24 July 2013 by Saija Kokkonen
North Jutland, Denmark's most northerly region, has plenty of appeal for an active holiday throughout the year. With 1,450km of broad, sandy beaches and a picturesque, unspoiled hinterland, a holiday in North Jutland brings together outdoor adventures and Viking history with blue seas, big skies and lots of good, clean fun.
Here's a pick of the best:
1) Enjoy a city break with a cultural difference in Aalborg
Copenhagen may be an established favourite in the city-break stakes, but visitors to Denmark will find that exciting urban experiences aren't just limited to the country's cosmopolitan capital. With its quaint, cobbled streets, varied nightlife and sensational shopping, Aalborg (Denmark's fourth-largest and northernmost city) makes a wonderful base for a relaxed short break.
The city is also something of a cultural hotspot, especially along its redeveloped waterfront. Highlights here include the Utzon Center (a gallery and exhibition space designed by Aalborg native, the late Danish architect, Jørn Utzon) and Nordkraft (a major cultural centre occupying a renovated power station). The final part of the waterfront development is the House of Music, which opens on 29th March 2014 and will become home to the renowned Aalborg Symphony Orchestra. Aalborg also acts as the perfect gateway to North Jutland's miles of unspoiled coastline, where cycle paths, horse riding and wellness centres abound.
2) Discover fascinating Viking history at Lindholm Høje and Fyrkat
Just outside Aalborg, ancient history comes alive at Lindholm Høje. The site is home to one of Scandinavia's most impressive collections of Viking remains. Almost 700 graves dating back to at least 1000AD have been discovered here, each marked by a stone circle. The museum also features an interactive exhibition on Viking life, including an opportunity to sail a longship or visit a traditional Viking house.
Further south lies the historic ringfort of Fyrkat, which was built by legendary Viking leader, Harold Bluetooth, in 980AD. The adjoining Viking Farmstead consists of nine carefully reconstructed, wattle-and-daub Viking houses where visitors can learn the contemporary arts of archery, baking and spinning wool.
3) Find history, hauntings and a huge amount of art at Voergaard Castle
Voergaard Slot, Denmark's most beautiful Renaissance castle, is another place worth visiting for anyone with an interest in history. This impressive and well-preserved, medieval castle provides a fascinating window on a time gone by. In the spooky dungeons learn about malevolent Ingeborg Skeel, a powerful 16th Century lady who murdered a subject by throwing him in the moat - it's said that her ghost still haunts the castle's tower.
Or for a more sedate pleasure take in the property's art collection, one of the finest in the whole of Denmark, including works by Rubens, Raphael and Goya alongside items as varied as Napoleon's dinner service, royal antiques and priceless Ming vases.
4) Visit the famous artists' colony at Skagen
There's more art to be found at Skagen, on the country's far north-easterly tip. The quality of the daylight here on Denmark's furthermost reach has long attracted artists to what's known locally as the 'Land of Light'. The Skagens Museum houses more than 1,800 works that beautifully capture the local scenery in which they were painted.
The colony's heyday was at the beginning of the 20th Century, when names such as P. S. Krøyer, Anna and Michael Ancher, Holger Drachmann and Thorvald Bindesbøll immortalised Skagen's countryside, coastline and people on canvas.
Skagens Museum features a gift shop and café. Outside, there are car-free cycle paths to enjoy, or take a ride on the 'Sandorm' to Grenen, Denmark's sandy tip and stand with one foot in the Skagerrak and the other in the Kattegat as the two seas meet at one of the country's most popular natural attractions.
5) Hike to Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse - while it's still there!
Further along the North Jutland coast, to the west of Skagen, lies one of the region's most spectacular landmarks. Here, wind-blown sand eroded from crumbling cliffs has been sculpted into an enormous dune, swamping the lighthouse at Rubjerg. Most of the lighthouse has been lost to the dune, with only the top of this once-proud tower still remaining visible. Standing defiantly above the shifting sands, it's a startling reminder of the awesome power of nature. It's estimated that erosion will cause the lighthouse to crash into the sea in the not-too-distant future... so catch it while you can!
6) Indulge in a day at a beach offering more than just sun, sea and sand
One of North Jutland's most interesting beaches is that near the fishing village of Thorup. Fishermen here still practice the age-old tradition of hauling their boats up onto the shingle, safe from the waves when they're not in use. The beached vessels afford some outstanding photo opportunities and wandering among them, surrounded by the sounds and smell of the sea, is a wonderful way to capture the essence of this part of the coastline.
Inland, the Svikløv Dune Plantation is a protected area of heath, ponds and pine forest that's ideal for exploring on bike or foot. Discover it all from the comforts of the historic Svinkløv Badehotel - a charming seaside retreat set amid rolling dunes just yards from the shore. This 36-room property is of typically Scandinavian design, featuring chic furnishings, clean lines and lots of natural daylight. It is particularly renowned for its restaurant, which offers both an à la carte menu and a selection of daily specials - all using the very best fresh, seasonal ingredients.
7) Sip local wines amidst beautiful scenery
Denmark may not be the first place you'd think of as a producer of fine wines, but in fact the country now has around 20 commercial vineyards. Glenholm Vineyard is one of the most northerly. Set near the shores of the Limfjord (the stretch of water that separates North Jutland from the rest of the peninsula), this 2.5 hectare site welcomes visitors all summer long, with guided tours in peak season and plenty of opportunities to sample the local tipple. First planted in 1993, the family-run vineyard now produces a delicious range of red, white, dessert, sparkling and Brandy wines.
8) Take a mini-cruise on Mariager Fjord
With the Jutland peninsula being effectively surrounded by water, it's no surprise that there are plenty of opportunities for getting about on boats. A popular waterway to explore is Mariager Fjord, Denmark's longest inlet, located on the east coast. The 43km trip from Hobro to Als Odde is most memorably undertaken aboard the Paddle Steamer, The Swan, with stops along the way including Mariager and Hadsund. Mariager is one of Denmark's smallest towns, with cobbled streets and rose clinging to the walls of its half-timbered houses. There's also the Mariager Salt Centre, where visitors can journey into an underground salt mine to discover the history of this valuable mineral.
9) Get active on an exciting outdoor adventure
Active types will find plenty to keep themselves occupied in North Jutland. Down on the west coast, Klitmøller has been dubbed "Cold Hawaii" in recognition of its popularity with watersports enthusiasts... and its slightly less tropical seas! It's one of Europe's best windsurfing spots and, thanks to its near-perfect surfing conditions, has hosted such high-profile events as the Danish championships, European Championships (1996) and even the World Cup (1998). Back on dry land, mountain biking has become a popular option in Thy National Park since the opening of two biking routes through the Tvorup Dune Plantation. A third route is due to open at the end of this summer.
10) Tee off or relax with a choice of golf and spa options
Denmark will find itself in the spotlight next year when it hosts the first Made in Denmark golf tournament, which will be part of the European Tour. Hosted at the Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort, Made in Denmark will help promote the country as a viable golfing destination. The resort has recently undergone a massive renovation of both the course and the clubhouse facilities and is Europe's largest golf resort, combining two excellent 18-hole golf courses with a full-service spa, making it ideal for anyone seeking a relaxing break in beautiful surroundings.