Swedish island retreat


Need some quality chill-out time? Then head for a remote island in the Stockholm archipelago and cocoon yourself in a space-age tent – you’ll return rejuvenated and revitalised

After months of spinning plates – two businesses doing reasonably well, a glut of consulting work and one disastrous enterprise – I didn’t just need a getaway, I had to get the hell away. It was a matter of life or death. Or at least it seemed that way at the time.

So, with a suitcase packed with nothing smart (certainly not the reading matter – no inspirational business literature for me), I headed to Stockholm for some decompression therapy. What normal people might call “a rest”. A big one.

After a night relaxing at the Nobis Hotel in the city centre – lovely, modern, stylish, friendly, busy with splashes of blingy glamour – I stopped for lunch at the 12-room hotel Ett Hem, which translates as ‘A Home’. And that’s certainly what it is, albeit a chic, cosy home in an area that seems like a suburb (it’s the smart embassy quarter) but is really 10 minutes’ walk from the action.

Take a room, take a floor, share a table with someone else for lunch, bag a table in the courtyard garden, sit in the kitchen and get them to make you a sandwich while you flick through their magazines: this is hotel living for those who would rather be flaking out round a friend’s house. But relaxing as it is, I’m here for something a little more remote, a little more decompressing if you like, which is what gets me on a little speedboat, zooming 40 minutes out across the water to Island Lodge.

The Stockholm archipelago is made up of 30,000 islands, some just big enough for a bird’s nest and a patch of grass, which means that you are almost instantly in the countryside. Ten minutes on a fast boat will take you to somewhere that seems like the back of beyond, while an hour on the bouncing, back-busting and hugely exciting Rib (rigid inflatable boat) will take you to the far end of the back of beyond, where you can enjoy a glass of wine in the sunset before hopping on again.

Space-age dome
As our zippy little boat draws up to the jetty that has a dog bounding around on it, all we can see is trees, water and a floating sauna on a rustic-looking houseboat. I’ve never been camping before but then this is not exactly camping. It’s not glamping either, with its associations of fanciness and maybe a mini-bar. 

My tent is a space-age-looking thing, like a dome sitting in the middle of trees and rocks. A huge window means you can sit on the comfy camp bed or the reindeer skin on the wooden floor and look past some minimal furniture (yes, furniture in a tent!) onto the water. And you can do it for hours at a time, only interrupting your idleness to put another log on the tent’s tiny wood-burning stove.

What is it about watching logs burn that unwinds a person? It must be something in our evolution. Meditation (don’t be alarmed: lots of people are doing it now) comes so naturally when there’s nothing more going on than a light crackling and the smell of burning wood.

Nordic calm
Showers take place in the open air – the shampoo and shower gel are perched on a shelf in rocks – while traditional meals, heavy on the reindeer meat, are served down by the jetty under a spacious tent-like covering, where you can also charge your devices and check emails (if you must).

When you get tired of sitting looking at a fire and some water – I never did – there are low-energy activities to enjoy. You can explore the tiny private island (a former mine and torpedo depot used by the Swedish military) with its massive bunker called the Rock Shelter that has been restored to include a chef’s kitchen and a long dining table; great for a corporate team-building session,

I couldn’t help myself thinking. The island itself can be covered in no time with a pair of miniature beaches, some rocks and plenty of views across the water that only come to life when hotel-size cruise liners loom dramatically into view. I sat in that houseboat sauna and ran out squealing like a kid to jump into the chilly water, contemplated the wood-fired hot tub and one day went on a yacht around the islands until I found a stretch across from some Hansel and Gretel-style houses that was still enough to dive into.

I’m not saying I didn’t have a whizz around Stockholm to see the beautiful City Hall and the quaint old town, or that I didn’t enjoy a dinner at Riche – where dining morphs into drinking and dancing. But through it all I couldn’t help thinking, Island Lodge is just over there. Ten minutes by helicopter! All in all, it left me feeling as calm as a Nordic lake – and ready to face day-to-day challenges; an absence of Scandi-drama can do that for you.

Simon Gage is director of the Soho Collective

Getting there
Airlines that fly direct to Stockholm from London and other UK cities include SAS, British Airways, Norwegian and Ryanair.

Island Lodge is open from 1 May to 31 October, and situated on Bergholmen, 40 minutes by speedboat from Stockholm. Prices on request.
For more information and to book, visit Scott Dunn: www.scottdunn.com


About author

Simon Gage

Simon Gage

Having interviewed the ABC of A-listers (Adele, Beyonce, Celine) for publications ranging from Elle to the Independent on Sunday, contributor Simon Gage now juggles celebrity chats with running London co-working space, The Soho Collective.

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