The Bathing Resort

You are at Lyckorna at the Chief Accountant’s Office with a bell tower, steamboat bridge and hot bath house. The steam boat Kung Rane approaches. Smoke belches out of the chimney and the whistle blows. The passengers are ladies with long skirts, dressed in white, and gentlemen in straw hats. Carriers transport luggage with carts and horses with carriages take the bathing guests to their summer settlements. It is the summer of 1900.

A stylish couple in their travel attire stop at the bell tower. They have just arrived and look forward to walks and parties. Music is heard from the pavilion in Victoriaparken. The orchestra plays dance music in the evenings in the Social House, which has the most modern dance floor in Europe. There is also tennis and sailing. Tickets are purchased for the hot baths, seaweed rubbing, mud bathing, brushing and showers. Bare-footed boys are running around and curious locals want to see what kind of gentlefolks are coming. – Such crazy hats they have!

When King Oscar II arrives by steamboat to greet his friend Oscar Hasselblad in Villa Skogstorp, the red carpet is rolled out. Female bathing guests curtsey and the king kisses their hands. Robert Macfie even invites the King into the Social House. Lyckorna – A Royal bathing resort!

    Lyckorna badort tidigt 1900-tal

Robert MacFie

Welcome to Lyckorna, which a few hundred years ago was a forested ridge with one small house. Here, the Scotsman Robert MacFie would establish Lyckorna climatic spa and seaside bathing resort in 1877.

Andrew William Macfie had bought the Anfasteröd estate in 1845 when his son Robert was 3 years old. The family brought their curling stones from Scotland and introduced this winter sport in Sweden. The first match may very well have been played on the ice outside Villa Sjötorp.

Estate owner Frankenberg at Hälle Farm in Ljungskile had started a private bath and health center in the middle of the 19th century. His friend, doctor Malmborg in Motala, wrote recipes for his patients to go to the spa for treatments – heated saltwater, seaweed, mud and more. “It is especially beneficial for chest patients, and the location is one of the most scenic in the West Coast.”

There were different ways to get to Ljungskile: Steamboat from Gothenburg to Stillingsön and from there by rowing boat, or travel by sea to Uddevalla and then by horse and carriage, alternatively a boat on Göta river to Ström canal station, followed by a coach ride along the country road.

An ailing and spiritualistic lady in Uppsala dreamed of a house on the West Coast that would make her well. She journeyed by train to Gothenburg and further north by steam boat. When the maid was tucking her in on the deck, she suddenly exclaimed, “There it is!”.

The house from her dream was on Anfasteröd, and when Robert Macfie was told about the crippled lady she was allowed to move in. The lady took hot baths in Ljungskile and by the autumn she was well. The entrepreneur Robert Macfie, who had had his eyes on Frankenberg’s spa resort in Ljungskile for a long time, was even more convinced to start a bathing resort in Lyckorna as well.

The ice lays the foundation of Lyckorna

The winter of 1875/76 was very cold. A steamboat had got stuck in ice in Uddevalla and had to be hacked loose. Robert Macfie, to whom the task was given, brought all his crofters, farmworkers and foremen to help. The boat was loosened from the ice and Macfie convinced his employees to not take out their daily allowance for the work. He suggested that they could instead subscribe for shares in a bathing company and eventually they received 20% interest on the money. Macfie built a steamboat bridge and a hot bath house with a pumphouse for the healthy sea water. But where would he find the female bath workers?


An unusual bathing guest in Marstrand

A tall gentleman arrived at the nearby Marstrand warm bath house on an autumn day in 1876 and ordered a “bath with brushing and shower”. After a short walk, the guest returned and ordered a “hot air bath with brushing and shower”. The orders continued with a “seated bath” and “half bath with shower”. When the guest returned again the same afternoon for “mud massage”, the ticket vendor protested: “Sir, you have taken our most intense baths in less than 4 hours, and now you want to bathe in mud on the same day, which other people only manage every second day at the most.”

When Macfie came home to Lyckorna, he gathered village women and taught them the art of treating bathing guests. The following year, the new bathing resort was opened in Lyckorna.

But where would the bathing guests stay? Construction work had to be started quickly. Macfie lent out money without interest to his employees and sold plots cheaply. He encouraged people to build houses that were suitable to be rented out.

Everything has to be considered: division of plots, access to water, construction of roads and paths. A cold bath house for women on one side of the steam boat bridge and for men on the other side, producing and distributing leaflets about the seaside resort, etc.

Stonecutters, builders, carpenters, painters, glaziers and tinsmiths were hired. Some local builders were so skilled that they could build by gut feeling. Particularly worth mentioning were carpenter Nilsson and August Andrén. To do it quickly, existing timber houses were disassembled in the neighborhood and transported to Lyckorna where they were assembled again. Macfie was fond of name magic. In the “Finnish Quarter” the houses were called Lintula, Heinola, Atola, Pardala, Pajala, Missola and Sveaborg. Another area has names of constellations, like Capella, Orion, Mercurius and Corona.

Before the summer, Lyckorna residents moved out of their homes into the smaller houses standing on their plots. They emptied their homes and brought in household items, dinnerware and bedding acquired for the summer rental. During the summer, Lyckorna belonged to the bathing guests. They returned year after year and came from all over Sweden, but mostly from Stockholm and Gothenburg.


The locals were dependent on the income from the rent of the summer houses and from the services that, in particular, women could contribute with. For men there were fewer opportunities for work. No disturbing noises from the building sites were allowed during the summer.

Those men who owned small ships at the steamboat bridge offered cruises and excursions to the archipelago, and those who fished for house needs could knock on the kitchen doors of guests and sell fish and seafood.

The bathing resort era generated necessary income for the locals, but they also gained new knowledge of behaviors and values. The class differences were clearly visible, as the summer guests were attended to before the locals in the shop. Some stores were open throughout the year, such as a pharmacy, a grocery store, a bakery and a dairy shop. But many of the stores were meant to cater for the bathing guests’ needs, such as the handicraft store, the hatmakers’ store, the bookstore, the perfume store, the photography studio and the pastry shop. The police were employed for the summer only.

A respectable seaside resort had to have a social house where the guests could meet each other, socialize, eat, drink, play, read and dance. Robert’s brother owned a disused herring saltery at Gullholmen, which was mounted down and shipped to Lyckorna to become a social house. The building was equipped with towers, small windows and decorative dragon heads.

The resort got a big boost when trains began to operate the Bohusbanan railway in 1907, and the bathing life at Lyckorna remained fairly unchanged until the outbreak of the second world war. Some major houses were transformed to pensions in the 1920s, and this way of participating in the bathing life at Lyckorna continued to some extent until the 1970s.

Physicians and physiotherapists were employed in the healthcare business in the summer but the female bath workers had a special position. The bathing guests were happy to contract the same bath workers year after year. It sometimes happened that she was invited to the summer residence for coffee and buns and she often received a Christmas card in the winter.


The summer guests enjoyed organizing bazaars with attractions and raffles in Victoriaparken. In the evening, cabaret was performed in the restaurant with sketch comedies and revue songs. The income went to charitable purposes, sometimes to support a bath worker who had been injured, her husband may have become ill, their house burned down or some other accident.


For decades, tennis tournaments and related balls and dance parties were the big event at Lyckorna. As a tennis venue, Lyckorna was known as number three in Sweden after Stockholm and Båstad. Björn Borg played here when he was young.


Kungsparken with a stone pier leading out to the Gottland islet was from the beginning an overgrown park used for walks. Bathing only took place in the cold bath house. When the women’s bathhouse blew apart by the wind on Boxing Day in 1925, it was not rebuilt. This may indicate that people started using changing huts in Kungsparken for changing to swim directly in the ocean.


In the fall, peace and calm landed at Lyckorna. The local Enigheten Social had a meeting in September where that year’s profits from the rental and services were calculated. A gathering with dancing and food was held in the social house for the locals.


When the spring returned, people worked together to make Lyckorna welcoming. Bushes and hedges were cut, the parks were raked, roads and trails were tended to. Lyckorna was a bathing resort with steep terrain, so the bathing guests were supposed to walk up and down the slopes to rise their body temperature before bathing. Sometimes they had to sit down and rest on sofas in small built-in niches along the way, which required constant fixing and painting.


In spite of having to work hard for their daily bread, the locals were proud over Lyckorna: “It was a nice seaside resort with outstanding air quality, a spa resort inhabited by fine and wealthy people.”


For the local boys, the summer brought a pleasant life change: “There was an eldorado of women at Lyckorna. They had, of course, company in the towns where they lived, so the boys had to be on guard when the fiancé came to visit.

One and another female bathing guest returned after all and became a wife at Lyckorna. In addition to love, she brought new ways to dress. She wore hats instead of scarves and introduced new dishes and cake recipes.


Even for the bathing guests, summer life could be full of new acquaintances and love adventures. Why else would they give the Victoria Bridge a new name, the Bridge of the Kissers? Many are also the summer guests who chose to buy a grave at the beautiful Ljung Cemetery.


In 1905, Robert MacFie let tear down Ljung old church from the 12th century and used some of the timber to build a new villa for himself, Villa Forntid. Virginia creeper and ivy were planted along the old church walls and this became a popular walking destination. Little by little, the church was covered with a roof again and reopened in 1951.


Robert Macfie was a popular person and a sign of this was the fact that locals and employees collected money for his 50th birthday. They wanted to help him out in his recent financial challenges and for the collected funds a paved staircase was set at the Flaggberget slope to make Lyckorna even more attractive as a terrain resort. And when Lyckorna celebrated its 30th birthday, the bathing guests ordered a bronze relief of Robert MacFie, the founder of Lyckorna. It was handed over at Villa Corona in 1908 and it now adorns Macfie’s tomb near the old church.


The bathing guests arranged a new collection for the 50th anniversary of Lyckorna. Oscar Högström in Stockholm was commissioned to make a statue of MacFie. Somewhat delayed, in 1928, it was set up at the Victoria Park, placed in a way which allowed him to toast with the guests in the social House. On January 16, 1993, the social house with the bouncy dance floor was torn down, but the statue remains.

On the hill at Kungsparken, a mysterious cross with incomprehensible inscription stands facing the sea. One day in the 1930s, 100 gentlemen arrived by steamboat with flags, stands, order ribbons and a new iron cross. After talks and ceremonies, they walked away as quietly as they arrived and left after they had had dinner in the social house. A secret order, Göta Coldinu, has marked Lyckorna as a monument for seafaring. Only the brethren know what that means. The rusty cross was replaced again recently.

The text from the prospect of Lyckorna from 1895 is still valid.

“Extraordinarily favorable circumstances make this place a particularly excellent climatic spa resort. The sea air, which blends here with the forest air to form a most healthy combination, is on its way in from the sea significantly moderated by the island of Orust which is covered with a dense forest. Foresty hills also protect the area from strong winds both from the north and the east. The importance of this protection against the wind and weather also manifests as a kind of vegetation which is otherwise not found on the whole west coast. Lyckorna and its immediate surroundings can be said to be the most scenic area on the west coast. “