The southern Swedish region of Skåne is a patchwork of fertile farmlands, forests and lakes.
The further north you travel, away from the sandy beaches of the far south, the more forested the region becomes. And if you look at a map of Sweden, you'll see that the immense swathe of green stretches as far north as the Arctic Circle.
On the southern edge of this vast forest, in a clearing in the trees, sits Ullstorps Stugor – a collection of nine colourful wooden cabins and cottages dotted amongst meadows, pools (including a stunning natural swimming pool) and woodland.
Forest bathing and the friendliest farm animals you'll ever meet: a stay at Ullstorps Stugor is the perfect antidote to hectic modern living. By Penny Bunting
The farm in the
One of the colourful cabins; the stunning natural swimming pool
We arrived at this little slice of heaven one sunny afternoon and were greeted by Anna. She and her husband Daniel, together with their young children, have owned and run the farm since 2016 – and have created a welcoming haven of peace and tranquility in this beautiful corner of Sweden.
Our home for the next two days was Bergshus – a red-painted wooden house perched at the top of a hill, with wonderful views of the farm and forest.
Forest surrounds the cottage on three sides, and you can see trees – birch, beech and pine – from every window.
The interior is traditional and charming, with many thoughtful, homely touches such as candles and colourful embroidered cushions. There is plenty of seating and space to spread out, with quiet corners to sit in and relax, as well as a large dining table for sociable gatherings.
The cosy and colourful theme extends into the bedrooms – a spacious downstairs double and pretty twin upstairs in the attic. Altogether the house sleeps eight people, with a third attic room – a wonderful space, with a daybed, patchwork quilts, comfy seating and television – that acts either as a third bedroom, or second sitting room.
The cottage's outdoor space includes two huge decked terraces – one leading off the living room, and the other accessed from the attic room upstairs.
Both terraces offer fabulous forest views, and Anna recommended that we take advantage of the idyllic location to enjoy some fika – a Swedish tradition, involving coffee and cakes, that we embraced wholeheartedly.
There was something very special about sitting at the edge of the forest in the morning sun, with freshly brewed coffee and a couple of Kanelbullar (cinnamon buns). The modern world of traffic, emails, stress and bustle felt a million miles away.
Anna and Daniel encourage guests to get back to nature as much as possible – and with so much natural beauty right on the doorstop, this is easy.
From the front door of Bergshus, you only need to take a few steps before you are in the forest. There are a number of trails to follow through the trees – all clearly marked with painted wooden discs.
We spent much of our stay exploring the trails on foot, and it was a fantastic way to de-stress. The benefits of 'forest bathing' are well documented – and Ullstorps is the ideal location to try it.
Forest bathing originated in the 1980s in Japan, where it is called shinrin-yoku. It's believed to improve health and wellbeing by connecting people with the natural environment. Studies suggest it can reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and improve sleep. It's about engaging all the senses, so that a walk in the forest becomes more than just a workout for the body – it's also therapy for mind and spirit.
The forest trails at Ullstorps took us along winding tree-lined paths, and through mossy glades bathed in dappled sunlight.
We took it steadily – we were in no rush – taking the time to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere by standing still and listening to the sounds of the forest. The tranquility was almost tangible: a stillness and silence punctuated only by the occasional calls of birds and the light rustling of leaves in the breeze.
By slowing down, we were able to take in the details of the forest floor – the delicate, intricate patterns of the moss, the colourful tapestry of fallen leaves, and the fascinating structures of an array of different species of fungi.
We also remembered to look up, at the soothing shades of blue sky thought green leaves. After wandering for a couple of hours we felt deeply relaxed, and returned to our little house on the hill – spotting one of the forest's resident red squirrels along the way!
From forest to farm
Anna had invited us to meet the farm animals, and we met her in the morning to help with feeding time.
Our first encounter was with an extraordinarily fluffy and friendly cat – a gorgeous grey Maine Coon called Luna.
Next we met the chickens, which came running over to greet us when Anna called them. These were Viking and Gotland hens, ancient breeds almost the same as those brought over by Vikings – and good at surviving the harsh conditions here.
Anna and Daniel are passionate about the preservation of heritage species, so the hens, sheep and goats on the farm are all traditional Swedish rare-breeds.
The sheep are Gestrike sheep, an old strain of rustic sheep that originated in the Swedish province of Gästrikland, and today is critically endangered. There are just 300 females and 100 males left in the world – eight of them live on the farm at Ullstorps.
A rare-breed sheep; Anna with the flock
To say that these sheep were friendly would be an understatement. We're used to sheep in the UK that are nervous and run away if you so much as look at them. The Ullstorps sheep, in contrast, ran to us – and couldn't get enough of the fuss we made of them.
These animals are clearly adored by Anna – and they obviously love her right back! We thought they had run over to us because of the bucket of carrots that Anna was carrying – but they barely gave the treats a second glance, as they jostled to have their ears scratched by us humans.
After tearing ourselves away from the sheep, it was time to meet the goats. These are Göinge goats, bred in Skåne – so they are a truly local breed. Like the Gestrike sheep, the worldwide population of this breed is very small, with only 200 females and less than 100 males – and 15 of them are at Ullstorps.
Farms like Ullstorps are playing an essential role in protecting the farming heritage of a region or country – many traditional breeds across the world are becoming rare or extinct.
The farm is also a haven for wildlife. Managed using permaculture methods, with careful rotation of grazing in the meadows, areas are left unmown to encourage wildflowers. This creates an ideal habitat for pollinators such as bees and butterflies – giving these struggling insects a much-needed boost.
Care of the environment also extends to the running of the holiday cottages. All rubbish is sorted – and either recycled, composted or combusted, with no waste going to landfill. And cleaning products for the cottages have been carefully selected to be as eco-friendly as possible. Anna and Daniel use Sonnet products, which are fully biodegradable and made from natural, organic and biodynamic ingredients.
We felt privileged to have spent a couple of days at Ullstorps Stugor –
as a family-friendly and sustainable holiday destination, it ticked all the boxes for us. The combination of the beautiful, natural surroundings, the wonderful welcome from Anna and Daniel, and possibly the friendliest farm animals in the world, makes it the kind of place that you'll want to return to again and again.
Green Adventures November 2019
Ullstorps Stugor is 5km north of Höör, in the Skåne region of Sweden – about 45 minutes from Malmo.
For more information and to book visit www.ullstorp.se.