The Swedish countryside in the summer time is one of the most beautiful things in the world, if you ask a swede like myself, and we aren’t really known for bragging. With a sun that only really dips down below the horizon for a couple of hours at night (or further up north -doesn’t set at all), unspoiled flowery meadows, sunlit woodlands and little lakes perfect for a swim at any time of day -and a nationwide obsession with strawberries and barbecues -the summer is any Swede’s idea of paradise. Maybe it is the long, cold, dark and snowy winters, but we insist on spending the summer outdoors, come rain or shine (or, in fact, still quite cold temperatures in the nighttime in June, if we decided to camp a certain weekend we are doing it no matter what). Anyway, my point is, if you want to see a usually composed and slightly reserved Swede let loose, come visit us in the summer and we will be our happiest and relaxed selves for a few months. If you want to see something different in Sweden than Stockholm, but don’t want to catch another flight/train to get further up north or get on a boat to one of the many islands (both very much worthwhile, but for a weekend you may not want the hassle and would rather start relaxing ASAP), I suggest heading out into the countryside to the romantic Dufweholm Manor hotel, close to Katrineholm. Down a little country lane, right by a lake and across an old wooden bridge, you will find the yellow manor house which looks very homely, rather than imposing, and with a beautiful Jugend-style fountain in the courtyard. Forget about scandi-cool and all-white interiors, the manor house itself has beautifully patterned wallpapers, Gustavian furniture and other antiques of varying ages, bold textiles, and no room is exactly the same – just as it should be in a countryside manor house, if you ask me. If I can’t imagine an eccentric baroness waltzing about in the corridors, then what are these old manors for? Yes, there may be some weird taxidermy about and the occasional teddybear placed in your room – just go with it, ok? I would suggest a visit in the summer so you can start every morning with a dip in their lake before sampling the delicious buffet breakfast. There are plenty of activities the staff can help organise for you, but why not take a walk around the lake, bring a picnic (the hotel can happily arrange this for you) and stop off by the summer house to enjoy it – or even go out in a canoe. They also have a small SPA where you can have a massage or use the jacuzzi; just be aware that Swedes do like to use the SPA as a bit of a social spot where they have beer and chat (I told you we relax in the summer); more chilling out rather than trying to meditate their way to Nirvana.
If you are looking for solitude, the grounds are certainly big enough to find a quiet spot. Considering there are only 9.5 million people living in this whole country compared to the 64 million in the UK (and Sweden has almost double the area), it’s rarely crowded (unless if you are in Stockholm of course – always make restaurant bookings in advance and arrive at clubs early to make sure you’ll get in). Enough demographics, what about the food? Usually at manor-style hotels in Sweden, you book in a ‘weekend package’ which involves afternoon tea on arrival, possibly a drink before dinner, a three-course (or more) dinner and breakfast; these are usually good value for money and a good idea all round. You don’t want to be driving around looking for restaurants your whole weekend, and in the middle of the countryside there may not be many options and, in this case, this is a brilliant restaurant. The chefs at Dufweholm are focused on locally sourced produce and the name of the farm, dairy or lake where the food is sourced from is often proudly stated right there on the menu, and it is delicious. If you want to try Swedish food, this is a great place to do it with amazing quality and traditional, yet never boring, flavours. Seafood (including crayfish caught in the lake by the mansion), bleak roe, cod, lamb, reindeer and beef served with various versions of potatoes and great sauces are all on the menu; nothing is too fussy and overworked, just straight up tasty. The drive from Arlanda airport will only take you a bit over 2 hours, so you could either head straight there or combine it with a night in Stockholm (if you are staying on a weekend and driving through, or indeed staying somewhere in Stockholm with your rental car, make sure you avoid the congestion charge area/timings: between 18.29 on Friday and 06.30 on Monday morning there is no charge, and the whole month of July is excepted as well). Have fun; and if you do decide to go skinny-dipping in the night after a few too many shots of Swedish snaps at dinner -bring some mosquito repellent to put on afterwards. As much as we love the summer, we hate those goddam mosquitos.