North Sea Cycle Route. 6,000km from London to Shetland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France.
Cycling south through the Swedish forests and coastal inlets to Varberg, south of Göteburg to catch a ferry across the Kattegat to Grenaa in Denmark. Then following the coast around Denmark to the German border, through National Parks, extensive beaches and sand dunes. Almost flat, but hills are replaced with the wind, check the wind turbines for directions.
No need to rush, take your time and enjoy the countryside.
Camping every night. Generally good sites, but very busy during the Midsummer festivals around 21st June.
I crossed the Svinesund into Sweden missing Norway within minutes. It is not to say that Sweden was that different, but I knew that I had been very fortunate to have good weather and perfect ferry crossings. Not to mention the Norwegian people, who made me feel very welcome.
The road signs have changed colour and the cycle posts unreadable, but the roads are clear through the forests towards Strömstad, a beautiful seaside port. I eat most of my food reserves for lunch before extracting Swedish Krona in a country which is rapidly becoming cashless.
A long slog against the wind eventually brings me to Tanumshede and an ICA Supermarket which would embarrass Waitrose for the quality of food. Last time I was in Sweden you could only buy flour and yeast; you were expected to make your bread.
I stock up with all sort of goodies and head out to a coastal campsite. When I arrive, the site is full. I have to ask very nicely to find a pitch as it is full-on Midsummer festival time. I also need to buy a Camping Card, which is mandatory, but this gets good use later.
Friday night is for families, but Saturday night is for the unattached generations, with no holds barred. Most of the rowdy songs are in English. What a party. The toilet blocks are a scene of devastation, and everyone is asleep.
Somehow I manage to sleep through the night’s festivities, and the roads are clear in the morning. It is raining hard, but progress is good until about 11 o’clock when everyone is making their way home. I take pleasure cycling past tedious traffic jams, with classic American cars intermixed with the Volvo’s and Saab’s full of green Swedes.
Fortunately, the route turns towards Lysekil and lighter traffic, to catch a ferry across the fjord to an excellent campsite on the island of Malö, connected to the outside world by two cable ferries. I treat myself to an ice cream and devour the rest of my food. Getting calories on board is becoming a problem as I am losing weight fast.
Heading south, I meet Michael again, the Frenchman I met in Bergen almost two weeks ago. They say the paths are long, but the journey short – meaning that you always bump into people using the same trail as you. We cycle together to Göteburg along a large river, through bypassing heavy traffic into the city centre. He has to move on to see a friend, I leave for Mölndal and another campsite, still heaving with Midsummer campers. Google cycle navigation keeps me out of trouble in the major conurbations.
I spend my last night in Sweden in prison! Well, a converted prison, which is now a youth hostel. I buy a ticket for the ferry from Varberg to Denmark in the morning. The prison is haunted, according to the sales girl, she would not stay there. It is an eerie experience, closing the cell door. Every sound is amplified and ricochets through the halls. Spooky, but unmissable.
The ferry is for cars, coaches and lorries and very comfortable. I catch up on administration and recharge all fuel cells. I have been cycling for 16 days so snoozing on a ferry is allowed. I wake to arrive at Grenaa in Denmark and seek out Danish Krone and more food. I then cycle through wonderfully flat countryside, almost identical to Norfolk to reach a campsite just after the ferry at Udbyhøj, covering over 80 km in 4 hours, benefiting from favourable winds. The cottages and farm buildings have a distinctive architecture, long and low, thatched.
The next day sees the wind turn to an easterly, bringing torrential rain. I am wearing every item of waterproof gear, mostly from Alpkit. Their clothing is remarkably efficient, but the rain is so hard, and flooding so deep, I feel a need for a lifejacket too. I tack along the matrix of roads, sailing again towards Frederikshavn, a marina, fishing port and naval base. I find a good campsite north of the town and meet up with more cycle tourists, who can understand and share what it means to cycle through such weather.
The port of Hirtshals is next, via Skagen, the most northerly tip of Denmark. I meet by Gunner, a day cyclist and we get chatting. After a tour of Skagen, he invites me back to his home and wife, Jonna, a local guide, for a traditional Danish lunch, Aquavit included. Uh oh. They could not be more hospitable, so I spend some time with them to exchange stories. I leave Skagen without a care in the world, with only a rough plan to reach Hirtshals.
I do eventually reach a campsite just outside the town, full of motorcyclists, waiting to catch the ferry to Iceland. My campsite neighbour is riding a 1952 AJS Model 16, so as a fellow Classic Bike nut, owning a 1947 Matchless G80, we talk for hours. I don’t envy the 2-day journey to Iceland though, but I do admire his sense of adventure on such an old bike.
The cycle path now uses a hard sand beach, which is a joy to cycle along, if you avoid the blown sand mounds and the tide is out. I stay overnight at Hanstholm, home to a large fishing factory you can smell well before you see it.
As you head south, you enter the massive dune wilderness of Nationalpark Thy and a rollercoaster ride through the forests. I surprise the deer and eagles as I pedal along smooth gravel paths that connect the holiday villages, full of mostly German tourists. The wind picks up speed as I cross into Thyboron and a pleasant campsite, with one of those centrifugal spin dryers, a cyclists dream for washing clothing.
The headwind is more strenuous than the hills, with the addition of a persistent white noise that drives you crazy, filtering out any natural frame of reference your ears crave. The landscape, right to left, consists of coastal dune, marshland, cycle path, inland lake until I reach Nymindegab and an industrial campsite, full to the gunnels with campers.
I search for Vestas V164, the tallest wind turbine in the world, near Esbjerg. Denmark seems to be powered entirely by renewables, judging by a diverse array of wind turbines in the fields, but this 212m giant dwarfs them all, generating an incredible 9.5 megawatts. Unfortunately, the blades are facing the wrong way for me, as the headwind persists into Ribe, a medieval fishing port, now inland from the sea.
Reaching the coast again, I start cycling through scenery that will barely change for the next few days. Behind the seawall construction, a service track runs through sheep pastures. Avoiding sheep, their droppings and numerous gates, you cycle for kilometres without actually seeing the sea, even though it is only a few metres away.
I cross into Nordfriesische and Germany, although the landscape remains unchanged, except for the road signs. After finding a cash point for Euros, I head for Dagebüll. Denmark is a country I will return too.