Some 20km south from Arendal along the E18, GRIMSTAD is a brisk huddle of white timber houses with orange- and black-tiled roofs stacked up behind the harbour. Nowadays scores of yachts are moored in the harbour, but at the beginning of the nineteenth century the town had no fewer than forty shipyards and carried on a lucrative import–export trade with France – an economic boom that hooked in a young Henrik Ibsen.

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