Our summer holidays are spent mainly in the UK but this year we were invited by our lovely friends Simon and Ann to spend a week at their converted barn in Varberg, Sweden.
Without hesitation, we booked our flights with Norwegian and car hire with Hertz and were all set for spending quality time with friends in tranquil surroundings and exploring Varberg and Gothenburg.
Varberg is approx. 45 mins away from Gothenburg airport and after getting acquainted with driving on the right side of the road, we arrived at Nygard Cottage.
Originally a traditional Swedish barn used to store grain and animal feed, Nygard Cottage is an impressive barn conversion offering a high standard of holiday accommodation. Situated in open countryside it is detached with its own outside space & located around a classic farm yard with ample parking space. Simon’s cottage is also around the yard – perfect for when you run out of sugar or coffee!
The farm is also home to a small flock of Swedish Rya Sheep, an array of chickens, ducks, two cats, a small dog and a gang of guinea-pigs.
Varberg is situated on Sweden’s west coast, 40 minutes-drive south of Gothenburg. Famous for its sandy beaches and excellent conditions for windsurfing the area also boasts easy access to beautiful forests and unspoilt lakes.
The main attraction in Varberg is the massive medieval fortress. The oldest part of it was built in 1280, which makes it well over 700 years old! It sits right on the beach, with sprawling grounds alongside. With its sharp lines and colossal stonework, its dark passageway that spirals slowly down, down, down to the dungeon, pierced by thin shafts of light sifting through high slits in the wall.
The Danes built the fortress to hold off those dreaded Swedes, and though it kept watch over land and sea through centuries of warfare between the two nations, it never became a stage for actual military conflict. Sweden has controlled it since the 1600s and used it as a prison until 1931. There’s even a hostel located in the fort, where you can spend a night or two pretending to be a prisoner locked away in the damp dungeon.
In the tech savvy world we live in, it can be difficult to find some time to relax, and if de-stressing is on the agenda then Varberg has more expertise than most. The town’s tradition as a health resort dates to the 1800s, and Swedes still flock there in their thousands to take a break from the daily grind and enjoy the fresh sea air. They can’t all be wrong.
Varberg city has the highest density of spas in Sweden, and the pick of the bunch is the striking waterfront Bathhouse (Kallbadhuset). Built in 1903 with an unusual combination of orientalist and gothic architecture, creating an impressive building that couldn’t look any less Scandinavian. A warm sauna in front of the sea isn’t exactly the worst way to spend your day.
Swedish summer days can get surprisingly warm, and if the temperatures start to rise then Varberg’s beautiful sandy beaches are a good port of call. The 2.5km stretch of coastline should provide plenty of room for a dip or a picnic.
Although the local store had everything we needed, it’s always nice to take a piece of a place with you once you’re done visiting it, and Varberg’s market offers the perfect chance to do that. Taking place in the main square every Wednesday and Saturday, the local tourist board claim the market is the best in Sweden. If you’d rather just watch the hustle and bustle unfold, then there are around ten cafes dotted around the square to choose from too.
A day in Gothenburg is a must – explore the quaint Haga, one of the oldest areas of Gothenburg, once a neighbourhood occupied by working class people. Now you can enjoy their cobblestone pedestrian streets, quaint restaurants and cafes and antique shops. Pop into Teas Kaffe, experts on coffee and tea with over 200 different blends.
We also visited Gothenburg’s botanical garden (Botaniska Tradgarden), one of the largest in northern Europe spanning more than 400 acres. This beautiful slice of greenery took us more than an hour to walk through thanks to its more than 16,000 species of plants.
You can also do day trips from Gothenburg to the Archipelago – over 20 islands stretching along the coast like a string of pearls. You don’t have to travel far from the city to find charming villages, stunning nature and beaches. Seal safaris, sea-fishing and boat excursions are just some of the activities available here.
Simon also has a cottage in the woods – Kvarnhagen near Ullared is a perfect place to relax and enjoy nature at its best. A fully restored 18th century forest farm house situated on the edge of a forest next to a river and open meadows. A perfect blend of old-world charm with modern comfort, the house has been tastefully restored, preserving the character features but adding 21st century comfort.
Both properties are perfect for people with mobility as they have a bedroom and washroom/ WC on the ground floor.
Nygard Cottage offers 3 spacious bedrooms: one with a double bed and one with two single beds on first floor and a second twin bedroom on the ground floor. There is a shower room/WC on the upper floor and a washroom/WC on the ground floor.
The living/dining room has a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and roof windows for spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. There is also a TV and DVD player in the living area.
The kitchen is part of the living/dining room and includes full set of crockery, cutlery, pots and pans, glasses, oven, induction hob, coffee machine, fridge, freezer so you only need to visit the supermarket for food and drinks. The local supermarket is approx. 10 mins drive from the cottage.
Simon has ensured that all his guests enjoy a home from home experience including amenities such as BBQ, garden furniture, cushions, sun chairs in the private garden and deck area. A utilities room on ground floor includes washing machine and dryer plus extras such as travel cot, stair gates and high chair are also available.
Kvarnhagen is ideally situated to explore nearby forests and lakes or to visit the popular beachside towns of Varberg and Falkenberg each only 25 minutes away. Gothenburg is about a 1 hour drive away and the popular Gekas shopping centre in Ullared is only a 10-minute drive or 20-minute cycle away.
The cottage has 3 bedrooms upstairs, 2 with single beds and one with twin beds. Downstairs is a double bedroom, dining room, shower room with a toilet & washbasin and a separate toilet with wash basin. A well-equipped kitchen with built-in dishwasher, oven, microwave & fridge as well as an old wood burning stove. The cosy living room has seating for 6 people, an amazing old tiled wood-burning stove, TV & DVD player and fibre high speed internet. There is also a glassed-in garden room with chairs and table which leads out into the well-kept garden.
The garden is well kept grass and has an outdoor furniture set and barbeque for outdoor meals and sunchairs for relaxing in the tranquillity. There is also a wood store and garden shed for storage and parking for two or three cars.
Both properties have free internet and fast fibre Wi-Fi.
Other local activities include Sea fishing, lake fishing, river fishing, mountain biking, sailing, horse riding, swimming, windsurfing, canoeing, walking, flying, sea-kayaking, stand-up-paddle-boarding.
Prices start from £385 per week (based on low season). Additional fees for cleaning and extra bedding and towels. Change over day is Sunday during high/mid-season.
No dogs or pets allowed, and no smoking permitted in both cottages.
Flights with Norwegian from London Gatwick to Gothenburg.
Car hire with Hertz from £330.00 based on seven-day rental.
Airport parking at London Gatwick with APH Parking.
Images taken by Simon Brooke Webb/Surinder Manku/Sweden Tourist Board