I bought Manshausen Island five-and-a-half year ago. I had never been to Steigen before, but totally fell in love with the place. Manshausen is a relatively small, 55-acre island just across the fjord from Lofoten. In the old days it was a part of a trading post that officially opened in 1690. So lots of coastal history, the main house and the stone piers and harbour from the late 1800s remain from that historical era. Bankrupt and abandoned in the 1920s, Manshausen had several owners until I bought the island in 2010.
What I fell in love with was the nature, protected islands, islets, beaches, high mountains, midnight sun in the summer and northern lights in the winter. My background is polar exploration, and being relatively active throughout my life a lot of what I like to do can be done here, such as kayaking, diving, climbing, trekking, caving, sailing, and fishing.
Three years ago I decided to share this pristine and little-visited place of northern Norway with others (Steigen got road-connection with the rest of Norway as late as 1990). Through friends I got in contact with architect Snorre Stinessen (snorrestinessen.com) who was known for his modern style and ability to integrate his architecture into nature. We finalised a design we both liked, where the idea is to be as close to nature outside as possible and at the same time be comfortable, protected and warm inside. Visitors we have had this summer confirm that we have succeeded. With the big glass windows, and the huts overhanging the water, it’s like being outside at the same time as you are inside.
So far we have built four such huts and have planned five more. In addition, we have upgraded the main house from the 1800s with an open kitchen from the Italian brand Varenna, and on the second floor we opened up with large glass windows to the sea and mountains and established an ‘expedition library’ with a few metres of National Geographic magazines and other travel literature in the bookshelf. Furniture here is from the Italian brand Cassina and the Norwegian brand Fjordfiesta.
To be able to serve the conference market we also built a new conference room that can take up to 30 people, with some additional beds in sleeping alcoves on the second floor. We also have an older, more basic hut on the island with a couple of beds. When I need more beds (for courses and conferences), I hire fishing or old whaling vessels with pretty basic but rustic cabins that once again can stay on the big stone pier on Manshausen. This way I am flexible when it comes to accommodation for larger groups.
On and around Manshausen our guests can do activities for all levels, from easy strolls on the nearby islands, to spectacular traverses up in the mountains. A lot of people just want to relax, so we have two hot tubs, and also a private beach and activities for kids. Also, a protected saltwater pool has just been completed.
Our customers have so far been a mixed, from hard-core climbers that seek the vertical red granite we have nearby, to families on a normal school holiday. Couples enjoy the privacy and view from the cabins or participate in activities like kayaking, snorkelling or trekking. This time of year it’s mostly conferences, next week is fully booked with two groups, and after that we have a yoga course.
Words: Børge Ousland