I arrive with bus from Soderkoping shortly after 10am and receive a heartfelt welcome by the lovely couple Aferdita and Fredrik, who have run the hotel since May 2011. With Fredrik’s seven-year work position at Stegeborg’s Garden Hotel and Aferdita’s dream of running a hotel, taking the leap was a natural progression for them.
We stand in the breakfast room overlooking the large terrace and an apple tree garden surrounded by fields and forest. They offer tea and home-baked cookies before check-in. All guests, a group of hikers and former officers, had checked out early, Aferdita say. They’d hiked as long as 90 km with their boss. Less lengthy walking paths are available; ask for a free map in the reception. Other nearby attractions include almost tame wild boars, Stegeborg’s private airstrip, and Sweden’s first renaissance church, Skällviks Church, built in the 1500s by Johan III, son to Gustav Vasa.
In the garden of apple trees, two blue-white hammocks invite to more leisurely pursuits such as reading a good book (pick one from the bookcase in the salon), or resting to the sound of bird twitter and insect hum.
My flowery themed room on the second floor – the “Heavenroom”, a family room with two bedrooms, occupy the attic – is like the other seven double rooms individually decorated. The room features a double bed, shower, bathroom, Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries, a small TV (not the reason to one’s visit anyway) and view over the garden and the forest beyond.
I lend one of the hotel’s bikes with plans to lunch at the archipelago bistro Stegeborgs Hamnkrog, (owned by the Danielsson family who also owns Stegeborgs Castle). If you have a car, count on 5 minutes. There’s a gravelled promenade from the hotel next to the road for walkers. In Stegeborg, apart from dining at the popular summer bistro, you can take a guided tour of Stegeborg’s Castle Ruins, one of Sweden’s important strongholds during the Middle Ages. The most powerful royal families met here for negotiations or bloody fights and the castle served as a royal palace until the 1600s. The herb- and fruit gardens below the castle were created by the owners after how they would have looked like in the 1500s.
By the castle ruins, a ferry takes visitors for free to the small island Notholmen. (The ferry leaves three times an hour and takes five minutes; one can go by car, bike or foot.) On the other side of the inlet I find Norrkrog Nature Reserve with its 2,2 km hiking path, which leads around steep cliffs via viewing spots overseeing the bay and culminates at a bathing site with bridges.
Back at Stegeborg’s Garden Hotel, I savor what the hotel is intended for – relaxation. The salon with a fire and shelves of books offers a pleasant space for just that, or conversation with fellow guests, as do the Garden Café (open daily from noon-8pm, June 25-August 13) and the bar. However, single travelers are rather rare. The majority of the guests are couples between the ages of 30 and 55, and pensioners, as well as the occasional family.
July and August are most popular (the hotel offers a Summer package including 3-course dinner at Stegeborg’s Hamnkrog and entrance to the Castle Ruins with audio guide). Romantically inclined can purchase a Cava package (with a bottle of cava, strawberries and luxurious chocolate).
Before leaving this special corner of Sweden, pay a visit to Soderkoping’s Archipelago of numerous islands – easily accessible by car from the hotel. Drive toward Bottna and follow the signs to S:t Anna. Or, if you arrived by bus, consider renting one of the hotel’s red bikes. In S:t Anna , you can bathe in the sea, sun on the cliffs, sail, paddle kayak, play mini golf or tennis, water-ski and wakeboard, sleep outdoors at Mon’s Camping, or rent a boat and discover your own favorite islands in the archipelago.
Next morning, I sit in one of the comfortable armchairs on the terrace, in front of a glass of orange juice, a bowl of natural yoghurt, home-baked bread with honey, and a local newspaper.
At another table, Aferdita and Fredrik talk with a group of friends who consider the hotel for a birthday event, two children play in the garden, and four twenty-something guests finish their meals inside.
The atmosphere welcomes moments of mindfulness. I don’t look forward to the approaching check-out. From their expressions, neither does a middle-aged couple by the reception.
Today’s guests, a team from Norrkoping’s pre-schools, have already set up shop in the conference room and seem pleased with their choice of location. No wonder. Stegeborg’s Garden Hotel makes a perfect blissful stay for any group or guest who needs to rewind from a stressful work environment, or for any visitor who appreciates English-inspired countryside living.