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Anholt ( ) is a Danishmarker island in the Kattegatmarker, midway between Jutland and Sweden. The island has 160 permanent residents and covers an area of 21,75 km². Anholt is part of Norddjurs municipality in Region Midtjyllandmarker. Before the 2007 municipal reform in Denmark it was in Grenå municipality


Aerial view of Anholt island with clouds obscuring its easternmost tip.
Some 60,000 people visit Anholt each year. During the summer months the restaurants and the summer shops are open, but the chief attraction is nature in the form of clean water, calm, beauty, and fresh air. From the two highest points on the island, Sønderbjerg (48 meters) or Nordbjerg (39 meters), on a clear day one can see Jutland or Sweden.

Anholt has no luxury hotels or resorts but there is an Inn, which is a Bed & Breakfast. Visitors can also rent a traditional Danish summerhouse.

One can reach Anholt via a daily ferry from Grenåmarker, which takes about three hours to make the transit. The harbour, Anholt Havn, contains a marina.

Anholt has an airport (ICAO-code:EKAT) with a 650 meter-long grass runway. There are daily air flights to Anholt during the summer and weekly flights in the winter. The flights depart from Roskildemarker airport via Copenhagen Air Taxi. The flights also go on to Laesømarker Island, and return to Roskilde from there, via Anholt.


Anholt has been settled since the New Stone Age and one may still find flint flakes on the “desert”. There have been some Old Stone Age finds as well. The island has never been the object of systematic archaeological investigation so no Bronze Age remnants have been found. Some Viking finds have been made.

The 1231 land register of King Valdemar II of Denmark shows that the king owned a house or a hunting lodge on the Sønderbjerg, the island's highest point. Anholt was thus property of the crown. In 1441 the island was under the administration of Kalø Lehn, headed by Otto Nielsen Rosenkrands.

Anholt belonged to the parish of Morup in the Danishmarker province of Hallandmarker up until the middle of the 16th century when a church was built on the island. The island remained Danish when Denmark ceded Halland to Sweden in 1645. There is a story that explains the omission by asserting that a negotiator had left a glass of beer placed over the island on the map during the peace negotiations. A more plausible explanation is that Swedish forces had not conquered the fairly remote island and that Sweden didn't care.

In 1668 Anholt was sold to the tax farmer Peder Jensen Grove. Six years later his widow married Hans Rostgaard of Krogerup and the island then came to belong to the Rostgaard family. Most recently, the lawyer Jens Christian von der Maase, of Copenhagen, has owned the greater and protected part of the island.


In 1560 King Frederick II of Denmark ordered the erection of bascule lights at Skagenmarker, Anholt and Kullen Lighthousemarker to mark the main route through Danish waters from the North Sea to the Baltic. In 1785 a 35 meter tower was erected with an open fire. In 1805 a lantern replaced the fire and in 1838 a mirror was added. Today's tower dates to 1881, at which time an oil lamp replaced the fire. At one time there was also a beacon fire in the middle of the East Coast of the island but that has disappeared. The present Anholt Fyr (lighthouse) belongs to the national Farvandsvæsenet (Lit. “Distant Waters Authority”) and has the status of a protected historical landmark.

Despite the bascule light, on 10 November 1716 the 60-gun Third Rate HMS Auguste, Captain Robert Johnson, ran ashore on the island of Anholt during heavy weather and was wrecked. Most of the people on her were saved.

British occupation

Early in the Gunboat War the Danes closed the lighthouse on Anholt. On 5 December 1808 the bomb vessel HMS Proselyte was wrecked on Anholt Reef while caught in the ice; all her crew was saved. She had stationed herself off the island on 9 November 1808 to carry a light for the safety of passing convoys.

Following the loss of Proselyte, on 18 May the 74-gun Third Rate HMS Standard, under Captain Askew Paffard Hollis, and the 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Owen Glendower captured the island. A party of seamen and marines under the command of Captain William Selby of Owen Glendower, with the assistance of Captain Edward Nicolls of the Standard s marines, landed. The Danish garrison of 170 men put up a sharp but ineffectual resistance that killed one British marine and wounded two; the garrison then surrendered. The British took immediate possession of the island. The principal objective of the mission was to restore the lighthouse on the island to its pre-war state to facilitate the movement of British men of war and merchantmen navigating the dangerous seas there.

On 13 April 1810, four Danish gunboats captured a 4-gun British gunboat, the Grinder, near Anholt. She does not appear in British Admiralty records and was probably a merchant vessel that had found wartime employment on an unofficial and ad hoc basis on the Baltic station; nothing beyond the fact of her capture is known of her.

Denmark attempted to retake the island by force. However, the Battle of Anholt (27 March 1811) proved a decisive British victory and led to many Danish casualties. A monument commemorating the battle is located in Anholt village.

While captain of HMS Elephant, Francis Austen visited Anholt in 1812 and wrote about it to his sister, the famed novelist Jane Austen. He described the lighthouse in some detail and also gave some impressions of the island:

"The garrison at present consists of about three men of a veteran battalion, and a few marine artillery, which form by many degrees the most considerable portion of the population, for, exclusive of the military and their appendages of wives and children, there are but sixteen families on the island, who all reside at the only village on it, near the high ground to the westward, and whose principal occupation is fishing, in which they are generally very successful during the summer.

"Antecedent to the war between England and Denmark and the consequent occupation of the island by the English, the Anholters paid a small rent to the proprietor of the soil, who is a Danish nobleman residing at Copenhagen; but at present they are considered and fed as prisoners of war by the English. They are an exceedingly poor people, and seem to enjoy but a small proportion of worldly comfort."

On 12 February, the 16-gun brig HMS Fly was wrecked on Anholt. The Britishmarker held Anholt until the Treaty of Kiel ended the war on 15 January 1814.


Anholt port

After some years of political debate, in 1899 construction commenced on a fishing harbour for the island. The construction was finished and the port entered service in 1902. The harbour functioned as a safe haven in storms for the vessels fishing the Kattegat, as well as a home port for Anholt's own fishermen. Today there is a marina at the harbour and the ferry docks here too. In 2003 Anholt celebrated the 100th anniversary of the opening, but one year late.

The first rescue facility on the island was established in 1878 at the Lighthouse. It was abandoned in 1926. The second rescue facility was built in 1919, but it was abandoned in 1938. Today there is a rescue vessel stationed at a mole in the harbour. Over the last 200 years over 200 vessels have foundered near Anholt.

World War I

Denmark was neutral during the war and neither side disturbed the Kattegat until late in the war when the British laid a minefield. During the operation the British sank 10 trawlers off Anholt.

World War II

There were several World War II sinkings off Anholt.
  • On 1 May 1940, the British submarine Narwhal, (Lt.Cdr. R.J. Burch, RN) torpedoed and sank the German troop transport Buenos Aires (6097 GRT) and torpedoed and damaged the German troop transport Bahia Castillo (8580 GRT) in the Kattegat about 20 nautical miles north of Anholt, Denmark in position 57º05'N, 11º35'E. The Bahia Castillo reached port but was declared a total loss.
  • On 11 April 1940, the British submarine Sealionmarker torpedoed and sank the German steamer August Leonhardt (2593grt) thirteen miles south of Anholt Island at 56º30'N, 11º30'E. Sealion fired two torpedoes, one of which found its mark.
  • On 20 May 1940, the troop transport SS Batavier III, owned by Wm.H. van Müller & Co., hit a mine and sank northwest of Anholt.
  • On 21 April 1945, British bombers sank the Ostmark (ex-Cote d'Argent, launched 1932 and 3,047 GRT).
  • On 5 May 1945, a Royal Air Force bomber sank the German submarine U-534. The submarine was on the surface with three other submarines when the attack occurred. The Germans shot down one of the British bombers, whose crew all were lost. All of the crew of U-534 escaped the submarine, but three died of exposure or lung damage in surfacing; lifeboats from a lightship in the vicinity rescued the 49 survivors. On 25 August 1993, the U-534 was pulled 220 feet (67 m) to the surface of the Kattegat Sea, 13 miles (20 km) northeast of Anholt Island. After being housed at a museum that later closed, the submarine was moved to the Woodside Ferry Terminalmarker in Liverpoolmarker for an exhibition on U-Boats that opened in February 2009.
  • On April 19 1945, rockets from eight British and Norwegian Mosquito aircraft sank the German submarine U-251 south of Anholt (coords: 56.37N, 11.51E). Thirty-nine of her crew sailors died; four survived.

There is a small graveyard on Anholt that holds the remains of five allied airmen. Three are from an Avro Lancaster of 438 Squadron that crashed into the Baltic around 29-30 August 1944. On 15 December a JU-88 night fighter shot down an Avro Lancaster of 106 Squadron, which had a crew of eight. Only three bodies washed ashore, one of them on Anholt; the others were never recovered.

Anholt desert


The western part of Anholt is a moraine landscape. The small village is situated in the middle of the landscape whereas the harbour (built 1902) is at the north western tip of the island. The eastern part of the island is known as Ørkenen (the desert). The desert, the largest in Northern Europe, is the result of hundreds of years' use of deforestation to provide firewood for the important lighthouse on the island's eastern tip. Strictly speaking, the "desert" is not a real desert but a lichen heath, with some 300 to 400 types of lichen.

Now, great efforts are being taken to preserve the unique scenery and prevent the devastating effects of erosion. In 1995/6 the Danish Heath Society cleared large areas in the south part of Ørkenen of mountain pine.

On Totten, the Eastern tip of the island, there is one of the biggest colonies of seal in Denmark. This part of the island is closed to visitors.


Hubback, J.H. and Edith C. Hubback (1906) Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers: Being the Adventures of Sir Francis Austen, G.C.B., Admiral of the Fleet and Rear-Admiral Charles Austen, (London and New York: J. Lane).

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