Wild swims and mountain walks in Norway

eading west from Åre by rail, we watch the forest and softly rounded fells roll by, all the way up to the border town of Storlien. I’m with my daughter, Maddy (15) and we’re intrigued at this crossing point: a forlorn old railway station in the high wilderness along the Swedish-Norwegian border. With twilight stealing in, we switch trains and set off, charging downhill into Norway.
We pass through a town called Hell and then reach our destination: Trondheim. As we leave the station, we find the city immediately captivating, its gorgeous waterfront lined with wooden ships, old warehouses and several interesting museums. Even at 10pm, there are teenagers leaping into the sea off the jetty, people skiing down the streets (on rollers) and tourists from far and wide. We hear their accents at breakfast: American, Italian and Japanese – all very excited. By now, Maddy and I are deeply attached to sumptuous Scandinavian breakfasts. I even manage some brunost, sweet brown cheese, a Norwegian speciality normally put out to repel visitors.
Traditional fisherman’s houseat Haholmen island.
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 Traditional fisherman’s houseat Haholmen island. Photograph: Alamy
With only a few hours in town, we join a tourist office walk around narrow streets of painted weatherboard houses and an impressive cathedral that features an angel sculpture modelled on Bob Dylan. We collect our hire car at noon and drive off, vowing to return. We have two days to cover the 300km to the city of Ålesund.
We follow the coast, swinging around long fjordsand stopping to swim in one, where we meet a Danish couple who have bought a log cabin. “Some like luxury,” they say, “but we are off-grid. Water from a well, one log-burner for all the heat and cooking. In summer we swim in the fjords; in winter we do cross-country skiing.”
It sounds idyllic to me.
Maddy paddling in Ålesund harbour, Norway
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 Maddy paddling in Ålesund harbour. Photograph: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian
Our destination on day one is the small island of Håholmen, reached by a necklace of other rocky outcrops all connected by elegant bridges, part of Norway’s impressive Atlantic Road. On the last leg we take a wooden boat across to the island, a small outpost of fishing cabins which explorer Ragnar Thorseth has converted into a hotel, Havstuer Håholmen. A small museum houses his boat, the Saga Siglar, a traditional longship that in the 1980s he sailed to Greenland and on to America, emulating the voyages of Leif Erikson in the 10th century.
Maddy and I clamber out to the end of the island and swim for almost an hour, marvelling at the fact that we are a mere 400km south of the Arctic Circle. Night never really falls, just a glowing twilight inhabited by midges. We retreat to the restaurant, where the carpaccio of whale might thrill some visitors, but not us.

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