Discover badehotels, blokarting and flødebolle, Denmark’s answer to the Tunnock’s Teacake, in the country’s unspoilt south west
The Tirpitz Museum in Blåvand, Denmark, is at first barely visible, hidden under the sand dunes, but as you get closer it gradually opens up to reveal a vast treasure trove of compelling attractions.
It symbolises perfectly the appeal of a trip to the area around Esbjerg, the largest town in West Jutland, an area characterised by small harbours and fishing towns.
Offering relaxed Scandi chic, vast beaches, engaging museums and a waistband-stretching foodies’ paradise, Esbjerg is also well-suited to families, and you could easily combine it with a trip to Legoland, which is only about an hour’s drive away.
We fly with bmi on the direct Aberdeen-Esbjerg route and, after a relaxing spell in the airport’s Northern Lights Executive Lounge, it feels like we’re barely in the air before we land. It’s then a short and scenic ferry crossing to the island of Fanø, part of the Unesco-listed Wadden Sea National Park.
We head to the village of Sønderho on the southern tip of the island, admiring the rows of thatched houses, and have lunch outdoors in the sunshine at Sønderho Kro, an inn founded in 1722 that’s one of the oldest in the country. The dishes typify that light but filling, artfully garnished fare the Danes do so well, including fresh fish accompanied with rye bread, washed down with beers from local brewery Fanø Bryghus, which offers tastings of products, including a Mango Mussolini offering in a nod to US President Donald Trump.
We then drive on to the seemingly endless Mars-like landscape of the beach to try blokarting, where you dart across the sand on a kart on wheels with a sail. It takes me a few minutes to get the hang of it, but once I’m up and running, harnessing the wind and picking up speed, it’s an addictive rush.
Our accommodation during the trip spans a selection of Denmark’s seaside “badehotel” properties and that night we check in at the Kellers Badehotel, which dates back to 1875, and is run by Sanne Juul Jensen and chef Lars Sejerup. My room has historical postcards on the wall and backs on to the misty greenery of the dunes.
The next morning we head back to the mainland, and to the Wadden Sea Centre housed in a pioneering building by architect Dorte Mandrups. The hi-tech, interactive attraction looks to fuse art and nature with an educational message, offering tours exploring the sea bed, for example.
Next is the Ribe Viking Center, which brings to life the rich history of the area with reconstructions of village life along with a dress-up and play area for children, although some of the outfits definitely fit adults. So I’m told.
We then take a walking tour through the streets of Ribe, the oldest town in Denmark. I could have happily spent the whole day wandering through its picturesque streets, stopping for coffee and chocolate at Temper Chokolade, which was founded in 2014 by Canadian native Timothy Ibbitson, a former chef and baker who’s worked with Martin Wishart in Edinburgh. He meticulously handcrafts chocolates using local flavours such as sea salt, or brown ale from Fanø Bryghus, but also has his own Danish take on the Tunnock’s Teacake, known as Flødeboller, a classy but fluffy delight.
Our next port of call is the Hjerting Badehotel, a sizeable destination that is decorated in a classic blue and white colour scheme reminiscent of a high-end destination on the US east coast, and has red canoes stored against the wall outside. I stay in an apartment with a well-equipped kitchen and living area with two bedrooms upstairs. Dinner is in its Strandpavillonen restaurant, and we look out to Ho cove as the sun sets and our calorie intake speeds up faster than a blokart at full tilt.
We start with a foaming soup with blue mussels, Danish new potatoes and cured cucumber, followed by beef with spinach and asparagus, and a rhubarb dessert, including compote, buttermilk sorbet and rye bread, decorated with glassy pink ribbons of the herbaceous perennial. The next morning I manage a pre-breakfast run by the seafront and a quick visit to the hotel’s gym.
It’s then that we visit Tirpitz. Our guide says the aim was to make it a “true experience” and attract people who don’t normally visit museums, and it comprises four exhibitions in a single structure. It offers a glimpse into the lives of, say, smugglers at Ho cove, the people who built Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and the residents of the western part of Jutland during the Second World War.
After a stop-off and stock-up at the high-end Hr Skov Deli in Blåvand, run by the charming Claus Skov, that night we bed down at Henne Mølle Å Badehotel, which has a row of chalet-style accommodation tucked away among the dunes. We head along the immaculate white sand to the shoreline where I have a brief dip in the chilly waters.
Our last day arrives, bringing with it a visit to the Fisheries and Maritime Museum in Esbjerg. It boasts everything from a well-stocked aquarium to a new photography exhibition showcasing the weather-beaten faces of fishermen who’ve spent decades at sea.
There’s also a highly immersive installation about working offshore, including a helicopter simulator in which you can pretend you’re travelling to an oilrig. Elsewhere in the museum you can see seals glide elegantly through the water and surface for feeding time.
Our last port of call en route to the airport is Svend Wiig Hansen’s sculpture Man Meets The Sea, comprising four nine-metre figures in white concrete looking out across the water. Its expressiveness is said to mean it is “not tied down to any one age”, another reflection of the timeless, generation-spanning appeal of this corner of Denmark worthy of greater attention.
Flybmi offers one flight a day between Aberdeen and Esbjerg, Monday to Friday. Fares start from £94 one way and include 23kg of hold luggage, allocated seating, complimentary in-flight drinks and snacks and online check-ins or speedy 30 minute check-ins. www.flybmi.com or call 0330 333 7998.
Kellers Badehotel, kellersbadehotel.dk, double room for two with breakfast from £112.
Hjerting Badehotel, hjertingbadehotel.dk, double room for two with breakfast from £164.
Henne Mølle Å Badehotel, hennemoelleaa.dk, double room for two with breakfast from £128.