Please do disturb – why this country with no private paths is a hiker’s paradise

Advice

Nature in Sweden is boundless and broad – encompassing deep forests, ancient peaks and unfurling archipelagos. You’re free to swim in the lakes, hike up the mountains and pick berries in the valleys, as they’re all covered by allemansrätten, or the right of public access, a cornerstone of Sweden’s ancient rural code. No water or wild is off limits, so long as you “do not disturb and do not destroy”. 

For easy-access adventure, head to Skane, the southernmost region of Sweden, and join part of the 800 miles of trails that interweave its countryside. This far-reaching passage, known as the Skaneleden (skaneleden.se), traces rolling fields and ripe plantations, and is divided into six subtrails with over 100 day hikes between them. 

An autumn hike in Skane is perfectly timed with the apple harvest, the golden colours of its deciduous forests, and the bountiful farmers’ markets selling jams and must (a local pressed-apple drink). 

The region also becomes a bird-spotters paradise; the Falsterbo Peninsula near Malmo is a crossing point for a majority of the 500 million birds that leave Scandinavia every autumn, and a trail section here follows the lagoon and heathlands of Skane’s idyllic southwestern tip.

With an endless combination of routes to embark on, here are three to kickstart your next walking holiday.

Easy: Kulla-Rulla

Hoganas to Molle (6 miles)

The Kullaberg Peninsula – jutting out above Denmark, skirted by dramatic crags and coves – is the highlight of Kullaleden, a Skaneleden section certified by the European Ramblers Association as one of 21 leading quality trails in Europe. Although Kullaleden is 43 miles in its entirety, a 10-mile stretch, tracing the Oresund-lapped shores between Lergerget and Molle, suits all abilities.

Known as the Kulla-Rulla (rulla means “roll” in Swedish; wheelchair users are welcome), this route is hard-packed and has a steady elevation, with many benches along the way.

For a 6-mile day hike, start at Hoganas. Once known for mining, this seaside town is today famous for its ceramics. Heading north, the shoreline will take you past pine forests, coastal heaths and impressive dunes. Take a small detour by the fishing village of Lerhamn to see Krapperup Manor (krapperup.se) and the delightful Bracke Molla windmill. From here, follow the railway embankment, teeming with seabirds, past a watermill and onto Molle, a historic seaside resort known for its scenic harbour, sitting just beneath the Kullaberg Nature Reserve.

Stay: Strandgarden (00 46 4234 7016; pensionatstrandgarden.se) offers double rooms from £105pn



Kullaberg Nature Reserve


The Kullaberg Peninsula is one of the best quality trails in Europe


Credit: Apeloga

Moderate: Soderasens Nationalpark

Day one: Klova Hallar to Klaverod (10 miles)

Start your journey at the Klova Hallar trailhead, then follow the dramatic Soderasen ridge through beech forest, overlooking the Klovabacken Creek, teeming with trout. The path is steep in places, but the landscape soon opens into wide pastures.  

In the afternoon, you’ll enter the valleys and creeks of Klaverod recreation area – highlights include Vargadalen (Wolf Valley), Skorstensdalen (Chimney Valley) and Snuvestuan Cave. Legend has it that a spell-casting girl once lived in this cave; protect yourself from her curses by turning your clothes inside out and wearing your hat backwards. From here, a small detour brings you to Tranerodsmossen (Cranberry Bog), which remains all-but undisturbed by humans and hosts a unique collection of plants.

Stay: Klaverod Logi (00 46 07353 53543; klaverodlogi.se) offers double rooms from £52 per night

Day two: Klaverod to Rostanga (10½ miles)

Start in the beautiful Soderasen National Park, a protected area of old-growth forests, rushing creeks and plunging ravines. The trail passes straight through the park, following the Skaralid rift valley. To view the autumn colours of the beech, oak and ash, climb up to Kopparhatten, the highest point, often called Skane’s Grand Canyon.

You’ll also pass through spring-fed Odensjon, a crisp, circular lake in Nackarps valley – those brave enough for an autumn dip can do so here. You’ll exit the park at Rostanga.

Stay: Villa Soderasen (00 46 7045 42168; villasoderasen.com) offers double rooms from £80 per night



Klovahallar Soderasen National Park


Hikers can explore protected old-growth forests at the Klovahallar Soderasen National Park


Credit: Christian Andersson/Apeloga

Day three: Rostanga to Hallarod (12 miles)

Spend the morning navigating alder bogs via wooden boardwalks and you’ll soon spot the rise of Jallabjar, one of Skane’s best preserved volcanoes. The coiling trail that leads to Jallabjar’s crown reveals the remains of its crater vents – basalt pillars dating from when Skane was a shallow sea.

Next, cross through meadows to Anderstorp village and you’ll reach the ancient trees of Eneskogen (Juniper Forest), where a climb to the top of Natthall reveals a panorama over the meandering Ronne river valley. 

A swaying bridge crosses the water, where a gravel road cuts its way through farmland toward the Sodra Hultarp nature reserve. The trail then climbs Allarpsbjar, which is topped with a lava-formed coronet. Here, the bedrock is so iron-rich that compasses are untrustworthy, so keep an eye on the orange trail markers. 

South of Dagstorps lake is Ulfsbjar, where greenstone bedrock, shade and high humidity combine to provide a rare home to lichens, moss and fungi.

Stay: Nyrups Naturhotell (00 46 07613 98764; naturhotell.se) offers stays from £119 per person

Difficult: Osterlenleden

Day one: Ale’s Stones to Skillinge (13½ miles)

Join Osterlenleden (the Eastern trail) at 1,400-year-old Ales stenar, or Ale’s Stones – Sweden’s answer to Stonehenge – where, balanced atop a bluff overlooking the Baltic, 59 megaliths have been mysteriously arranged in the shape of a ship. 
Head east to follow the weathered coast through open landscapes; the day’s trail is interspersed with woodland and scrambles over soft, but challenging, sand. A highlight is the white-sand beach of Sandhammaren (the Sand Hammar), often voted the best in Sweden, known for its shifting tombolos. Many ships have been wrecked on these perilous shores, so it’s only fitting that you visit the oldest surviving lifeboat in Scandinavia, built in 1855. 

Just north of the trail are the heathlands of Backakra and the stunted and gnarled oaks of the Ekkratt forest. Clamber over the ever-growing dunes past summer houses to the fishing village of Skillinge.

Stay: Ostangard Bed & Breakfast (00 46 0414 30014; ostangard.nu) offers double rooms from £118 per night



Ales stenar


Ales stenar, or Ale’s Stones, is Sweden’s answer to Stonehenge


Credit: Frits Meyst/MeystPhoto.com

Day two: Skillinge to Simrishamn (8 miles)

Sand makes way for coastal meadows and peculiar rock formations along the craggy frontier: at Gislovshammar, look out for the slender fossils of cephalopods; at Brantevik, the sandstone has solidified the movement of ancient waves. In autumn, this stretch is a good spot to watch for migratory seabirds.

A few kilometres from the trail, near the medieval town of Simrishamn, is the best-preserved medieval manor in Scandinavia – Glimmingehus – which is more than 500 years old. Topped with parapets, the manor is filled with false doors and dead-end corridors as well as a cohort of ghosts (not for the faint-hearted, this one).

Stay: Gardens B&B (gårdens.se) offers double rooms from £96 per night

Day three: Simrishamn to Kivik (13½ miles)

Just north of Tjornedala, you’ll find a sandstone formation known as Prastens Badkar (the Priest’s Bath), named for the rumoured habits of local clergy. At Vik, the trail turns inland. Billowing grasslands lead toward the old town of Knabackshusen where you’ll find a fishing hut converted into a chapel. After following the shore north, you’ll start the climb into Stenshuvud National Park. The surrounding landscape is relatively flat, so the hill – 318ft high, perched on the shore in the middle of a hornbeam-filled forest – is visible from far away.

A small tarmac road leaves the park to the north, passing apple plantations and cider factories. Kivik, once a poor fishing village, is today notable for its autumn bounty. Kivik Apple Market Festival (Sep 24-25), culminates in an unveiling of the apple portrait of the year – a huge artwork made of apples.

Stay: Hotell Hanobris (00 46 0414 70050; retrohotell.se), doubles from £104 per night



Havang sunrise Sweden


Havang is particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset


Credit: Frits Meyst/MeystPhoto.com

Day four: Kivik to Alunbruket (16 miles)

Before leaving Kivik, pay a visit to Kungagraven (the King’s Grave), dating from 1400 BC. Long-since plundered, this impressive monument once held two Bronze-Age tombs marked with petroglyphs – the images carved into the stones depict people, animals, ships and a chariot.

Follow the shore north past Vitemolla, through rare, sand-steppe habitat, detouring to Havangsdosen, a 5,000-year-old tomb perfectly oriented for the spring and autumn equinoxes. The trail turns inland here, wandering across the dry heaths of Ravlunda and the steep hills of Brosarps Backar – its slopes formed by glacial retreat. 

You’ll then pass through a deep valley lined with beech and perennial butterbur, along the banks of the flowing Verkean, and past the waterfall of Hallamolla. 

Eventually, the trail starts to climb. Lush forest is gradually replaced by dry pastures – and marvellous views over the river valley – until the trail brings you to the Andrarum alum mine, once one of the most important industries in Sweden, and Christinehof Castle (christinehofslott.se), built in 1740 and today an ecopark.

Stay: Alunbruket B&B (00 46 0417 261 15; alunbruket.com) offers doubles from £98 per night

Need to know

There are no direct flights from London to Malmo, but Norwegian (norwegian.com) flies from London to Copenhagen from £70 return – then it’s just a 35-minute hop over the bridge by train.


Have you been hiking in Sweden? Please share your experiences in the comments below

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