NORDIC NIGHTS

THE ARCTIC HIDEAWAY IN NORWAY GIVES A WHOLE NEW MEANING TO THE TERM “BUCKET LIST”, WRITES STEPHEN UNWIN, WHO GOES ON A NORDIC RETREAT (AND BROUGHT HIS OWN BO0ZE)

As a *checks notes* travel writer, you hear the term “Bucket List” bandied about like it’s everybody’s business.

The remit’s gone bonkers. It’s either so utterly unattainable you’d have to be that scary fella off-of Succession to bag it, or so pretentiously silly you’d have to be a plonker to want it. Then there’s everything in-between, a cat ‘n’ mouse of global one-upmanship.

Which is where The Arctic Hideaway in Fleinvær, Norway comes in. Set your compasses to 67°N 13°E if you will – that’d be your actual Arctic Circle. No catfishing here! – and I’ll set the scene, if you’ll indulge. Four cabins, five social spaces and an archipelago, all the way out in the bristling Norwegian Sea. Sustainable cabins, the dream of Hävard Lund, a revered Norwegian musician, and piff-paff-poofed by proper edgy Nordic architects TYIN and Rintala Eggertsson. Social spaces, overflowing with hygge, for baking, meditating, music-making… no-one minds. With underfloor heating to keep those tootsies toasty. (I’d say we used the Swedish sauna then jumped into the freezing sea, Wim Hof-style, but that’d be a lie). An archipelago battered, bruised and beautified by 360° awesome elements, with a dusting of snow for good measure. And whether it’s you, yourself, or a handful of carefully chosen ones, the place is all yours. And there lies one of its USPs (is that a contradiction in terms? Asking for a friend) and one of our very judgey qualifications for Bucket List 2.0 status. It’s so out there – literally, metaphorically – that you won’t know a single bugger who’s been.

Come in winter – we did! – and it’s that midnight sun malarkey, which is eerie and surreal and intensely, madly captivating. And if it’s winter we’re also talking Northern Lights. And everyone’s gagging for the next new Northern Lights experience, right? Well, come this way…! You always have to do a little asterisk when talking about the Northern Lights* because, as anyone who’s followed Dame Joanna Lumley’s gallivants will know, you can’t guarantee the Northern Lights, but between October and March is your best shot. And don’t worry, if they start doing their jiggy way past your bedtime, the custodians of The Arctic Hideaway will wake you up. Gently, obvs, unless you downed all that whisky the night before. And don’t worry, yes, you can bring your own booze.

Oh, and said custodians! The Arctic Hideaway is truly, madly, deeply a hideaway. A retreat in the truest sense of the word, it needs some grown-up looking after due to all of the above. So, you fly to Oslo, take another flight north – over snowy mountains and the odd, faintest glow of civilisation – to Bodø, a diddy, buzzy town that, pop-pickers, will be European Capital of Culture in 2024 (so that buzz is only going to grow) then take the ferry to Fleinvær, the archipelago of our story. The latter takes another hour, stopping off at the only inhabited islands as it goes, and only at Fleinvær if it has to - to drop you off or, once a week, a food parcel – taking in all that mind-bending scenery as it goes. Mike and Elspeth were the custodians while we were there, making it four of us in total. Over from Yorkshire for two months, they were our only company. Luckily they were delicious, and the result of The Arctic Hideaway’s very stringent selection process. They don’t let just anybody in here, which is kind of the point.

The Arctic Hideaway is extraordinary, without having to show off about it. A feat of beauty, both naturally and man-made, they’ve nailed the retreat thing so hard they’re going to have to get considerably bigger nails. It’s glorious, different - and proper recherché. Your friends will be well jealous, should you choose to tell them all about it.

We travelled to The Arctic Hideaway with Up Norway. Prices from NOK 8,000 per person for 3 nights full board, inc. ferry transfer. Go to: thearctichideaway.com

“It’s so out there – literally, metaphorically – that you won’t know a single bugger who’s been”