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A weekend escape in northern Denmark
HANDS up who's been to northern Denmark for a weekend.
No? I didn't think there would be many of you, but after three days including a mixture of city living and upper class relaxation at "the end of the world", I can highly recommend it.
Less than two hours from Gatwick, Aalborg is a fun place to be with entertainment including a pub crawl you'll never forget.
Then there's Gammel Skagen at the country's most northerly point, where it's hard to remember whether it's Christmas or Easter as you chill out in one of the most exclusive locations in Scandinavia.
We flew with Norweigan to Aalborg on an 8.30pm flight on a Thursday night and back at 7.15pm on Sunday - only one day off work but I promise you'll return feeling like you've had a proper holiday.
First stop was the Quality Hotel, one of the newest in Aalborg and located right next door to an impressive congress and culture centre.
It's a modern building and, at first sight, similar to a budget chain such as Travelodge or Premier Inn. Our first thought was how quiet it was at 11pm, our only companions at the reception desk the crew that had flown us there.
We were handed an impressive goodie bag courtesy of our hosts, VisitDenmark, and set off to our room to plan the weekend.
The room was spotless and comfortable and the inclusive breakfast the following morning lifted the hotel to another level with a delicious selection of hot and cold food, served buffet-style.
Now back to the goodie bag - it included Aalborg cards, offering free entrance to a host of museums and attractions, maps and the all-important glasses, tokens and pub maps for the famous Aalborg beer walk.
Aalborg is a fantastic mixture of the old and new, with slightly wonky, picture postcard Danish buildings, sitting comfortably alongside state-of-the-art museums and modern office buildings.
The waterfront area is home to the Utzon Centre, designed by Jorn Utzon – he also designed the Sydney Opera House.
The Museum of Modern Art and Aalborg Castle are among many other fascinating attractions and, just a mile or so from the buzzing city centre, Aalborg Zoo offers an alternative way to spend a few hours.
With our Aalborg cards almost worn out we decided it was time for the beer walk.
For around £12 each, participants get a sampling glass and the chance to try beers in six different pubs around the city centre and its intriguing lanes and squares.
And here's the confusing bit. Despite being in Denmark, we spent the next couple of hours in English and Irish pubs, more English and Irish than the genuine article.
After scoring the pubs and placing our entries in the last hostelry's ballot box, it was time for dinner Soogards Bryghus - the city's brewery – is one of dozens of top class eateries and was buzzing with Friday night drinkers and diners. VisitDenmark had ordered for us and we had no complaints. Delicious seafood starters, followed by beef that melted in the mouth kept us very quiet indeed. And the homemade vanilla ice cream that accompanied chocolate cake and mixed berries proved a great ending to the meal.
The next day saw us driving north in our Avis hire car.
Slowly buildings were replaced with farms, then sea and sand dunes as we neared Skagen, a trendy, picturesque fishing town, which has been a mecca for artists for many years due to its unique light.
The small town has numerous galleries and museums and a small resident population, which swells in the summer months due to the high number if visitors.
The most exclusive area is Gammel Skagen, which has multi-million pounds homes dotted between the sand dunes and just one hotel.
Ruth's Hotel isn't just any hotel. Its occupants are far from ostentatious or flashy - most have arrived in little hire cars wearing their jeans and trainers -but somehow one look at them tells you they are very wealthy indeed.
Once inside the hotel, it's easy to see why they're here.
Rooms - some in the main building and others a sand dune or two away - are stylishly decorated, feature amazing artwork and, without doubt, the most comfortable beds in the whole wide world. You can even rent four-bedroom houses for the whole family.
The Wellness centre offers top notch facilities and the hotel's business centre and lounges ensure everyone is catered for.
Ruth's has a fine dining restaurant and brasserie, both hugely popular, but we decided to venture to Restaurant Pakhuset, a renowned seafood restaurant in Skagen for dinner.
Again, our friend from Visit Denmark had done us proud and the spectacular fish soup, followed by very very fresh plaice, left little room for more - but we did manage to share a little pot of plum dessert and some more delicious ice cream.
The following morning we headed for Grenen, Denmark's most northerly point where two seas, Kattegat and Skagerrak, meet.
It's weird to stand in one spot with waves coming at you in three directions but easy to see why the area's so popular with artists.
Scrawled in the sand, someone had written “the end of the world” and drawn a smily face.
Sadly, it was then time to reluctantly make our way back to Aalborg for the flight home.
Quality Hotel, from £98 per night for a double room, including breakfast.
Aalborg Card - £21 for 24 hours or £35.50 for 72 hours, half price for children between three and 11.
Aalborg beer walk - £12 each.
Ruth’s Hotel, from £205 per night for a double room, including breakfast.
Norweigan, the largest low cost airlime of the Nordice region, offers nine direct routes from Gatwick and prices are from £32 one way, including taxes, to Aalborg or Copenhagen. www.norwegian.com
For all information on travelling to Denmark: www.visitdenmark.com, VisitNordjylland www.visitnordjylland.dk, VisitAalborg www.visitaalborg.com, Skagen www.skagen-tourist.dk.
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