Home to wind farms, vineyards and wild meadows full of cornflowers and poppies, the countryside in the southernmost part of Sweden – known as Skåne – feels a world away from the dense pine forests of the north.
You can get a taste for the good life down here by hiring a car and hopping between local farms, which churn out more than half the country’s food, including plump strawberries and gangly stalks of asparagus. But to get really close to nature you’ll need to leave the roads behind and get off the beaten track. Or, in the case of this disused railway line near Lund, stick as closely to it as possible.
A disused railway, you say?
The scenic, 9km-long stretch of track between Björnstorp and Veberöd fell into disrepair in 1980 and quickly became overgrown. The branches of tall trees formed canopies over the rails, and weeds began pushing their way up between the heavy wooden sleepers.
Locals hatched a plan. Instead of letting the rails get completely swallowed up by nature, they kept them free of plants and debris and began hiring out old track inspection cycles so tourists could pedal along the route at their own pace, catching glimpses of wild eagles, roe deer and rust-red farmhouses along the way.
It’s been popular a popular summer activity among Swedes for years, and now foreign visitors are cottoning on.
So it’s like a bike on rails?
Exactly. But with a little sidecar, too. Each dressin (trolley) has space for two adults and a child, though only one person can cycle at a time, so you might prefer to take it in turns.
While one person cycles, another can snap pictures and keep their eyes peeled for cows, horses, or the colourful butterflies and dragonflies that flit between the hedgerows. There’s a footbrake if you suddenly feel you’re going a bit too fast, but as there’s nowhere to go except forwards, the handlebars are completely useless.
From the start point in Björnstorp, which is little more than a painted shed at the side of the road, the track winds through patches of shaded beech forest and over the top of wide, open fields. After around 45 minutes you’ll reach the village of Veberöd, where you can admire the views and breathe in the country air before heading back to the start point.
Is it hard work?
The return journey is ever so slightly uphill, which can get a little tiring, but otherwise it’s just like using a regular bike. The only real problem is when you meet someone pedalling in the other direction; as there’s only one set of rails, you’ll have to swap trolleys, turn each one to face the right direction, and then carry on along your way. At some points where the road crosses the train line, you’ll have to get off and push.
Is there anywhere to stop for food along the way?
Apart from one picnic spot around halfway along the route, grazing options for humans are a little limited. If you’re prepared to book in advance (and shell out around 1300 SEK per person), you can join a ‘gourmet’ cycling tour with food from local producers laid out tapas-style along the route.
A cheaper option is to do a food tour of the area under your own steam. The Lodge, atop a hill just outside Veberöd, does tasty pickled herring and potato salads, but also serves handmade truffles and coffee that’s brewed using locally roasted beans. A 20-minute drive southwest, Vismarlövs Café sells stone-baked walnut bread, hearty soups and pots of gloopy local honey.
What else is there to do nearby?
Slick coffee shops, wonky medieval buildings and a lively student population make Lund, one of Sweden’s oldest and most spectacularly good-looking cities, the obvious place to stay. Winstrup Hostel is a solid budget choice (and the only proper hostel in town), with a super-central location and some of the comfiest bunks in the country.
When you tire of checking out museums and independent art galleries – and there are a lot of them spaced out along the city’s cobbled lanes – head back out into the country. The sleepy village of Dalby, not far from the disused train line, is the site of Scandinavia’s oldest stone church. It’s been around for nearly a millennium, but is equipped with a whacky audio tour that fills the whole nave with noise – and scares the hell out of unsuspecting tourists.
How do I do it?
Björnstorp, the start point for rides along the railway line, is a 20-minute drive southeast of Lund. Cycles are available to borrow every day from April–October, and cost 250 SEK for a 3hr 45min session – that’s plenty of time to cover the whole route in both directions. Bookings are best made by phone: +46 (0) 705 747 622. For more information see the Romeleåsen Dressincykling website.
Steve Vickers is the founder of www.routesnorth.com, an independent travel guide to Sweden. Explore more of Sweden with the Rough Guide to Sweden. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.
Header image © Steve Vickers