if he would take us past Dannholmen, the island where Ingrid Bergman once lived. It seemed a fitting end to our experience of remote living off the west coast of Sweden.
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