A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to Skåne in southern Sweden along with a small group of other bloggers – Sarah Akwisombe, Lou of Littlegreenshed and Kimberly of Swoon Worthy. The trip was hosted by the lovely people at Visit Sweden and Visit Skåne, with the aim of showcasing all the wonderful design, scenery and food which the region has to offer.
I’ve visited Sweden many times before, but this was my first stay in Skåne. I already know it won’t be my last: not only is it very easy to reach (just a 20-minute hop across the Øresund Bridge from Copenhagen Airport), it’s also incredibly beautiful. Our trip took in the vibrant city of Malmö, the elegant university town of Lund and more, but I want to start with a post about our first base: the enchanting Wanås Estate.
This fairytale-esque castle and organic farm is wrapped in woodland an hour and a half north of Malmö, and the drive there took us along winding roads, past burbling streams and wooden farmsteads painted in the deep rust-red that’s so characteristic of rural Sweden. Built in the 15th century, it was inherited by current owner Marika Wachtmeister in the 1980s. Keen to share its beauty with others, she set about creating a sculpture park and art education centre in the grounds, establishing the not-for-profit Wanås Foundation and commissioning renowned artists from all over the world to produce bespoke works for the site. The latest stage in the estate’s development came in May this year, when Marika’s daughter-in-law Kristina, an architect who now lives at Wanås with her young family, opened a hotel and restaurant in some of the old barns.
We pulled up outside just as darkness fell, to find lanterns flickering enticingly by every doorway. We quickly realised that we’d arrived somewhere very special indeed: Wanås grabs you by the soul, forcing you to slow down, breathe a little more deeply and reconnect with the natural world. A big part of this is its commitment to sustainability and local sourcing, which extends to everything from the furniture to the food. As much as possible is grown, hunted and harvested on the estate, and almost everything else comes from small-scale artisan producers located nearby.
Designed by Kristina, the 11 bedrooms are calm, clean-lined havens that pair crisp white walls with gnarled beams and swathes of exposed brick. The lighting comes from local firm RUBN, and designer Christian Halleröd was commissioned to make minimalist luggage racks, hooks and hanging rails using leather from the farm’s cows and oak from the woods. Particularly striking are the bathrooms, clad in peachy-pink tiles offset by white sinks and tubs from Skåne-based company Ifö.
After settling into our rooms we gathered in the lounge, which Kristina has furnished with a wonderful mix of old and new: vintage mid-century armchairs, slim-legged Fogia sofas, shelves lined with carefully selected family heirlooms, and a beautiful terrazzo floor which sparkled in the glow from the fire as we sat back to recover from our early-morning flights.
Then it was on to the dining room, where we tucked into a four-course menu brimming with seasonal flavours: smoked potatoes with corn and blueberries, beef tartare with foraged chanterelles, melt-in-the-mouth local lamb, and a caramelised apple tart topped with homemade cream. Kristina joined us for the meal, and her passion for Wanås shone through as we chatted about the inspiration behind the hotel’s design and its roots in the land around us.
Breakfast the next morning was just as delicious: yoghurt, butter and milk from the farm, home-baked bread, and jam made with berries plucked from the forest. Afterwards, we donned wellies and waterproof coats (available to borrow from the boot room – a nice touch) and headed out to explore the sculpture park. More than 70 permanent installations are scattered among the trees, and there was something magical about strolling through the woodland, never quite knowing what we were going to stumble upon next. It was one of those gloriously crisp and cloudless autumn days, with shafts of golden sunlight filtering down through the orange-tinged leaves and mushrooms sprouting from the damp earth underfoot. As we walked, we came across giant red balls lodged in trees by Lund-based Anne Thulin, reflective glass curves on the bank of a lake, an abandoned dinner party created by Swedish-American artist Melissa Martin, and haunting children’s voices calling from speakers hidden in the branches high above.
My favourite works were Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree, where visitors can write their hopes onto labels which flutter gently in the breeze, and Antony Gormely’s Together and Apart, a lone cast-iron figure standing silently in a glade. I also loved Jenny Holzer’s 1.8km-long Wanås Wall, with words carved into stones among the moss and leaves. The phrases come from Holzer’s own writing and are often ambiguous; some are joyful, some are melancholy, and others – ‘you are the one who did this to me’ – are open to interpretation according to your mood.
After our wander there was just time to squeeze in lunch – another feast of home-reared beef and autumnal veg – and a visit to the indoor gallery and shop, before we had to pull ourselves away. As we travelled to our next destination, we all found ourselves plotting return visits to Wanås with partners and friends – particularly after learning that stays only cost around £220 per person per night (depending on exchange rates), including dinner, breakfast and entry to the park.
And if you need further proof of just how special this place is, I’ll leave you with this: despite my current struggle with insomnia, I slept deeply here for the first and only time in weeks. Perhaps it was the fresh air and cocooning silence, or maybe it was the rare chance to switch off from the outside world, but I drifted off almost as soon as I climbed into bed. Wanås certainly cast a spell over me.
I enjoyed a free stay at Wanås as part of my trip with Visit Sweden and Visit Skåne, but as always all words and opinions are my own. Many thanks to Kristina, Sofia and the whole Wanås team for a fantastic visit.
All photography by Abi Dare