Alongside gruffalos, boy wizards and wardrobes, Roald Dahl stands a big friendly giant among the greats of children’s literature. However, born to Norwegian parents and growing up speaking the language at his Welsh home, one of Britain’s favourite authors has a distinctly Scandinavian heritage. His delightfully twisted tales undoubtedly owe a certain something to his boyhood summer Norway holidays, carefully documented in his autobiography and teenage scrapbook now displayed in Buckinghamshire’s Roald Dahl Museum.
In The Roald Dahl Cookbook he even recounts how his mother told him stories of ‘trolls and all the other mythical Norwegian creatures that lived in the dark pine forests’. Norway’s breathtaking fjord jags, log cabins and pristine wildernesses are still inspiring children to this day. What better way to celebrate the year of his hundredth birthday than to visit?
The Gloriumptious South Coast
It’s possible to trace his footsteps with stays in the very hotel that hosted an adult Roald Dahl for several summers when he returned to the country with his own children. Built in 1937, Strand Hotel Fevik is set on Norway’s southern tip and is surrounded by picturesque island skerries, beaches and harbour ports. This quiet, slightly spooky setting is said to have inspired some of his later works. Its 2010 renovation – think Jacuzzi, hot tub and gym additions – has done little to detract from its picturesque location. Relax on the private beach with a game of volleyball or follow in the wake of a young Roald with boat cruises to explore the coast’s hidden coves and fishing spots. Modern kiddles may want to go a little faster with the nearby go-kart track and bowling alley or head further down the coast to Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park. Here, African safaris and rollercoasters make for a fun-filled day out.
Strand Hotel Fevik's location is perfectly placed to inspire both adults and children alike, just as it did for Roald Dahl
The Phizz-Whizzing Fjords
In his autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood, Dahl writes that ‘unless you have sailed down the Oslo-fjord like this yourself on a tranquil summer’s day, you cannot imagine what it is like’. He goes on to describe how his boat weaved ‘in and out between cloudless tiny islands’ complete with ‘small brightly painted wooden houses’. Start in Oslo, where museums trace the history of pop music and high rope courses run through its surrounding forests. Then, board your ship to wind through narrow inlets and past postcard-perfect bays, stopping off at idyllic lunch spots along the way.
For fjords that are arguably even prettier, head out of the Norwegian capital and into the waterways of the country’s interior. In Hardangerfjord, you’ll find waterfall-traced mountains, vast seasonal glaciers and the Troll’s Tongue Rock – a BFG’s springboard that extends precipitously over the cliff’s edge. The 600m high Pulpit Rock plateau, towering above the colossal Lysefjord offers similarly breathtaking walks, though it’s not for the faint of heart. In between, there are charming village hamlets where you can sample the smoked eels, boiled mackerels and hot crisp rolls that set a young Roald Dahl’s imagination running towards snozzcumbers and whizzle-scrumptious Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory delights. Of course, there’s always beaches that rank among the best in the world and all sorts of outdoor, adventure-inspired activities to keep you busy.
It doesn't take much to imagine The BFG using Troll's Tongue Rock (Trolltunga) as a diving board