Week 5 started with us waking up in the very quiet Skuleskoggen national park after a good walk and nights sleep the day before. A few other vans were parked overnight around the corner, but felt like we were quite alone. We then undertook a short drive down the E45 to the Skuleberget national park which is a big hill (aka Mountain). One side has a cable car up, and the other has a tough walk up/down – or, it has a few cliff face climbing routes up… So yep, we did the latter. A company at the bottom gives you the harness and a few minutes instruction, and off you go up a 250m cliff face. We’ve done some minor indoor and outdoor climbing, and nothing of this scale. We did the easiest route, but we did find Mels limit and she had a few petrifying moments. I have to say, there were some really tough bits – almost vertical, with big drops and grabs that were challenging. Yes, we were clipped in, but still it was tough mentally and physically and even I had a few “moments”. Glad to say through gritted teeth we made it to the top without relying on the harness, but that was the limit for the day! Brilliant fun and recommended, and safe, but challenging.
After studying the map I found a little quiet beach area with a pine forest and parking area near Norrfällsviken and thought it was an ideal wild camping spot. Only to find later it was already flagged in our database. Superb spot though, quiet, parking area or by yourself in the forest, with lovely walks and sandy beach to hand. We needed a relaxing time after the climb, so we had a couple of nights chilling in the area, on the loungers on the beach, and sipping wine in the forest. We were with a couple of others on the first night,
but alone on the second. These sort of spots, this quiet and pretty, is what we love – but the gems tend to get over popular and ultimately abused 🙁
Dawdling down the coast, we tried to venture onto back roads rather than the main road, but were challenged as many were just unpaved roads and a bit too bumpy After a nice drive, eventually we ended up at a dead-end island at Stoka where there was an aire on our database next to a restaurant in a harbour. Sounded idyllic and quiet – but we got there and must’ve been 20+ white vans camped out already. Bit annoying, but we stayed as they had good facilities (including Laundry) – so did what we needed and had a reasonable meal in the restaurant. Would’ve been perfect without the other tourists! 🙂 The first place in Sweden that almost compared to Norwegian campervan busyness!
More heading south now towards Stockholm, we again avoided the motorway where we could (difficult) and looked out for somewhere to spend the night – somewhere not on a database. And we found a lovely spot at a dead-end overlooking a swimming lake/natural harbour. We guessed we may be alone but two white vans there already. Guess this part of Sweden is busier than the north!
After a good night, we then headed to Stockholm which we were quite looking forward to. We opted for a long route in avoiding as many motorways as possible, so entered from the East, and we were targeting a parking spot right in the centre that OurTour mentioned in their blog. The route in seemed to be via lots of major sites, so the first impressions were great – but sadly the secluded parking spot was no longer available, so we had to opt for plan B which was a city-aire on Långholmen which was OK and sufficient.
Stockholm has the “great city” interest we’ve found lacking in other places on this trip – interesting old street layouts, old buildings, and oozing with character. Its small enough to walk around, busy enough for an atmosphere, but not stupidly busy. Yes, the usual cruise-ship visitors and coach tourists, but they were easily avoidable. We didn’t find the prices that bad either, not much more than London, so easy to have an affordable break here. We’d actually say it’d be a great place for a fly-in city break. So much to do and in our 3 days there we didn’t explore all we wanted.
The Vasa museum was a very interesting must-see – all about a 17th century ship they built, and it was massive but sank after only 2km. The ship sank and was naturally preserved, and 98% is still genuine. Explains the story of their cock up and lots of other interesting things. Well worth the £12 entry.
We skipped the Abba museum (phew) as not enough time and I’m not a big enough fan to spend £25 each looking at tat. (!).
Lots of other museums though are well worth exploring, and of very high quality. Its like they had a huge budget to spend on museums – so they did! Most are totally free too – the army museum, Swedish history, and the medieval museum are all very interesting, and we had others to do but didn’t have the time – the natural history one was one we had to miss.
By sheer luck, when we were there England were playing Sweden in the 2018 World Cup Quarter Finals, so we thought we’d watch the game in Stockholm. One park we found was so packed it’d be impossible to see the game, so we found a pub to watch and were slightly outnumbered… That said, the Swedes were great supporters and clapped at the end, and no negative vibes. We did leave quietly…..
With just over 5 weeks gone and under a week to go, it seems a shame to think about heading home – but being over 1000 miles away (with 4,200 miles done) still it needs thinking about! Scandiavia is a long long trip!
With the scenery and landscape changing, the south is more European-esque and hence there are more ancient castles – so we opted for a long route joining come castles together. The first was Gripsholm Castle which was mightily impressive from the outside, and so we paid our entrance fee of £25 for us both. And, well, the inside was a bit duff for us. A couple of interesting rooms, but the rest was a bit dull and it was mainly focussed around portraits – some of which were pretty poor! The theatre and history info was good, but not overly entertaining.
The second castle was at Orebro – and again, really good to look at from the outside and the town looked busy enough to explore and keep you occupied. Worth popping in if you are passing. We found a sportsbar and just watched the F1…
And finally, we arrived late at Vadstena which we were tipped to by friends, and yep, a lovely spot next to the lake Vattern overlooking the castle. Really quite nice to look at and a novel use of the moat by using it as a small harbour! The town too is pretty, and with more time could be a nice place to chill. Worth a visit.
Heading further south we stopped at Jönköping for a lunch stop, but the sun was out and it was hot, so we decided to hit the beach on the lake and have a couple of hours on the beach and having a swim – the water was clean, shallow and warm – and to be fair we probably benefitted from a bath! But we had to move on, so we tried to find somewhere where we could stay and have a last Swedish meal out…..
But this is where it went wrong. The first town we stopped at wasn’t very inviting or pretty, and the second wasn’t much better but there were a few nice places to eat. But it’s strange – we wanted Swedish food – but the choice was one Thai place and 5 pizza places – and NOTHING else. So, another pizza – nice but completely uninspiring. You can see why some visitors to the south of Sweden aren’t overwhelmed. Anyway, we moved on and overnighted in a permitted parking area outside another castle which was quiet enough. A couple of girls were “camping” there in their car, with a groundsheet and sleeping bag! Bless. Don’t ask where their loo was…. We did feel sorry for them and gave them an icecream!
Our last Swedish day we visited and explored Helsingborg which is interesting enough and you can get a ferry from there to Denmark – but we opted to go further south to Malmo to go over “The Bridge” – which is really quite impressive bridge/tunnel combo, but not very exciting. Prepaid on line the night before for a discount, but if you are doing a return trip its cheaper to buy an annual pass as it reduces the cost by half. But for a single trip – just bite the bullet… Much simpler than the ferry.
Then on, more motorways (did we say it’s a *very* long drive lol) – and to Germany – with naff traffic we tried to find a town to watch the England-Croatia world cup game. The first town was dead, and the second was Verden which both had motorhome parking, and a couple of bar/restaurants open and one showing the football. Excellent. Not only that – beer was only £4 for half litre! Such a relief after Scandinavia! The beer bill was about the same, but we felt a bit rougher in the morning.
Then more motorways and to Amsterdam for the final couple of nights before heading back to the UK. Quite sh*tty motorway journeys, we normally avoid motorways but really no choice this time. We almost got pulled over for using the mobile when driving (however, the police car along side eventually twigged the person using the phone was the passenger, not the driver!) – and we almost got caught up in a dangerous incident when some prat missed his junction and you guessed it, stopped hard for no reason – and in the fast busy traffic we had nowhere to go, apart from stop, but we were just under a little tunnel so were “invisible” – so a few seconds of panic expecting a lorry to pile in – but got out unscathed. Bring back quiet car free roads!!
We normally program sat-nav to avoid motorways on our trips, but this trip involved such distance, that to and from Norway/Sweden we had little choice, so sadly “wasted” almost 1000 miles of either side going along motorways eating days.
That said, an excellent trip, with stunning scenery, excellent walks and nature, and superb wild camping possibilities. Recommended, and worth the drive! 🙂