Sweden // The southwest //

Hagestad Nature Reserve and Sandhammaren beach

For a day in really splendid natural surroundings, it’s hard to beat the Hagestad Nature Reserve, the best of the three reserves around the village of Backåkra. Thousands of pines were planted here in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to bind the sandy earth, and, together with oaks and birches, they make up a densely forested area; the clumps of gnarled, stunted oaks are particularly distinctive. It’s especially beautiful in midsummer when orchids and heathers colour the forest floor; if you’re lucky, you may also see elk, badgers and roe deer, while buzzards and golden orioles are often sighted above. The reserve is also the home of the most glorious beach in Skåne, known as Sandhammaren: walk along any path towards the sea and you’ll soon reach a bright white ribbon of sand – marked “Sandhammaren” on signs – backed by steep dunes and lapped by turquoise waters.

Dag Hammarskjöld museum

In the midst of the nature reserve, uphill on heathland towards Backåkra is an old farmstead once owned by Dag Hammarskjöld, United Nations secretary-general in the 1950s. His love of the Skåne coast led him to buy the farm and the surrounding sixty acres in order to save it from developers. Killed in a plane crash in Zambia in 1961, Hammarskjöld willed the farm and its contents to STF, which now runs the house as a museum. It contains amazing pieces of art from all over the world, including an ancient Egyptian painting of the jackal-headed god Anubis, Greek bronzes from 200 BC and contemporary pieces by the Wakefield sculptor Barbara Hepworth (whose work also stands outside the UN’s headquarters in New York on Hammarskjöld’s instigation), Picasso and Matisse.

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