A 10-minute drive west of Ry via Route 445, Himmelbjerget (Sky Mountain) is the most visited spot in the Lake District. You can also get here by taking bus no. 104 from the train station at Ry. Himmelbjerget rises 147m (482 ft.) above sea level, the highest point in Denmark. In 1871, the Danish crown obtained the property and turned it over to the people of Denmark as a sightseeing attraction.
Himmelbjerget towers majestically over the surrounding countryside, when viewed not only from the lake, but from the many footpaths in the woods as well. Two modern tourist boats, the Viking and the Turisten, run summer cruises between Ry and Himmelbjerget. For information and schedules, call tel. 86-82-88-21 in Ry. The one-way cost is DKK55 ($9.40/£5.50) adults and DKK35 ($6/£3.50) children 3 to 12.
Himmelbjerget Tower, rising 25m (82 ft.), was designed by the architect L. P. Fenger and erected in commemoration of King Frederik VII, who, on June 5, 1849, gave the Danish people a new constitution. From the tower you'll have the most panoramic view of the area. It's open daily May and June, 10am to 5pm; July, 10am to 9pm; August to September 15, 10am to 6pm. From September 16 to October, it's open only on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Admission is DKK10 ($1.70/£1).
Even more than Ry, we are attracted to the hamlet of Gamle Ry (Old Ry), directly west of Ry along Route 461. This is called the "village of kings and springs." The name "Ry" comes from rydning, Danish for "clearing." In the Middle Ages this was a spiritual center of Denmark because of its "holy springs." The village gets its royal associations through Frederik II, who built a mansion here in 1582.
From the center you can follow a sign directing you to Skt. Sørens spring in Rye Sønderskov (Rye Southwood). This is a wonderful walk through a subglacial stream trench, called Jammerdalen, or "The Vale of Tears." The water of this spring, thought to have curative powers, attracted many pilgrims, launching Gamle Ry on its heyday of medieval glory. In gratitude, pilgrims contributed to the funding of a granite church on the nearby hill where the present Skt. Sørens Kirke is situated. After the Reformation, when the pilgrimages stopped, the church fell into disrepair. In 1912, a rich farmer had the old tower reconstructed. The original church was the scene of the election of Christian III as king of Denmark on July 4, 1534, leading to the collapse of the Catholic Church in Denmark.
From the church, you go east past a mill to Galgebakken (The Gallows Hill), a protected nature reserve set in lovely heather-clad hills.
East of Gamle Ry, if you cross the Gudenå at Emborg Bridge, you will come to the ruins of the largest Cistercian abbey in Denmark, the Øm Kloster (monastery). In the 12th century, a group of Cistercian monks left the Vitskøl Kloster monastery in Himmerland and arrived at Øm, where they founded the Øm Kloster monastery in 1175. The Cistercians were skilled farmers who preferred sites in forests and remote areas, where their hard work turned barren land into exemplary farms. During the Reformation, the monastery ceased to exist and the lands were taken over by the king. The monastery itself was pulled down. However, excavations in modern times have revealed one of the best-preserved ground plans of a medieval monastery to date. There is a little museum here open April, May, September, and October, Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm; June to August, Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm. The cloister is always closed on Monday. Admission is DKK40 ($6.80/£4) adults, free for ages 18 and under. This minor museum has a historical medical exhibition, an herb garden, and a collection of skeletons discovered in the area. The plants in the herb garden date back to the days when the monastery flourished here. We find it an evocative, nostalgic place worthy of your discovery. For information, call tel. 86-89-81-94 or visit www.klostermuseet.dk.
You can take Route 461 south from Gamle Ry until you see the turnoff east to the hamlet of Emborg. This takes you to Mossø, the largest lake in Jutland. To the west of the lake are the Højlund Forest and the Sukkertoppen Hill, rising 108m (354 ft.).
The longest watercourse in Denmark, the Gudenå, also passes through Mossø en route from Tinnet Krat to Randers Fjord. Closer to the river are valley terraces created by water that melted after the Ice Age. The sandy surfaces are covered with heather and coniferous plants, but make for poor farmland.
Mossø is the habitat of many types of birds. The sanctuary at Emborg Odde is a breeding site for a colony of black-headed gulls, which are extremely aggressive, thus providing protection from predators. The black-necked grebe takes advantage of this and breeds among the gulls. In the late summer, grebes can be seen along the edges of the reed banks, feeding on small animals.