Forty soil O- and C-horizon samples were collected along a south-to-north transect extending inland for approximately 200 km from the southern tip of Norway. The elements As, Au, Bi, Cd, Cu, Ga, Ge, Hf, Hg, In, Mg, Mn, Mo, Na, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, V, W, Zn and Zr all show a distinct decrease in concentration in soil O-horizons with increasing distance from the coast. The elements showing the strongest coastal enrichment, some by more than an order of magnitude compared to inland samples, are Au, Bi, As, Pb, Sb and Sn. Furthermore, the elements Cd (median O-/median C-horizon = 31), C, Sb, Ag, K, S, Ge (10), Hg, Pb, As, Bi, Sr (5), Se, Au, Ba, Na, Zn, P, Cu and Sn (2) are all strongly enriched in the O-horizon when compared to the underlying C-horizon. Lead isotope ratios, however, do not show any gradient with distance from the coast (declining Pb concentration). Along a 50 km topographically steep east–west transect in the centre of the survey area, far from the coast but crossing several vegetation zones, similar element enrichment patterns and concentration gradients can be observed in the O-horizon. Lead isotope ratios in the O-horizon correlate along both transects with pH and the C/N-ratio, both proxies for the quality of the organic material. Natural conditions in southern Norway, related to climate and vegetation, rather than long range atmospheric transport of air pollutants (LRT), cause the observed features.