This wild, windswept stretch of sand is the only area of shifting dunes on the coast of the Jutland peninsula. The Raabjerg Mile Dunes are located just to the southwest of the busy fishing port and resort center of Skagen at the northernmost tip of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. Billowing across the landscape like waves on a stormy sea, they are the only major stretch of shifting sand dunes in the country.
All along the rest of the western coast of Jutland, there is an almost continuous belt of dunes, in places up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. And in the past they too were continually on the move, shifting inland before the steady, occasionally violent westerly winds that blow in off the North Sea. But most of them have been stabilized by plantings of coniferous trees and deep-rooted grasses that anchor the sand in place.
Only at Raabjerg Mile do the dunes continue their relentless inland march. Ever since the turn of the century, this one stretch of dunes has been protected by the government as a showcase of the power of untrammeled wind and sand, and as a reminder of what the other coastal dunes used to be like. Covering an area of about 250 acres (100 hectares), the clean white dunes of Raabjerg Mile in some places are more than 65 feet (20 meters) high And they are moving steadily eastward at a rate of 13 to 26 feet (4 to 8 meters) per year.
Nearby, just south of Skagen, the so-called Church in the Sand provides a striking example of the results of marching dunes. Built in the 13th century, it was threatened late in the 17th century by an advancing dune. For nearly 100 years attempts were made to halt the movement of the constantly shifting sand that seemed certain to engulf the church. But in the end the wind and sand won the battle. The church was finally abandoned in 1795, and today only the top of its bell tower projects forlornly above the all-encompassing dunes. Sarah works in Prague and loves writing about the beauty of Europe.