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Stångehuvud nature reserve

A Swedish summer

Blue skies, sparkling seas and long, long sunny days. The Bohuslän coast in Sweden is a wonderful place to spend the summer

Summer along the beautiful Bohuslän coast in southwest Sweden can be magical. Long, long sunny days, with the sunlight bouncing off sparkling clear sea, create a special quality to the light that's unique.  

The Bohuslän coast consists of numerous islands and islets scattered in the seas and a string of picturesque fishing villages and larger seaside towns. One of these is Lysekil. With its sandy, sheltered beach, stunning nature reserve, historic old town and local food, Lysekil makes a fantastic base for exploring the area.

The Stångehuvud nature reserve on the edge of town is an area of smooth, round granite boulders that have been around for some 920 million years.

hut at Stångehuvud nature reserve
Flowers at Stångehuvud nature reserve
Stångehuvud nature reserve
Stångehuvud nature reserve with yachts

The views here are sublime. Pink-tinged rocks, studded with natural rock pools, contrast with the deep blues of sky and sea. Dragonflies and tiny blue butterflies flit about amongst the colourful wild vegetation: heathers, honeysuckle, sedums and wild roses are found here in every crack and crevice, while wild grasses sway in the breeze. More rounded boulders are studded throughout the bay, with white-sailed yachts weaving in and out through the islands.

Stångehuvud was made into a nature reserve during the 1980s, to protect the unique landscape and wealth of habitats that are found here. It's a wonderful place to wander and scramble, with paths crisscrossing the rocks, leading to secluded sunbathing spots and looping around to a tiny harbour where brightly coloured fishing boats bob in the water.

The small sandy beach at the entrance to the nature reserve is a great place to swim, offering calm and shallow water – ideal for young children. There's a café here too for that all-important ice cream. For deeper water and more seclusion head over the rocks at the far end of the beach – sunbathers can access the water here via a series of ladders that lead into the sea.

The Gamlestan region of Lysekil is the oldest part of town, with pastel-painted wooden houses of yellow, blue, green and orange – some of which date from the 18th century. The narrow, cobbled lanes and alleys make for a pleasant evening stroll, and head towards the marina – where there's a selection of bars and restaurants to choose from – to watch the sunset.

Beach at Lysekil
Boats in harbour at Stångehuvud nature reserve
Church, Gamlestan, Lysekil
Gamlestan, Lysekil
Flowers, Gamlestan, Lysekil

A taste of Spain

A little way out of Lysekil, travellers may be surprised by the sight of a Spanish tapas bar just off the main road. Since opening in 2004, Luna Café has been offering holidaymakers and locals a taste of Spain, using fresh Swedish ingredients sourced from the Bohuslän area. Chef and owner, Javier Amador, moved to Sweden from Granada in 1998, bringing his passion for top quality food with him.

But there's something even more surprising about Luna Café – it's also a small but thriving vineyard. Sweden may be the last place you'd think of growing grape vines and producing wines, but Javier argues that – for white wines, at least – the Bohuslän region, with its long hours of sunlight during the summer months, provides the ideal climate.

Javier at the Luna Cafe

And he must be right – he's been growing grapes successfully and producing quality wines on site for more than five years. In a good year, as many as 1,000 bottles are produced from the 15,000 vines.

The grapes are grown with no use of chemicals. To ensure that the vines thrive without pesticides, Javier employs a range of ingenious organic methods to keep pests away. Strips of white fabric – tied to posts positioned amongst the vines – resemble the white tails of deer, sending a danger signal that helps prevent real deer from entering the vineyard and damaging the vines.

Empty bottles have been semi-submerged in the soil – when the wind blows across the bottle tops, it makes a noise that scares pests away. And vines are mulched with coffee grounds – the strong scent helps to discourage unwelcome insects.

Some insects are most welcome at the vineyard, though, and encouraging biodiversity in the grounds is something that Javier has worked hard to do. Wandering through the vines, you'll hear the hum and buzz of bees and grasshoppers, and there are drystone walls alongside the vines, providing habitats for beneficial insects that pollinate the plants and help to keep pest numbers down.  

Luna Cafe vineyard
Luna Cafe wine
Luna Cafe vines

Bees are actively encouraged into the site, with herbs such as lavender and thyme interplanted between the vines to attract bees. There are beehives, too, producing honey that's used in desserts in the restaurant – and since the bees were introduced, the grape yield has increased by around a third.

Herbs and salad vegetables – mint, rosemary, rocket, fennel and chives for example – are also grown in the garden and are used in the restaurant to create a mouth-watering range of dishes that expertly fuse the flavours of Sweden and Spain. From further afield – but not much further – comes fish and seafood from the Bohuslän coast, including salmon, crayfish and mussels.

Bowl of olives, Luna Cafe
Luna Cafe

Visitors can enjoy all this local bounty in a beautiful terrace garden alongside the café. It's an atmospheric spot, and the perfect place to relax and soak up the sunshine – and there's certainly plenty of sunshine in the Swedish summer.

Where to stay

We stayed at the friendly and welcoming Grand Hotel Lysekil, an historic wooden building on a pleasant pedestrianised square, conveniently located in the centre of town and within easy walking distance to places of interest such as Gamlestan and the marina. There's also an excellent children's playground just across the road.

The Grand Hotel is a wonderfully atmospheric place to stay. Built in 1878, the building features polished floorboards and elegant, antique furnishings. All staff are dedicated to providing excellent service, and there's lots of information on the local area available.

The rooms are individually and tastefully decorated, with a vintage feel, as well as modern bathrooms and super-comfy beds, featuring the “pillow-top” mattresses that are often found in Swedish hotels.

The breakfast buffet was very good, with a variety of food including freshly cooked eggs and pancakes. We enjoyed eating in a spacious dining hall upstairs, but you can also eat downstairs in the library – a room decorated with cosy sofas and antiques.

For a treat, book the Grand Hotel suite (pictured below) – with two bedrooms, a lounge with drinks cooler, large bathroom and balcony with table and chairs, it's spacious and beautifully furnished with plenty of room for a family. You might not want to leave!

Suite at Grand Hotel Lysekil

Green Adventures June 2016

View of Lysekil marina

Bohuslän coast, Sweden