Herand Landscape Park is one of only eight in Norway and is well worth your visit. Within the award-winning landscape park is a cultural trail that allows you to explore the many layers of history. Here and there information boards tell you more about the local geology, plant life and cultural history, and how to read telltale signs in the landscape. Otherwise, you might pass by the rock shelters used by our Stone Age ancestors and pollarded trees once harvested for fodder, and not notice how the landscape has been sculpted by thousands of years of traditional agriculture. Bring a bite to eat; there are picnic tables at the best viewpoint.
Impossible to miss are the Bronze Age petroglyphs that decorate the exposed bedrock in a field near the heart of Herand village. The 85 glyphs include human figures, boats, and concentric circles believed to celebrate the life-giving sun, an acknowledgement of the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
Boats were built here thousands of years before the Viking Era. The activity continued almost into modern times. At the end of the 1800s, Herand was one of the most important boatbuilding sites in western Norway. In 1890 alone, 300 new boats were launched at Herand! The many large boathouses along the shore bear testimony. In one of these is a Boatbuilding Museum that exhibits tools, drawings, accounting ledgers and sales records that bring alive a hectic chapter of this proud history. A revolutionary saw In the heart of Herand is a 400-year-old water-driven sash saw. Timber is still sawn into to planks here, using waterpower alone. When nine blades saw boards simultaneously, you can really appreciate the wonderful fragrance of freshly-cut wood. The introduction of the sash-saw to Norway in the 16th century revolutionised the lumber industry and brought prosperity to many villages. Great quantities of lumber from the local forests were exported to Scotland and elsewhere. Today the traditionally cut lumber is used for restoration projects and house-owners who insist on authentic materials.
Other attractions in Herand include Krambua, a restored general store, Tveitetunet, a traditional farmstead that dates from as the 1500s and still has hundred-year-old apple trees, and Eikjetunet, another fascinating farm run by two cooperating families since the 17th century; it is currently being restored. A gem not to be missed is Hardanger Cultural Gallery, a refurbished barn outside the village, that today serves an entirely new purpose with exciting art exhibitions in the summer.
This centre, which is situated in the village’s old schoolhouse, has an exhibition that takes you on a journey through 9000 years, from the end of the ice age through developments of the last century. Visitors may gain fascinating insights about the beliefs of our ancestors who created the petroglyphs, agricultural traditions, the techniques of local boatbuilders through the ages, and the importance of the water-driven sash saw. Perhaps best of all is to visit the exhibition, before you walk the Cultural Trail and explore Herand’s many attractions yourself.