"Best of both worlds"    

Boasting hundreds of kilometres of coastline fringed with sandy beaches, plus numerous national parks and nature reserves, bucolic farmscapes and deep green forests, this southernmost county of Sweden is the perfect holiday destination for visitors in search of relaxation in a pastoral setting. Skåne's unique combination of seashore, wide-open spaces, gently rolling countryside and flatlands stretching to the horizon – all within relatively short distances – also makes it ideal for cycling or family day-trips by car.

And that's not all. The cities and towns of Skåne are among Sweden's most historic and attractive, including Malmö, Sweden's third largest city, with its atmospheric Old Town and close links to the Danish capital Copenhagen; the port city of Helsingborg, known as "the pearl of the Öresund", and Lund with its thousand-year old city centre, magnificent 12th century cathedral and world-class university, leading it to style itself "the City of Ideas". Its enjoyable Museum of Cultural History is one of the oldest open-air museums in the world, and one of the biggest in Sweden.

The Bjäre peninsula, in the northwestern part of the county, is often described as one of the prettiest areas of Scandinavia; it is also one of several competing for the title of "Swedish Riviera". The main towns of Båstad, best known for its annual ATP tennis tournament, held each summer since 1948, and Torekov, a picturesque fishing village, have developed as rather exclusive – by egalitarian Swedish standards – summer resorts, attracting a fashionable and hard-partying crowd.

An idyllic day on the peninsula might begin with an early swim off the famous Morgonbryggan ("morning pier") at Torekov and continue with a slow drive or cycle through the countryside, sampling the abundant local produce from farmers' stalls (often unmanned, just drop your money in the box) along the way. In the evening there are plenty of fine restaurants to choose from: Skåne's is a robust gastronomic tradition thanks to the plentiful supply of quality natural ingredients. Swedish herring, eel and goose are just a few of the local specialities.

For those who prefer the do-it-yourself approach, fishing expeditions for salmon and sea trout, garfish, pollock, cod or Atlantic mackerel are just the ticket. On some outings, lunch is served on board.

Splendid environment
To the south of Bjäre, the Kullaberg peninsula graces the entrance to Öresund, the strait separating Sweden from Denmark. A ridge of ancient rocks rising steeply from the sea, marked by dramatic ravines and rugged slopes, the area comprises several nature reserves and is home to several hundred different species of birdlife. Kullaberg is a splendid environment for range of activities: bird watching, naturally; but also swimming, fishing, diving, climbing and caving.

As it happens, Skåne is also something of a golfers' paradise, with more than 70 courses to choose from, including some of the best in Sweden and Europe, varying from typical English parkland and seaside courses to links reminiscent of Scotland, with white sand dunes and heather along the shore.

Throughout the county there is no shortage of castles (about 200 of them, some up to 700 years old), manor houses and a variety of other historic buildings, all beautifully maintained together with hectares of parkland and formal gardens, and some in use as hotels or conference venues.

From the picturesque fishing villages of Mölle and Arild to the island of Ven in the Öresund, site of the 16th century astronomer Tycho Brahe's magnificent observatory; from the south coast port of Ystad with its fine medieval buildings to the famed apple groves and artistic heritage of Österlen; from the beach resorts and nature reserves of Skanör and Falsterbo to the shops, art galleries, museums and bright lights of Malmö... this county, in the words of the marketing company Tourism in Skåne, "is not one thing or another" but "the best of both worlds".

Atmospheric Malmö
  Photo: Ryan McVay
Lund Old Town Idyllic days Golfers’ paradise