The last glacial maximum (20 000–18 000 years ago) dramatically affected extant distributions of virtually all northern European biota. Locations of refugia and postglacial recolonization pathways were examined in Fucus serratus (Heterokontophyta; Fucaceae) using a highly variable intergenic spacer developed from the complete mitochondrial genome of Fucus vesiculosus. Over 1500 samples from the entire range of F. serratus were analysed using fluorescent single strand conformation polymorphism. A total of 28 mtDNA haplotypes was identified and sequenced. Three refugia were recognized based on high haplotype diversities and the presence of endemic haplotypes: southwest Ireland, the northern Brittany-Hurd Deep area of the English Channel, and the northwest Iberian Peninsula. The Irish refugium was the source for a recolonization sweep involving a single haplotype via northern Scotland and throughout Scandinavia, whereas recolonization from the Brittany-Hurd Deep refugium was more limited, probably because of unsuitable soft-bottom habitat in the Bay of Biscay and along the Belgian and Dutch coasts. The Iberian populations reflect a remnant refugium at the present–day southern boundary of the species range. A generalized skyline plot suggested exponential population expansion beginning in the mid-Pleistocene with maximal growth during the Eems interglacial 128 000–67 000 years ago, implying that the last glacial maximum mainly shaped population distributions rather than demography.