Category Archives: 2017 Scandinavia Tour

Posts on our trip to Denmark, Sweden and Norway in 2017

6 months touring Scandinavia in our motorhome – how much did it cost?

6 months touring Scandinavia in our motorhome – how much did it cost?  A look at our spending, activity and overnights stats by month and by country. 

So, our 2017 Scandi trip; it wasn’t quite six months, but close – We had a total of 170 days away, from late-April until mid-October.  We left the UK via Harwich to Hook of Holland and travelled through the Netherlands to Germany before reaching our first Scandinavian country, Denmark.  A month there (to the day) and we ferried over to southern Norway to drive a wiggly route by fjords, mountains and tunnels to reach Trondheim, where we headed east to Sweden.  We crossed to the Baltic coast before turning north to eventually reach Juoksengi and our midnight time-travelling Arctic Circle Swim. From here, a straight run north to Tromso was followed by a visit to the Vesteralen and Lofoten islands, before turning sharply south all the way to Oslo.  We crossed back to Sweden and, via many lakes, we reached Stockholm then followed the coast to Malmö and back into Denmark.  A few further weeks exploring then led us back into northern Germany and the Netherlands, before heading home by the same route.

Our route map (sketch)

SCANDI TOUR - Route map sketch

Our Scandi trip overview in key figures:

Length of trip – 170 days
Countries visited – 6  (Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland)
Overall expenditure – €5419.37
Average daily cost – €31.88
Miles driven – 9087 ( Aaron – 4452 [49%], Nicky – 4635 [51%] )
Miles per gallon – 31.3
Cost per mile – €0.17p
Distance cycled – 596km
Distance walked – 619km
WorkAways undertaken – 4
Time-travelling swims – 1
Scandi Skinny dips – 16

Our Trip costs by category

EXPENDITURE - Scandinavia Tour-FINAL.xlsx

The above image outlines our spending for this trip.  With the distance driven (9087 miles), it is of little surprise that diesel for Benny (29%) has been the biggest expense we encountered, closely followed by food shops (inc. booze) at 27%. The next largest cost, at 18%, has been our campsite fees, with many more stops in ASCI campsites than on previous trips.  Transport costs also featured highly, at 12%, as driving through Norway brought with it the necessity of many ferry journeys and also 953 NOK (billed so far) of road tolls.  Several bridges between neighbouring Danish islands also carry a hefty cost.

Our trip costs by country (with daily averages)

EXPENDITURE - Scandinavia Tour-FINAL.xlsx

Note: Germany and Finland costs are not indicative of travel in those countries as both were transition countries where we filled up with diesel and undertook large food shops.

Our trip costs by month, with accommodation, exercise & driving stats

EXPENDITURE - Scandinavia Tour-FINAL.xlsx

Our Accommodation / Stopover synopsis

We stayed in free aires where we could, but on this trip we were a lot more inclined to slip into the comfortable ease of a campsite when the opportunity arose.  Certain key places demanded it (Råbjerg Mile, Flåm, Melkevoll Bretun) but others we chose over available nearby free stops as we were passing during ASCI-applicable dates. We still only paid for around one third of our nights away, the rest being either wild camps or free aires.  Our take on the difference may be specific to us, but we only rate it as a true wild camp if we have found it ourselves without the CamperContact app (or similar).

EXPENDITURE - Scandinavia Tour-FINAL.xlsx

Accommodation pie chart – percentage of stays in each type of overnight stop

Almost two-thirds of our overnight stops were free (65%, or 111 out of 170 nights), with the remaining stays averaging out at a cost of €5.63 per night.  (a €957.07 total spend).

In summary, for the entire trip, from when we left home to our return all those months later, we spent a grand total of €5419.37, for an average daily cost of €31.88.  At current exchange rates that means the entire 170-day trip cost us around £4825.00, or, simply speaking, under £5000 all-in, which is much less than we had expected after all the horror tales of scandalous Scandinavian prices.  Back in our salaried years, we had on occasion spent more than that on a special two week holiday, so to be able to experience over 24 weeks of such varied, interesting and fun travel for a similar amount – bargain.

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Holland – Gouda & Delft

Our final city visit on this tour to beautiful Gouda & a flying visit around the centre of Delft before returning home to reflect on our six month tour. 

The next morning started brightly, with the unfamiliar sun lighting up the edges of the clouds and highlighting the tawny autumn leaves.  We left the spacious aire in Dalfsen and retraced a few miles back to Zwolle and beyond, heading along fast wide roads past our previously haunt of Utrecht and on into the centre of Gouda.  We bagged one of the spots with free electricity in the town’s €8 per night aire at Klein Amerika, checked we could pick up the nearby library’s Wi-Fi from Benny (yes) and then we readied ourselves for a visit into town.  During our drive the rain had sneakily returned, defying all forecasts, so we waited a while until we spotted a break in the deluge and quickly wandered over the bridge across the canal leading into the historic centre.

Gouda (cheese shop)

Gouda (cheese selections)

Despite the grey, wet day, we took an instant like to Gouda.  There were local flags lining the pretty streets and it had a quiet buzz, a tranquil busyness that stoked our interest.  We stopped in to taste lots of cheeses in the specialist store we passed, with flavours from liquorice to smoke to chili to lavender to wasabi.  The brightly coloured cheese-blocks ranged from rainbow to solid black, from green to blue to red to white, depending on the flavours and spices added prior to the aging process. We decided very early that it was so pretty that we would spend a second night here, so we slowed up and took our time, looking into every small nook and cranny we passed on each lovely street.

Gouda (bridge and canal)

Gouda (market square)

Gouda (a in main square)

We circled the very large Sint Janskerk church, flanked by narrow canals and cobbled streets, before reaching the main square dominated by the gothic town hall, set alone in the centre.  The square was really a wide triangle, coincidentally (or perhaps deliberately?) shaped like a giant wedge of cheese.  On Fridays during summer months it hosted a large cheese market with sellers and suppliers wearing traditional costumes, but on our visit it was almost empty of people.  The edges were lined with the covered seating areas of restaurants and cafés, some with watching customers, but mostly quiet.  Red and white painted shutters lined the façade of the Town Hall and were repeated throughout the city on many buildings, including the tourist office that housed the Gouda Cheese Museum.

Gouda (central square town hall)

Gouda (a at town hall)

Gouda (lion and buildings)

The following day we did more of the same, simply wandering around quiet back streets. We visited the Gouda Cheese Museum where we watched a short video on how the local cheeses are produced, from cows in the field to shelves in the shops.  We saw the equipment used over the years and how it brought prosperity to the region, and the political and commercial implications of when the crown, seeing the wealth of the suppliers grow, decided that cheese needed to have its own tax applied. We bought a few small items as gifts as we wandered, feeling glad to have had this one last, very lovely stop on our tour, as after the traffic mayhem of Germany we had thought our travels over and all we had left were the miles home.

Gouda (cheese museum poster)

Gouda (in cheese museum)

Gouda (nicky in clogs)

That night, our last abroad on this trip, we sought out a specialist craft beer bar we had read about, called Biercafé De Goudse Eend.  When we arrived we were the only customers except for one other, so we sat at the bar and chatted to the barman and owner Jeroen.  We tried a selection of beers and made many unsuccessful attempts to beat the challenge of moving a bottle opener over a metal strip shaped like the skyline of Antwerp without contact.  We learned about the history of the bar, with its ever-growing collection of rubber ducks, and grew slowly sozzled with the bar and chilled atmosphere.  The bar busied up very quickly later on, with many more beer aficionadas arriving to join the chat.  It was a great night to top off our travels and leave us with lasting memories of Gouda.

Gouda (church building)

Gouda (nicky with pub games)

Gouda (in Goudse Eend piub)

The following morning we rose early, heads a little fuzzy, to pack up for the last time on this trip and head to the Hook of Holland.  We were only an hour or so from the port, so we had plenty of time to spare before our afternoon crossing.  On the way we decided on one last flying visit, and called in to see Delft.  Other than being synonymous with blue and white pottery, we knew very little about the town.  After a struggle to park, and then with no means to pay for a ticket as neither cash or Visa cards were accepted, the parking attendants let us off if we promised to only be an hour.  We would, so that was a bonus.  We walked along a canal into the main square, seeing several churches and the impressive town hall, amazed by the scale of the main square and the beauty of the surrounding streets.

Delft (town hall view)

Delft (central buildings)

Delft (cheese tulips and pottery)

Delft (a on canal bridge)

We had a rather boring and rocky six-hour ferry trip, arriving into Harwich port just after 8pm.  After a winding queue through the port and customs areas, we broke free and drove around 10 miles to the nearby village of Little Bentley and parked up in the empty car park of the Bricklayers Arms.  After confirming it was fine to stay, as they are a BritStops listed pub, we spent a lovely two hours drinking with Liz, the proprietor and owner.  We were the only customers in the bar during our stay, and we couldn’t help but draw a comparison to the previous night’s bar in Gouda, so very different but so similar too.  The following morning, excited to be back in the UK, we headed off to meet up with friends, our Scandinavia trip now at an end.  It would be some time before we could process all we had seen over our incredible trip, almost six months of travel, with such a variation of experiences, scenery and activity.

Holland – Groningen & Dalfsen

Leaving Germany to visit Groningen in the Netherlands before an lovely overnight in the town of Dalfsen

From stormy northern Germany and the town of Brune, we drove across the border to the Netherlands and straight to Groningen, a town we had missed on the way through, back in late April.  It was here we planned to sit out the worst of the weather and hopefully sneak in a quick city visit too.  We arrived at the free motorhome aire set about 4km to the north east of the centre.  There were several other motorhomes on site, but no one was parked in the designated motorhome area.  It was all signed to be on grass verges that were currently ankle deep in muddy puddles; instead the vans commandeered another little-used stretch of hard-standing car-parking.

Groningen - climbing wall

A huge yellow climbing wall with a deep overhang dominated the skyline, with several external bouldering walls and traverse climbing walls filling the park around the complex.  We saw artificial pitches for football and hockey, a full indoors sports hall complete with a 25m swimming pool and a leisure pool with external slides, a go-karting track, a ski centre, a muddy BMX track, a skate-boarding park, a skating and ice hockey rink.  Groups of runners floated past and a further rowdy group were, slightly worryingly, practising their archery in the car-park. There were wake-boarding tow lines and jumps set up in a nearby lake, complete with a sandy beach and swimming area with timber pontoons.  The entire area was a sporting mecca, and most visitors we saw were making their way there by bicycle.

Groningen (wildlife table)

We walked into Groningen in a light drizzle, stretching out our legs and feeling good to be moving, as we’d been cooped up for too long.  We crossed bridges over canals and passed neat brick houses, all looking so quintessentially Dutch.  We headed to a long green park, Noorderplantsoen, to the north west of the centre and followed leaf-strewn paths through the overhanging yellow-red trees alongside pretty lakes, passing around the periphery of Groningen.  We were passed by lots of cyclists and runners enjoying the park; it was good to see it being so well used, even with the atrocious weather of the day.  We crossed another canal and reached a modern pedestrian centre and mall, leading us to the bottom of the historic centre and the true heart of Groningen.

Groningen (church street)

Groningen (Art museum)

We passed by the Groningen museum, a gaudy post-modern mess of building housing modern art.  I always feel a little sorry for large cities who have paid a famous architect (or in this case four separate architects) lots of money for an iconic, city-defining building and end up with quickly dated, garish, 1990s monstrosity.  We next passed a glass box art installation by an artist called Charlemagne Palestine.  It was filled with scruffy teddy-bears and other toys, whether discarded or donated we were unsure.  It was seemingly meant to be a colourful celebration of the collection, but it was more successful, maybe due to the surrounding messy leaf-fall, the grey day overhead and the persistent rain trickling off the glass, as a decrepit, messy piece exploring concepts of loneliness, sadness and loss.

Groningen (art installation)

The central square and side streets were host to large food markets but we (okay, I) forgot to bring my wallet and we had exactly no money at all with us, so we deviously sampled their wares but could not have bought anything even if we wanted to.  Several churches framed the main pedestrian thoroughfare.  We looked in at the Der Aa-Kerk and Martinikerk as we passed, and had a quick glimpse into the pretty internal food markets as we wandered by. We climbed a stage in the main square that offered views over the colourful markets.  Heading north, we were the only visitors to the formal Prinsenhof gardens, the rain having driven everyone else back indoors.  We found a covered area near here to sit and eat a quick lunch, watching the sheltering crowds, before making our way back east through a lovely residential area.

Groningen (central markets)

Groningen (Princehof gardens)

We returned back to Benny, after 13km of walking, wet, tired, but happy for the walk.  We got the kettle on and within seconds the light drizzle exploded in sheets of torrential rain that didn’t cease for the rest of the noisy, cold, dripping night.  But with our exercise done for the day and our city sight-seeing completed, we hunkered down warm inside and calmly watched the extensive volume of water falling all around us.  The next morning we could see blue, and the street was dry – such a transformation.  We moved off south-west, and after an hour or so of easy, clear roads in pretty sunshine we cut off to visit services in a small industrial estate in Harderwijk.  From here we popped into the nearby town of Zwolle to visit Lidl for a few last items to see us home, before making our way to the town of Dalfsen to overnight.

Dalfsen (mushroom)

Dalfsen (windmill)

The free motorhome-dedicated aire at the train station was empty and to our surprise came with free Wi-Fi too.  We were the only van in the aire, so we had our choice of all the marked spaces.  There was a large mushroom structure in the field near the aire across from the train station parking.  We walked over to see what it was for, but all the available information was in Dutch.  The young sheep in the field were entirely unafraid and happily approached us, no doubt searching for some tasty handouts.  They nudged us with their noses to attempt to make us part with whatever goodies we might have for them, but they were unfortunately left disappointed.

Dalfsen (church)

Dalfsen (treeline moon)

From the aire we could see a windmill and a few church spires, so we decided to have a wander over to look around the town.  It was a beautiful autumnal day as we walked the streets, the sun warming us and lighting up the yellows and lime-greens of the tidy trees around the centre. Immaculately kept brick buildings lined the wide cobbled streets in the town, the bright sunlight lifting the whole walk above the normal to a sublime, inviting and relaxing experience.  We passed the newly constructed town hall and council buildings, its architecture contrasting with the surrounding placid feel of the neat residential streets.  Later that evening we watched a bright gibbous moon rising over a line of trees, marvelling at the still, lightly chilled air; a perfect autumn evening.

Germany – A stormy traverse

Germany – A stormy traverse

We left our damp campsite on Als next morning, careful to ensure we safely got off the very wet pitch, to head south out of Denmark to northern Germany.  We spent the next two days struggling through Germany, cursing the volume of traffic, only later realising that the whole of northern Germany was being battered by a storm named Xavier, with a state of emergency being declared in several cities.  The traffic was entirely solid, and every detour we took offered only brief respite before we were stationary again.

Even with our ability to be anywhere, with no time constraints and with a constantly changing target aire to head for, we were still firmly stuck in the web of fallen trees, closed roads and tens of thousands of vehicles all desperately trying to be elsewhere.  We drove for five hours making all of 77 miles, most of them before leaving Denmark, before calling it a day at a quickly selected fourth-choice aire in the town of Itzehoe.  We sat out the continuing deluge in a huge gravel car-park behind the town centre under opaque sheets of rain, but at least the town had free Wi-Fi on offer to help entertain us.

The next morning nothing had changed other than the depth of the puddles that surrounded us, like our own private moat.  We carefully exited the car-park, after facing several rather annoying dead-ends where we had to reverse back out from, where we rejoined the busy roads to again be battered by high winds and rain.  Our second day in Germany’s storm was proving more of the same, stuck with having to use the bottleneck that was the stalled ring-road around Hamburg, replete with all its road works and lanes lost to downed trees and other debris.

We finally broke free and hoped to flow past Bremen, but the road again soon became solid red on Google, passable only with the stoic application of hours of static patience.  We had little, so we jumped off again at the first opportunity, heading back south east away from Bremen to hide ourselves in a small paid aire at a castle in Thedinghausen.  The rains stopped for about a half hour around 6pm and we jumped out to have a quick walk around the sodden gardens and castle grounds, making it back to Benny with only seconds to spare before the skies opened again.  This brief, rushed walk was our only exercise, gentle or otherwise, for two full days.

From here we had to backtrack all the way to and past Bremen, all the while dreading getting stuck again on blocked roads.  But with a few exceptions, we made reasonable, if juttering, progress along the chosen route and finally seemed to have escaped the worst of the traffic as we approached the Netherlands border.  We stopped just short in a town called Bunde to both visit services and to pick up some fresh provisions, then over into the Netherlands we went.  Our German traverse was difficult and potentially dangerous, and went wholly unrecorded, photographically speaking.  So to liven up this otherwise entirely dull blog post, here’s a sketch Nicky did of some penguins – Enjoy.

Nicky sketch - penguin statue

Denmark – Odense & Nordborg

Our final days in Denmark  – A city visit to Odense before returning to Jutland and driving to the island of Als, to spend a few rainy days near the town of  Nordborg.

From Fyns Hoved we drove to the outskirts of Odense where we glamorously parked up outside the closed gates of a large caravan store in an industrial estate.  It was an aire provided by the store, and proved to be a decent, flat and quiet place for a stopover.  Its proximity to the centre enabled us to browse the store in the morning and then easily tootle in to visit the city, only 6km away.  Odense is best known as the home town of Hans Christian Andersen, famous purveyor of many now-classic fairy-tales and some less famous but no less literary plays, novels and poems.

Ordense (church)

Ordense (timber buildings)

The city was in the midst of some major changes, so navigation was complicated due to several closed roads and rerouted pedestrian walkways.  A motorway once ran through the centre and this was in the process of being replaced along its entire length by a far-reaching masterplan that incorporated pedestrian routes, cycle paths and parklands.  We found the carnage was also exacerbated by the Odense marathon being underway, with marshals, runners and spectators blocking central roads.  We stopped and cheered on a few competitors as they struggled by.

Ordense (Andersen house sign)

Ordense (colourful cottages)

The hoarding for the construction works was clearly planned to be in place for quite some time, as a lot of thought and design had gone into making it interesting for passers-by.  A row of individually printed boards denoting the long history of Odense lined one side, beautifully illustrated in a graphic-novel style and filled with interesting local stories and humorous anecdotes.  Other hoardings had photographs, artwork and paintings applied, all related to this ancient city.  We followed the diversions past tall brick churches and narrow cobbled lanes to find the centre. We passed St. Albans Priory, where the last Viking King Canute IV was murdered by peasants during a revolt in 1086.

Ordense (museum design boards)

Ordense (walking backstreets)

We reached the H.C. Andersen museum building, where we saw the plans for the extension of the museum in his honour, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and set to be completed at the same time as his Tokyo Olympic stadium in 2020. We walked wistfully around the colourful back streets, passing the exterior of Andersen’s rather humble home, one of many small cottages with bicycles set against the front wall.  With no particular plans, we kept walking, finding a statue of HC Andersen standing in a beautiful small park in front of St. Canute’s Cathedral, on neatly tended grassland with a formal garden still bright with flowering plants. It was a wonderful town to explore.

Ordense (town hall)

Ordense (church park and statue)

From Odense we drove west, leaving the island of Funen across another tall suspension bridge to make our return to the contiguous shores of mainland Europe, on southern Jutland.  We turned south at Kolding and followed the east coast towards Germany, before turning off again east to cross over to the island of Als at Sønderborg.  We made our way along to the north coast through the main town of Nordborg and checked into another off-season ASCI campsite on the beach at Augustenhof.  We were hoping for a few nice, sunny days to end our time in Scandinavia, but no such luck.

Augustenhof (n walking into sun)

There had been heavy rain the night before, and who knows how many days before that, and turning off the gravel road onto the grass field to reach our designated pitch, we got only a few metres before Benny sunk into the grass and stalled, stuck fast.  We tried in vain for a few minutes to drive out, using mats and chocks as leverage, but to no avail.  Our would-be (if we could get there) German neighbours came to the rescue, fussing around, chatting and gesticulating loudly in German, as they organised an instant rescue party with all nearby fellow campers.  With borrowed heavy door-mats under our wheels and eight welcome volunteers rocking Benny from the front, we finally managed to pop free of our muddy prison.

Augustenhof (A posing on beach

We were wary of trying again to reach the pitch, but optimistically decided if we kept our speed up all would be fine, so we did and this time we managed to get across the sodden grass to the much harder-set pitch, finally settling in for a cuppa.  We couldn’t shake the thought that we’d be facing a similar issue when leaving our pitch, as there was nothing but more rain forecast for the coming days.  We were graced with a short break in the clouds and walked a length of the local beach, watching fishermen stand out in the shallow sea as the sun began to set.  Everything was suddenly calm and still, the sea a reflective silver plate lightly dimpled with tiny waves.  We posed on rocks for arty photos, happy to experience a rare dry and windless moment.  We returned to Benny and soon after the rains exploded again, so we settled in for a blustery battering with the accompanying soft patter of rain on our roof.

Augustenhof (stubble fields)

We awoke after a night of broken sleep, filled with partially-remembered dreams of flooding and sinking, to be greeted with yet more torrential rain, and gusting harsh sea winds rudely rocking us.  After a few hours it finally gave up and the clouds dissipated, so we booted up and walked into nearby Nordborg town centre, along empty roads.  Many of the streets looked dead, with shops closed down, forgotten or unloved, and the town looked close to commercial death. We stopped into one bright shop that was the exception, a book and arty shop that, whilst it was selling lovely things, we couldn’t see a happy future for.  Or maybe all the recent weeks of constant rain and grey skies have washed away our cheery optimism and clouded our outlook with a muddy nihilism.

Nordborg (castle school)

Nordborg (church)

Nordborg (tower)

We walked through the town, seeing the church, the castle that is now a posh school, and a stand-alone tower, Nordborg Vandtårn, standing tall in a residential area. Despite their different shapes and usages, the construction materials for each were all very similar, with stone plinths, white rendered walls and red tile roofs throughout.  We ate lunch at a picnic table in a small park by a lake then wandered back home the same way.  Our walk was slightly over 10km in total, a nice stretch of the legs given how much we’d been confined to Benny recently.  We passed another night under a thick blanket of mottled cloud, like a dirty dishcloth, that occasionally wrung itself out over us.

Augustenhof (cycling past corn)

Augustenhof (countryside cycle)

Augustenhof (Universe building)

The following day, with rain mostly holding off, we cycled a lovely 36km on empty country roads or off-road gravel tracks, getting totally muddied up on the latter.  We rolled past Havnbjerg strand where we paused for a moment to walk on the stony beach, contemplating a quick dip.  A sole fisherman stood staring out to sea, examining the waves. The countryside rolled along, with little hills and fast downhills, looking all the while just like the backroads of Northants.  We saw road signs for The Universe, and with our curiosity unleashed we finally tracked it down, to discover a theme park and adventure centre with some interestingly-sculpted building.  Entry was by appointment only, so we could only look from outside the fence as bussed-in gangs of school kids entered to explore the wonders we imagined lay within.

Augustenhof (beach stop)

Augustenhof (picnic stop)

Augustenhof (lighthouse)

We returned through the town of Nordborg and continued straight through to reach another area of the coast beyond, before following a small track back along the edge of the beach.  This led us around to reach Lejrskolen Fyret, the lighthouse we could see from our campsite but couldn’t quite work out how to walk to.  It looked like the ancillary buildings adjacent were in use as a small local school.  We rolled back around to camp, and later we got told off like naughty school-kids for hosing down our muddy bikes over rain-filled puddles on the grassy site, as if the small amount of extra water we added was somehow the primary cause of the extensive flooding.  Duly chastised, we retreated to Benny and raised a few glasses to say our farewells to wonderful, wet Scandinavia – tomorrow, Germany.

Denmark –  Tisvildeleje beach, Nyborg & Fyns Hoved

Where we visit Tisvildeleje beach, cycle the rural roads and lanes around Nyborg & a bracing walk around the interesting headland of Fyns Hoved.

From our quaint farm aire by the raspberry bushes, we drove up to Tisvildeleje beach on the north-west coast of this area of Sjælland.  It was mentioned in our ‘Wild Guide to Scandinavia’ book, but following the GPS coordinates in the book almost ended in disaster.  The road led through tiny residential streets, made narrower by huge mounds of recent tree and hedge cuttings that had been left uncollected on the verges, before arriving at the ‘car-park’ which was a single space on the narrow roadside.  It looked much more like a passing place than a usable lay-by, and the road ahead was a dead-end.  We had to reverse back 50m to the last junction, being watched by bemused locals, who then helpfully informed us where suitable beach parking was.  We sheepishly made our way there to find a massive beach-front car-park that could easily accommodate 400+ cars; there were five on site, so we had a little more space to fit into than on our previous stop.

Tisvildeleje - a on beach

We parked up and walked barefoot along the beach away from town, dipping our toes in the lapping water as we went.  The sun was bright and strong, feeling very warm on our skin when not concealed by cloud. There were a few other walkers with their dogs doing the same paddling, along with a couple of nude swimmers calmly braving the Baltic waters.  We walked slowly down the sands for a few kilometres, paddling in the shallows, before crossing into the raised dunes behind for a different perspective.  The beach was long and clean, and with the sun joining us on occasion our walk was a lazy delight.  We returned back along the sand, soaking up rays and thoroughly chilled.

Tisvildeleje - n on beach

On our return we were approached to undertake a survey by a guy representing VisitDenmark, so we chatted a while as we completed his many questions.  We made him a tea and had a long chat about our impressions of Denmark, and learned of his unfortunate dismissal from journalism at the hands of new ruthless American owners, leaving him currently stuck doing jobs well below his qualifications and experience.  We overnighted in another aire in a large family home garden, offered to passing travellers by the owners who themselves are keen motorhomers.  They asked for a small contribution from those who consume any services, either electricity, water or bin bags, which is more than fair, but simply stopping overnight is entirely free.  We were joined late, after sunset, by one other motorhome, who was gone again before we opened our blinds.

Bridge to Ordense island

Kongshoj - forest trails

We moved on again, this time to Kongshøj camping, where we planned a few static days.  We seemed to be stuck in Groundhog Day with the weather, constant high winds and stormy days keeping us safely hunkered down inside.  Our booze supply had been depleted, so we made plans to pick up more.  We noted there was a craft brewery at a farmhouse about 12km away, so we decided to brave the weather and cycle there.  We followed an off-road portion through a forest park, parallel to the sea coast heading north.  The weather brightened considerably, becoming sunny and dry.  Decent compacted gravel paths led through beautiful fir-heavy parkland to reach Holckenhavn Slot, a private manor house built in red brick in a late Renaissance style.  The castle, otherwise private, can be rented out for private functions and events, but the 12 hectares of parkland gardens surrounding it are open to the public.

Holckenhavn Slot - n cycles by

Holckenhavn Slot - a at castle

The surrounding countryside was very familiar to us, so similar to the rural midlands of England where we have so often cycled.  We passed over rolling hills with planted corn, blonde stubble fields and long stacks of gathered hay. Lumbering tractors turned over soil in preparation for the next crop, while nearby fields were full of neat rows of sun-bathing onions, left to dry. Small islands of trees stood tall in the centre of wide seas of short grass or muddy turned soil.  Other than the busy main arteries we were forced to cross occasionally, the country side-roads were traffic-free and constructed from clean, smooth tarmac; just perfect for sight-seeing and leisure cycling.

Refsvindinge - brewery shop

Refsvindinge - a at brewery

We reached the brewery, Refsvindinge Bryggeriet, and abandoned our bikes outside to explore their extensive range of, by Scandinavia standards, very cheap craft beers.  Some low-strength lagers were only 3DKK per bottle, Pilsners and IPAs under 5DKK, stouts and porters at 8DKK.  With around 9DKK to the pound, we could happily sort ourselves out with a few decent beers.  We were kindly offered tastings of whichever we wanted, so we sampled a wide range before buying as many as we could safely carry, with assurances we’d return in Benny the following day to stock up with more.  We completed our 32km loop, mostly sheltered from the blustering winds, but we got hit by a huge gust or faced a strong head-wind occasionally.  The bright sun appeared from behind the grey clouds in short patches, and on a few happy occasions this coincided with a pause in the wind; in those rare moments cycling these rolling roads was simply glorious.

Kongshoj - onions in field

Kongshoj - yummy beers

After our return, we spent the afternoon relaxing around the campsite. Nicky undertook a bit of experimental photography, testing out various techniques and settings down on the beach in high winds, as I drank tea and finished another book, Graham Swift’s Waterland, a poignant reflection on the importance of history in terms of our understanding of the present, set stark against the flowing waters of the flatland Fens – well recommended.  We then spent our evening ensuring all of today’s purchased beers were fully up to scratch, in anticipated advance of the larger beer purchase we would make the following morning.  They were indeed, every last one of them.

Kongshoj - beach pier

After checking out and returning to Refsvindinge Bryggeriet to pick up a crate full of select beers, we drove north under wet, grey skies.  We first headed through Nyborg and then onwards, to visit Fyns Hoved.  This was the most northern point of the Hindsholm peninsula, a rather distinctive feature of moving sand spits, strong currents and sheltered beaches comparable to Skagen in north Jutland.  Geographically speaking, it is considered a bight rather than a bay or sound.  We parked up where the tarmacked road ended, rather than in a car-park further on at the end of the gravel track.  From here we walked along the stony beach between the marina and the headland, where we followed a circular route around the point on well-worn pathways.

Fyns Hoved-benny at beach

Fyns Hoved- n at sandy cliffs

We climbed first to the area’s highest point, marked by a bronze disk cast in the ground.  We could see out over the Baltic sea in all directions, the west all rough and frothing, the east a flat protected bay. There were many fishermen standing still and silent in the shallow waters, with the occasional cast into the sea their only movement.  Others sat on rocks on the beach shore, rods supported on stands rather than hand-held.  We walked across the rounded hills to reach the tall sandy cliffs on the western face, then the most northern point of the land, before returning along the calmer eastern side.  It was an interesting place to see and enjoy a low level 5km walk, a worthy distraction.

Fyns Hoved- hilltop view

Fyns Hoved-beachfront view

Denmark – Sjælland’s countryside & castles

Denmark – Arriving on Sjælland via the Öresund bridge and exploring the island’s rural regions, beaches and castles.

We left our deserted beach-front aire in Kalgshamn, near Malmö, first for a Lidl shop on the outskirts of the city and then straight across the 18km long Öresund bridge into Denmark.  On the Danish side, the bridge suddenly ducked down from high above the ocean into a tunnel running underneath, like a rollercoaster ride in a theme park, before popping out just south of Copenhagen.  We were not after a city visit as we’d visited Copenhagen recently, before our Greenland kayaking trip, so we passed by smoothly and easily, although the ring roads were the busiest we’d experienced for months.  We quickly returned to empty roads just a few miles on, surrounded by rolling countryside with stubble fields, corn and trees beginning to turn in the early autumn that could easily have been middle England.

Oresund bridge - to denmark

Herslev Brygus - brewery shop

We headed west, across the middle of Sjælland island, bypassing Roskilde but turning off soon after to reach the tiny hamlet of Herslev, where we had read reports of a popular local brewery.  We had furtively hoped for a somewhat grander experience, the availability of a brewery tour or a tasting session, but they were by appointment only.  Herslev Brygus consisted mainly of a small café and a colourful farm shop selling their many wares.  We chatted to the owner for a while and, after much deliberation as they had over thirty differently-flavoured or imaginatively-brewed organic craft beers to choose from, we selected a small range for us to sample over the coming days.

Ugerlose (farm aire)

Ugerlose (our private aire)

After our wonderful time at Långasjönäs Camping in Sweden, we had a loose plan to spend another similar week relaxing at another ASCI campsite, and had chosen Holbæk Camping.  But on arrival it was surprisingly packed to overflowing with cars, families and noisy kids, not at all the relaxing nature experience we were hoping for.  So we headed off instead to rest in a small farm aire near to Ugerløse, where we were the only visitors.  We parked up in the end bay, where we would have exclusive use of a covered picnic table.  The aire was beautifully serene, the neat parking in individual hedge-lined bays, water and Wi-Fi included, and free use of services after staying two days.

Ugerlose (beer tasting)

Ugerlose (sunset beers)

We stayed here all weekend, mulling the idea of returning to a campsite on Monday when the weekend crowds had returned to work and school. There were a few local walks from the site into the nearby forest, and we walked a lazy 5km loop through the forest under mellow skies, seeing only two others on the walk.  On our return we lazed around in the afternoon sun and slowly enjoyed our hand-crafted beers sitting at our private picnic table, researching the days ahead.  The next morning we serviced and left with a changed plan, now doubling back on ourselves towards Copenhagen and then heading north to see the fairy-tale castles of the area known as the Royal Sjælland coast.

Fredensborg (changing of the guard)

Fredensborg (palace front)

We first visited Fredensborg Slotpark, an impressive Royal residence still in constant use.  It was a lovely autumn day, the yellowing leaves of the trees lightly murmuring against a deep blue sky.  We arrived just in time to catch a small parade, a changing of the guard outside the palace.  The guards wore tall bearskin hats, similar to those of the Grenadiers at Buckingham Palace, but with the dark and sky blue crisp uniforms of the Danish Royal Life Guards.  They marched sharply down the central cobbles to a nearby yard where they lined up and continued to step in time, sweating profusely under their heavy hats.  We left them in peace and approached the front of the palace, enjoying the view into the courtyard, but we could progress no further in this direction, so we doubled back to the gardens.

Fredensborg (palace rear view)

Fredensborg (autumn pathways)

Fredensborg (tree-lined avenue)

There are over 9km of avenues throughout the palace gardens, many lined with neat rows of lime trees or horse chestnuts.  Golden leaves crinkled underfoot as we walked along these formal avenues, through tunnels formed of bending trees.  We passed several statues and decorative fountains as we walked, seeing the rear of the palace from afar.  We walked on until we reached the shores of the nearby Lake Esrum, before following the water around the quiet, wilder edges of the gardens.  The palace has 300 acres of gardens, with most of them open free to the public.  A small portion of the formal gardens are kept private for the royal family to enjoy, but even that area is open to visitors for a few weeks in the summer months.

Fredensborg (rear palace elevation)

Fredensborg (Norsemen statues)

Fredensborg (valley of the Norsemen)

We next visited the Nordmandsdalen, the Valley of the Norsemen, a formal, tiered, circular display.  There were 68 sandstone statues depicting 18th century local merchants, farmers and fishermen.  Commoners such as them had never previously been depicted in formal Royal garden statuary, that having before been the exclusive domain of ancient Gods or celebrated Royal ancestors.  It was a daring social statement by the then King Frederick V, made seemingly in solidarity with the Social Realism movement of Fine Art that chose to dismiss the Romanticism of exaggerated heroism in favour of the honest realities and messy complications of everyday life.  The statues were an interesting insight into the lives, fashions and characteristics of those citizens living in those very different times.

Fredensborg (kings boarthouse)

Fredensborg (boat access to river)

We reached the King’s Barge house, built tall to allow his sailing boats to float directly from the lake into shelter.  There was an adjoining tea house, but this looked closed for the season.  We passed the side of the private area of the gardens, seeing the recently-added Orangery and a small hill with a spiral hedge called the Snail Mound.  After a picnic lunch on the grass overlooking the lake, we returned past the front of the palace and headed off east to see a second even more famous castle, Kronborg Slot, near the centre of Helsingør.  This was a proper fairy-tale castle, and a UNESCO World Heritage site, renowned as the dramatic setting for the family intrigue of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Kronborg Slot - bridge entrance

Kronborg Slot (approach view)

We parked for free on the marina front, a few hundred metres beyond the huge pay-and-display car-park.  The weather was changing now we were on the coast.  The familiar Danish wind really picked up late afternoon, taking away our sunny day and chilling it down, blowing all the heat out of the air like a giant mouth cooling a cup of tea.  We wrapped up warm as we walked towards the castle, first reaching a large bronze model of the entire site that graced the entrance bridge and helped explain the extent of the fortifications.  We crossed and entered the castle’s perimeter walls, passing lots of craft shops snuggled into old stone buildings set securely within the protected grounds.

Kronborg Slot (seaward view)

Kronborg Slot (against the sun)

The fortress was built in a Renaissance style with delicate copper spires, richly decorated. It grew wealthy from the collection of taxes from ships passing by in the sound. After a devastating fire in 1629, the opulent palace was only considered useful as a barracks for the Danish army, until it was fully restored and able to continue its previous calling, the collection of dues, this time from passing tourists rather than merchant ships.  We passed the rows of menacing cannons set on the high ramparts, built in brick rather than stone.  From the grassy banks of the castle’s rear fortifications we watched many ferries, heading for the now-visible coast of Sweden, leave the busy port.  We didn’t enter the castle proper, but enjoyed our blustery circular walk in the shadow of the high walls.  A small stretch of stony beach sat behind and outside the walls, where many locals walked their dogs, leaning into bracing gusts.

Gilleleje - farm aire

We could have stayed overnight at the harbour for free, but decided to move on as it was quite busy and would likely be noisy even in the small hours. Instead we drove a few more miles north and stopped in another farmhouse aire, where it was 50DK to stay in their very pretty garden.  It came complete with raspberry bushes, a tidy pond and both electricity and Wi-Fi included.  It was a very quiet spot to pass a lazy evening, with no other visitors arriving to interrupt our tranquility.  ( We’ll not mention the rooster. )

SE Sweden – Sandhammaren & Ystad

SE Sweden – Stopping to see the beach and lighthouse at Sandhammaren, walking the standing stones of Ales Stenar & visiting Ystad, Falsterbo and Kalgshamn.

On our space on the damp cobbles of Skillinge marina, we awoke inside a deep white bubble, visibility reduced to metres in the grey low cloud, full with rain.  With little sign of coming change, we sat out the worst of the continuing rain in bed then finally stirred for a late breakfast as the mist began to lift, ever so slightly.  Our first target to visit was Glimmingehus, a medieval stronghold turned museum that dominated all the local literature, as it was only a few kilometres from us.  We had a short look and wander around their shop, but didn’t pay to enter the grounds.  Instead we kept on moving along the coast to see Sandhammaren.  We parked up in the sandy car-park where several other motorhomes had overnighted, and walked first to see Sandhammaren Fyr and rescue station.  It was a tall skeletal red steel lighthouse with outbuildings that looked tired and forlorn in this weather.

Sandhammaren (lighthouse)

Sandhammaren (wild beach)

We retraced our steps to reach the wide sandy beach, said to be one of the finest in Sweden. Today, it was a little rainy with strong sea winds, and the frothing waves were breaking high right along the coast as far as we could see.  It was a wild, and invigorating sight, but not a place for us to linger too long.  Sandhammaren was established as a protected nature reserve in 1987, to retain the value of the area for both natural and cultural reasons. The beach is at the southernmost point of Sweden.  Beyond its fine sands and wild weather, it also has a sinister past.  Due to the many sandbars and spits, it was a popular stretch of coast for pirates to ply their trade.  They would use false lights to lure passing ships aground on the sandbars to then plunder their goods; the coast is littered with the corpses of unlucky or unwary ships.

Ales Stenar (stones from low level)

Ales Stenar (aaron at stone)

We drove next to Kåseberga, parking in the town in a large, free car-park from where we walked to view the main tourist site.  Positioned high on the steep coastline of Kåsehuvud is Ale’s Stones, or Ales Stenar, a large ancient construction of standing stones in the notional shape of a Viking ship, set out to reflect the annual movements of the sun.  It is Sweden’s largest preserved stone ship of this type, with 59 large standing stones precisely positioned to create the elliptical ship-like form, stretching to 67m long and 19m wide.  This type of stone-ship design has been noted in history annals since the early Bronze Age, from as early as 1100 BCE.  These specific stones are difficult to accurately date, but were likely erected in their current form by Vikings between 500-1000 CE.

Ales Stenar (stone ship)

Ales Stenar (nicky in stones)

Along with the symbolic boat form, the stones are also positioned to act as an astronomical calendar.  Certain key stones mark sunrise positions for each passing month, with the central end stone marking the Summer Solstice.  When viewed from the central position of the ship, the rising and setting sun traces a route across exactly one quarter of the stones at each solstice.  At each equinox, there are an equal number of stones positioned between day and night.  For a brief time we had the entire hillside site to ourselves and enjoyed walking between the tall stones, imagining the site as it may have been in those times.  We wandered over to the nearby cliff edge, looking both out to sea and back at the stones.  It was an impressive site.

Ystad (busy aire)

Leaving the Viking-laid stones in peace, we next doodled along the coast to reach the main regional town of Ystad, where we planned to overnight in a large, free aire with a view of the sea on the outskirts of town.  We found it quite busy, more so than most aires we’d passed in recent months, but still with plenty of room available.  After picking out a dry and almost level spot, we decided on a short walk to see the local beach, but would leave off exploring the nearby town until tomorrow.  The weather was poor, grey and damp, so we snuggled in and watched the sea boil and fluster for the comfort of Benny.

Ystad (colourful streets)

Ystad (town view)

Ystad (walk around towm)

In the morning we walked along the coast into Ystad. We had no real expectations, not having researched it before arrival, but it turned out to be a surprising delight.  Once we had successfully negotiated crossing the rather restrictive coastal railway line, we wandered through the town with no goals or plans, happily enjoying its quaint neatness and the gentle exercise.  We found the lovely square outside St. Mary’s church and many pretty streets of colourful timber buildings, much like Ribe in Denmark.  After a decent, exploratory walk around the town centre, around 8km in total, we returned to Benny and spent the afternoon sketching and relaxing in the sun, looking out over the sea. We lazily sat here, wine glass later replacing pencils, until the sun set calmly over the sea.

Ystad (reading at aire)

Ystad (sunset from aire)

The next morning we moved on, first passing through the town of Trelleborg where we picked up a useful map, then on to Falsterbo on the south west corner of Sweden. Our newly-acquired map told us of long coastal walks around the headlands, so we found suitable parking at one small nature reserve car-park and set off for a long, flat walk.  We started out across flatlands similar to parts of Lincolnshire or Norfolk, peaty moorland and scrub woodland that was likely below sea level.  The land was sparse, the sky huge.

Falsterbo (on the beach)

Falsterbo (beachwalk to pier)

After a few miles we reached sand dunes and behind them a tiny sliver of sandy beach.  We followed the beach, passing a long timber pier, before cutting a little inland to skirt around a protected nature area, where we saw lots of bird-watchers, and a busy golf course.  A small lighthouse stood on the edge of the golf course.  From there we cut back along empty roads, through extensive residential areas with many beautiful, interesting houses.  This had the feel of a retirement village, with large neat plots, expensive housing and proximity to easy walks and golf courses.  We finally returned along a long, straight cycle path, to close our varied and interesting 16km loop of the coastal peninsula.

Kalgshamn (view of bridge)

Kalgshamn (harbour)

From here we drove north, to reach a large beach parking area, at Kalgshamn, about 10km short of Malmö.  We parked up, with only one other van in residence, and walked to where we could see the bridge leading across to Denmark.  This was, sadly, to be our last night in Sweden, after 51 days in-country.  We walked around the small harbour behind the beach to watch the slowly developing sunset.  We returned to Benny and finished off all our remaining wine in celebration of our wonderful times in Sweden, sipping thoughtfully with a view of the spectacular Öresund Bridge, our route ahead, ever onward, stretching out away from us across the misty white sea.

SE Sweden – Knäbäckshusen & Simrishamn

Following the coast further around SE Sweden to Knäbäckshusen beach & the town of Simrishamn, with a stormy overnight stop in Skillinge.

We were awakened early in our quiet Gyllebo lake swim-spot parking by a large group of kids undertaking what looked like an orienteering initiation, and thought it was best to move on so as not to be in their way.  We packed up and headed off, intending to move only a handful of miles between stops, looking in at all local walks and beaches.  We stopped first at a small car-park where we could walk into a nature reserve, but the walk was only 1.5km and led only to a picnic spot, so we decided it was hardly worth booting up for.  The day was looking much brighter, with an open blue sky and no wind, so instead we thought our time would be better spent in search of a beach to lounge on.

Knabackshusen (walk through village)

Knabackshusen (village end)

Knabackshusen (midsummers heart)

To reach Knäbäckshusen beach we walked through an entire relocated village, comprised of 17 houses that had been removed in totality from a newly formed military zone to make way for their firing range, and plonked down by the sea 15km away.  The 17th century houses were all quite different construction styles, timber, brick and render, but equally picture-postcard perfect, like a tiny Suffolk hamlet.  Their gardens were well-tended, replete with flowers and decorative plants, bounded by neatly painted picket fences. The end of the path leading to the beach was decorated by a large midsummers floral heart, long past its best now, but must have been a colourful delight in the early summer.

Knabackshusen (a at chapel)

Knabackshusen (chapel interior)

We passed a small chapel, its cobbled floor lined inside with simple timber benches and white-washed walls.  Above, a continuous timber wall-plate supported many smooth stones taken from the beach, marked up with names of visitors or pilgrims passing through. This tiny chapel was one of many stops on The Pilgrim Way- Skåne Blekinge, itself a small part of the incredible trek leading from the northern reaches of Norway all the way to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.  Each chapel or church on the vast route are said to be like pearls on a rosary, all rather insignificant individually, but together forming something greater.  We had day-walked a part of the route near Palas de Rei, but it was difficult to comprehend the dedication, or guilt, that could drive someone to walk all the way there from the northern wilds of Norway.

Knabackshusen (overview of bech)

Knabackshusen (the steps down)

The beach below looked spectacular.  It had a border of smooth, rounded stones with a band of white sand leading into the water.  Overhanging trees cast areas of light, dappled shade on small portions of the white sand, while other gnarled trees lay supine, their branches whitened by sun and waves.  We walked along the sands a while, marvelling at the easy, simple beauty of the stretch of coast and how fortunate we were to be able to enjoy it all to ourselves.  We found our place to relax and we settled in, laying down our towels.  We lazed, read and played, getting up for the occasional easy skinny dip in the chilly sea water to cool off.  The air was only around 19 degs but lying in the direct sun on the warmed sands we felt tropically hot.  The setting on the white sands with clear lapping waves framed by blue skies was simply exceptional, as good as any Caribbean island could offer.

Knabackshusen (beach tree climb)

Knabackshusen (beach selfie)

A few more dips and a few more hours of lazing on the sands kept us busy.  Nicky did a little pilates and this inspired me to do a few press-ups, but we soon exhausted ourselves and got back to simple, easy lazing again.  Only two squawking swans, dipping and diving in the water near us, disturbed our blissful silence. Around 1pm we began to lose the sun from our playful east-facing beach, lost behind the tall trees lining the bank behind us, so we sadly called an end to our beach time, packed up and wandered back to Benny.  We were very happy to have had a wonderfully lazy morning in the sun on such a beautiful and deserted beach.  This was one of those special moments you always remember.

Knabackshusen (a on beach)

Knabackshusen (n on beach)

We ate a quick lunch in Benny then drove another few miles to the next place of interest.  Only a short drive away we reached the narrow streets of the village of Vik and parked up on the water’s edge.  This long stretch of cracked sandstone coast, worn into tooth-like fissures by weather and time, was speckled with yellow lichen and many small sea pools.  We bounced along, up and down the jagged, broken rocks as we made our way to the Prästens Badkar, the Priest’s Bathtub.  This turned out to be a flower-like circular arrangement that was formed in the coastal rocks, likely by a sand volcano that lay on the seabed in the Cambrian period, over 500 million years ago.  A visiting priest was once said to have bathed in the geological feature after a long journey, hence the name.  We found it interesting but rather small and, after our beautiful sunny morning beach time, not especially inviting for a comfortable dip.

Prästens Badkar (a at priests bath)

Prästens Badkar (n at priests bath)

From here we visited the main town of Simrishamn for a short while, walking the streets lined with hopeful but empty restaurants, it easy to imagine them loud and busy in the height of summer.  A quick visit to the tourist office allowed us to pick up a few maps for upcoming areas.  We walked to the main square, passing the central red-brick Simrishamn church and its adjacent buildings. A further wander through the nearby pretty streets and along the side of the marina completed our whistle-stop tour of the region’s main town.  There was an aire at the marina, but it was a simple car-park and relatively expensive, so we decided to move on out of town and find a quieter spot.

Simrishamn (main square)

Simrishamn (church and statue)

We drove a few more miles then parked up to overnight on cobbles in the town of Skillinge, in a free parking area at the marina.  One cup of tea after stopping we watched the skies turn quickly from blue to cloudy to dark grey clouds to pouring rain in a few short minutes, glad to have made our parking spot in time for the deluge.  With this change of fortune in the weather we quickly re-planned our evening and decided to immediately open the wine we had picked up in Simrishamn’s System Bolaget and settled in to watch the burgeoning storm overhead.  It was difficult to comprehend that this was still the same day that we had lounged in the sun and swam naked on a stunning Caribbean-quality beach, but that’s motorhoming for you – the art of ever-changing fortunes and horizons.

 

SE Sweden – Friseboda & Kivik

Continuing our explorations in south-east Sweden, we visited Friseboda & Kivik, with days out to see beaches, arboretums and nearby national parks. 

After our blissful week in Långasjönäs camping, we finally packed up and said goodbye to our amenable host, and to our beautiful swim lake.  We drove south, with our customary Lidl stop on the way to restock our fridge after a week of sitting still.  Our SatNav was very confused for most of the journey as we crossed wide green fields, meaning the smooth, fast road we travelled on must be less than two years old. We passed many sign-posted options for nearby picnic areas, beaches and swim spots.  We finally chose one and cut left down a narrow, bumpy road, following tight bends to reach a large, empty car-park at Friseboda beach, a 5km long sandy strand on the Baltic Sea.

Friseboda (woodland trees)

Friseboda (woodland mosses)

We parked in the green embrace of the nature reserve.  We were surrounded by spacious, mixed woodland, replete with pine trees, with thick moss dominating the groundcover. Wispy lichen hung from branches and helped create a feel of ancient forest, and perhaps it is – the area has been settled, farmed and manipulated by man for over 7000 years.  We walked over pine-needle paths to reach the calm, clear sea.  With the exception of one elderly jogger, we had the long strand as far as we could see in both directions all to ourselves.  We laid a blanket out in the small dunes and settled in for some serious relaxing, interspersed with cooling sea skinny dips, reading and snacking.  The only sounds we could hear were the light buzzing of nearby insects and the soft lapping of tiny waves.

Friseboda (lunch spot)

Friseboda (n on beach)

Friseboda (walking along beach)

Late that afternoon we drove to Kivik, but the first possible aire we had in mind was mostly flooded, so we moved on to the marina parking nearer the town centre.  It was late Saturday afternoon and the aire was fully packed with vans, and we just managed to squeeze into a nice spot between two others.  We had a short walk around the town and the harbour walls, seeing several great swim spots and lots of birdlife.  A square housed the beginnings of a festival, with stalls and stands under construction.  We checked a local noticeboard and read about the upcoming Apple Festival.  It would not be starting for a few days, so the current visiting crowds were simply weekend warriors.

Kivik - birds on rocks

Havang beach (bikes at the beach)

Havang beach (a on the sand)

The next day we cycled from our spot in Kivik to Haväng beach, a rare area of sandy steppe, caused by dry climate and lime soil, where the Verkeån river runs into the sea.  We reached the beach by dirt road shortcuts across private land, avoiding the main roads wherever possible.  The beach car-park was busy with dog-walkers and visitors.  We cycled right along timber walkways and onto the grassy hillocks in front of the beach where we locked up our bikes and lay down, enjoying the sun on our backs and legs.  We could see the military base right next door and later watched Special Forces undertaking training manoeuvres and mock rescues on the sea in heavily armed rib-boats.

Havang beach (special forces)

Havang beach (tree roots)

Havang beach (nicky tangled)

On top of a small hill there were a few interesting trees with wildly twisted roots, all now above ground.  We played here a while, like kids, filled with memories of similar trees from childhood.  Near these trees was Havängsdösen, a Neolithic stone circle and dolmen grave site. We caught the distinctive aroma of wild curry plants as we walked over to see the standing stones. We walked the length of the beach and back to our original spot, then relaxed on the dunes to simply people-watch and read.  The sun remained out and the air warm; bliss.  Later we were passed by a string of Icelandic ponies being ridden across the sands, fording the river at its widest point as it entered the sea.

Havang beach (a on bridge over river)

Havang beach (river meets sea)

On our cycle home, we saw a gathering of red kites circling over the freshly-cut fields.  We stopped to watch them hunt, seeing them easily spotting the voles or mice disturbed by the farmer’s work.  We watched them glide, pause and then violently swoop, dropping almost vertically to pick off their prey in the short stubble at will.  It was a compelling site to see so many red kites circle the same field.  We cycled back on main road, before cutting back into Kivik and through, passing popular in-progress Sunday league football games, to visit Kiviks Esperöd arboretum.

Havang beach (ponies on beach)

Havang beach (red kite)

Leaving our bikes aside we walked the gardens, where we saw an old Swedish phone box set among the trees, its short swing doors open lattice design, Elven-like, a real contrast to Scott’s famous British equivalent.  We crossed an arched blue bridge set over waterlily-rich waters that reminded us  a little of those in Monet’s Garden in Givenchy.  The ducks happily sunning themselves on the banks quacked us a greeting. We walked many tiny paths around the arboretum’s perimeter, finding all manner of exotic trees from all over the world, and simply enjoying the wander.  We returned to our parking spot in Kivik marina to find a new motorhome beside us.  Our new neighbours were Brits, originally from Peterborough but now of Morecombe bay.  It was the first British van we’d seen in a long time so we had to stop for a chat.

Kiviks Esperod (bridge in arboretum)

Kiviks Esperod (old phone box)

Next morning we packed up and left the now almost-empty aire, saying goodbyes to our British neighbours on one side and to a black BMW with a full set of interior curtains and someone sleeping inside on the other.  We drove only a short distance to Stenshuvuds National Park, in Österlen, where we parked up at the central Naturum building, the visitor centre.  It wasn’t yet opened, so while we waited we hiked one of their marked routes to the south, 3.2km long through light forest and pasture land.  The sun was bright but the shaded trails in the forests were still sharp with cold this early in the morning, so we walked fast to keep warm, glad of the occasional hill to work up.

Stenshuvuds NP (lighthouse)

The national park covered quite small area at just over 400 hectares, but it packed in a lot of variation in both landscape and habitat.  Around half of the park was leafy deciduous forest, mainly gnarled hornbeams with a thriving population of hawfinches.  Pasture lands provided grazing for some wildly hairy, wild roaming highland cattle.  There were thickly heathered and flat sandy heaths, wet and dry meadows and peat-rich mosslands all providing a rich variety of ecosystems for the many creatures and endangered plants of the region to live in.  There were a number of well-marked trails through the park, and we followed several of these in turn, taking in the ever-changing landscapes beneath our feet and around us.

Stenshuvuds NP (forest traisl)

We clambered over leafy trails and tree roots, large boulders, deep sandy paths and marshy bogs by still, dark lakes. The hornbeam forest was cast deep in light and shadow by a bright, low sun, with lichen covered boulders lit up like beacons when in full sunlight.  We climbed timber steps to the ancient hill fortress of Stenshuvud, at the grand height of 97m, where we enjoyed views out to sea from a rocky plateau.  We passed Stenshuvud lighthouse and old cottages still used by eel fishermen as they have been since the 18th century. We reached a beautiful white sandy beach and felt drawn to dip in the water, but we abstained for once.  We returned to the Naturum building and ate lunch in Benny, glad to have taken the time to visit this wonderful nature reserve.

Gyllebo lake - swim spot

Only a few miles further on, we stopped at a dedicated swim place on Gyllebo lake and decided to overnight there.  We parked in the corner of the small car-park and walked out to explore their wonderful set-up, with pontoons and ramps reaching out into the pristine lake.  A couple of large fire pits were provided to allow cook-outs, along with many benches, making it a tranquil, but also popular picnic spot.  There were local cars buzzing around most of the afternoon, dog walking and picnicking, and it was good to see the area being put to such good use.  It had chilled down and the wind had picked up a little, so our desires to swim here were dampened somewhat.  Later we walked out to the swim platforms to watch the sun drop behind the black treeline on the banks of the blood-red lake.