Summer is the perfect time of year to board a ferry to cycle-friendly Denmark and enjoy a leisurely family holiday on two wheels.
It has to rate as one of the happiest moments of my life. I was cycling alongside my wife on a glorious forest path in spectacular sunshine, with our son Jake sitting in a box on the front of my bike. He roared with delight as the breeze blew a long trail of iridescent joy out of a giant bubble wand he was holding above his head.
There was a smell of pine and wildflowers floating on the air, and ?a beach in the distance where we would leap off our bikes and into the shallow surf. Best of all for a part-time cyclist, we were in Denmark. Flat, safe, welcoming Scandiland.
My wife Anya is half-Danish, and within weeks of sidling awkwardly up to her at a party, I was being dragged across the North Sea to visit her lovely relatives. It was tough at first, and like any daft bloke wary of commitment, I grumbled. But soon I realised I’d been blessed, and I began relishing our trips to the land of designer lampshades, and the chance to spend lazy days in her idyllic family summer house, with a garden that slopes gently down towards cliffs and the inviting, refreshing sea.
Denmark has become a welcome antidote to the troubles afflicting many of the poverty-stricken and benighted countries I visit for work. The Danes top every possible poll for quality of life. They’re a jolly bunch, regularly topping the global happiness index, although admittedly their triumph does appear to be aided by excessive consumption of prescription pills.
But they’re also tolerant, friendly, clean and content. They have one of the least corrupt countries in the world, with rates of violent crime that are among the lowest on the planet. Denmark is an ideal place for almost any family holiday, and it’s perfect for a family cycling trip.
There’s no need to dodge juggernauts while dragging, or pushing, your pedalling littlers up steep hills in Denmark, because the tallest mountains are waist-high. Danes are addicted to cycling, which doubtless helps to keep them healthy. The ratio of bikes to people is 1:1, and they have more dedicated cycling tracks and routes per head than anywhere else in the world. There are bikes to rent everywhere and 11 national cycling routes waiting to carry you up to 1,800 miles across the country, if you’re really, really keen, along with gently undulating countryside hiding cosy villages and hobbit houses.
Some coastal cycle routes even take you along beaches with hard-packed sand, so you can cycle through shallow water – a treat for anyone used only to Tarmac.
The winters are bitterly cold, as I know to my cost. I have one coat, thicker than a folded duvet, which only emerges from a cupboard when we’re going for Christmas. But in my experience, summers in Denmark are usually glorious. So gather your clan, load up ?the car, and take the overnight ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg. It’s time to get your children on two wheels.
The broadcaster and author Simon Reeve has travelled to more than 120 countries. He is the presenter of multiple BBC TV series, including Indian Ocean, Tropic of Cancer, Pilgrimage, Australia and the upcoming series Sacred Rivers.