Holy Island

Jane Anderson discovers why Pater Noster island makes for such a spiritual getaway

There’s a wild energy about Pater Noster. Perhaps it’s in the motion of the waves, or the fact that this old lighthouse was a place of life and death. Today, the former lighthouse master’s lodgings has been transformed into an award-winning hotel at the edge of the sea. To be precise, this ‘home on the horizon’ is remotely located on the tiny island of Hamneskar outside Marstrand on Sweden’s west coast. Hazardous waters around the island meant seafarers of old would recite The Lord’s Prayer – or ‘Pater Noster’ in Latin – when their ships approached, hence the name given to this 1868 lighthouse. These days, guests arrive by RIB boat from the island of Marstrand or the city of Gothenburg, or jet in by helicopter.

Owned by a collective of Swedish entrepreneurs, hoteliers, restauranteurs, designers and professional sailors, this island hotel is a work in progress, constantly evolving like the rocks themselves. Part-owner Erik Nissen Johansen is founder of Stylt, an international award-winning hotel design practice, so there’s no wonder the nine bedrooms with their rain hats and binoculars hanging behind the door, cosy fabrics, and sweeping sea views are so inviting. For a mind-blowing experience outdoors in nature, there’s even a bed set on the edge of a cliff with vast open skies and archipelago views. As they say at Pater Noster, ‘with infinite ceiling height’.

Public areas have been renovated with custom-made wallpaper by Stylt. The artwork in the dining hall is by Christy Lee Rogers who shoots under water to create photographic works that push the possibilities of movement, colour and light. As Johansen says, “It’s our respectful bow to the hundreds of shipwrecks and thousands of souls around the Pater Noster reefs”. An old gunpowder house on the rocks, once used as storage for the cannons’ gunpowder, previously warned ships approaching the Pater Noster skerries in case of fog. Today it serves as a creator cottage. With seating for 10, no electricity, and a view overlooking the horizon, it provides an idyllic setting for creative meetings, private dinners, or sourcing inspiration to start writing that novel. 

“We have high ambitions for our castaway hotel,” says Johansen. “We really think it has a value and relevance for travellers shifting towards meaning, purpose and learning.” When guests are cast adrift on this tiny island, they have the whole ocean to play with and can go deep-sea fishing, crabbing or lobster fishing, sailing, kayaking and scuba diving, returning to dry land to cook their catch, learn to cook seaweed, or meditate in the legendary lighthouse itself. Or just watch the sun set.

“It’s all there – the remote location, the fantastic nature, the extreme weather conditions, the thrilling history and great hospitality with a dash of roughness and low-key luxury,” said Johansen.” My favourite moment on the island is when I take guests out fishing that have never been fishing before. We catch fresh mackerel and bring them back and prepare sashimi with them. Or when we had a guest that has previously worked as the lighthouse master’s assistant. His stories were so good!”

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