Old money auto brand Bentley is racing ahead with curated experiences through the UK, Scandinavia and New Mexico.
I pulled onto Stockholm’s orderly streets behind the wheel of a magenta Continental GTC Speed convertible, leaving the upmarket Lärkstaden neighbourhood, where elegant embassies rub shoulders with well-groomed parks.
Driving out of the city towards the motorway, I gave way to the many cyclists on the streets — they rule the asphalt in Scandinavia.
The first two hours’ drive gave the car a chance to express itself, while remaining extremely comfortable to drive. With the roof down and the sun on my face, I turned onto country roads towards the shore of Sweden’s Lake Vättern.
I had spent the previous night at the unique townhouse Ett Hem (‘a home’ in Swedish) where owner Jeanette Mix has curated an enviable collection of art and vintage gems and where understated elegance flows over multiple floors.
Leaning more towards the atmosphere of a private club rather than a hotel, Ett Hem was styled by English designer Ilse Crawford, CBE, who developed the Soho House members’ clubs. The result is a masterpiece of elegance and attention to detail.
I was on Bentley’s new drive concept called ‘Extraordinary Journeys’ that offers a series of curated international travel experiences that will start with unique drives through the UK, Scandinavia and New Mexico.
Existing Bentley customers will have the opportunity to try a range of Bentley motorcars or, perhaps like me, driving a Bentley for the first time.
The Bentley cars available during the drive including a Continental GTC Speed convertible, Continental GT Speed, Flying Spur Hybrid Azure, Flying Spur Hybrid Mulliner, Bentayga V8 Azure, Bentayga S.
This experience also offers exclusive access to some of the world’s most celebrated chefs and luxury accommodation throughout the journey, with full concierge service.
My 750km Scandinavian south-westerly drive passed through the heart of Stockholm in Sweden, along winding country roads and over the spectacular Øresund Bridge (the longest in Europe) into the contemporary wonders of Copenhagen, Denmark — World Capital of Architecture 2023.
An unusual lunch setting awaited at Lake Vättern. Resembling a giant greenhouse, Naturhus is an eco-home and blueprint for sustainable living. Devised by the late Swedish eco-architect, Bengt Warne, the original naturhus (naturehouse) concept started in the 1970s, with homes enclosed in glass that act as giant greenhouses to grow fruit and vegetables.
A sumptuous buffet lunch was prepared on the upper level, with a variety of Swedish delicacies, including crayfish from nearby Lake Vättern, Najad salmon and smoked venison from Sjöarp.
Back on the road, I drove towards Alseda past immaculately presented crimson-red houses and barns; the traditional colour is called Falu red from paint made using by-products from the 9th century Swedish Falun copper mine.
The approach towards Trakt’s Forest Suites is along a gravel track leading to stilted wooden cabins where I spent the night nestled among a towering fir and spruce forest.
Swedish architect Gert Wingårdh designed the suites for people to ensure an immersive forest experience.
I joined the owners, Sandra and Mattias Sälleteg, for a walk over a carpet of pine needles and springy moss. A pine-scented breeze and bird calls drifted through the whispering trees, with the distinct sound of a busy woodpecker hammering.
“Trakt means a small place in the forest or the neighbourhood. Our dream was to stay on the land, taking care of what we have, working with local people and local food,” Sandra says.
The evening brought an exquisite outdoor dining experience with multi-award-winning Michelin-starred Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt, a pioneer of Nordic gastronomy, who brought his Sami heritage to the table by cooking each dish over an open fire.
Dining under canvas, a steady flow of perfectly plated dishes arrived, including pike perch with kohlrabi, oyster flambadou, buckwheat and reindeer, and leeks with rare Swedish caviar.
A private walkway leads to each cabin. Inside, the living area boasts a full floor-to-ceiling glass window overlooking the forest. Lustrous sheepskins drape over locally made chairs and, when night falls, the glass ceiling panel above the cosy double bed offers a star-studded skyscape.
The following morning, my journey continued south, with the GTC Speed running smoothly through beautiful rolling countryside studded with large windmills and grazing cattle.
Our last Swedish landmark was the stunning Wanås Hotel and Sculpture Park in the grounds of a Swedish medieval castle in Knislinge. In 2017, two 18th-century stone barns were converted into the Wanås Hotel and Restaurant.
This family-run castle, 40-hectare organic farm and interactive sculpture park is filled with 80 site-specific pieces by artists such as Antony Gormley, Yoko Ono, Ann-Sofi Sidén, and Tadashi Kawamata.
I dined on asparagus with nettle sauce, charcoal-cooked beef from the Wanås farm, then poached rhubarb with yogurt sorbet for dessert.
From Knislinge, it’s a 125km drive towards the elegant, 8km Øresund Bridge, the longest in Europe, where the Swedish road merges with Denmark’s. Designed by Jørgen Nissen and Klaus-Falbe Hansen, the bridge is a modern-day icon and the infamous setting for the Nordic noir television series The Bridge.
Once over the bridge, it was time to reluctantly return the Bentley before being chauffeured into Copenhagen to check into the Nimb Hotel, a Moorish-inspired fairy-tale castle.
My journey’s climax was an exclusive visit to the studios of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) architectural company. BIG’s projects include Google’s US HQ; Oslo’s Science City; Denmark’s Refugee Museum and LEGO House; as well as Copen Hill, a ski slope, hiking trail and climbing wall on top of a waste-to-energy plant.
Hosted by BIG partner David Zahle, I was given a private tour of the studio, a vast industrial building where photographs of projects and international accolades adorn high walls.
Zahle revealed a pristine white model of BIG’s architecturally groundbreaking new headquarters, due to open in August 2023.
“The move into our new 1,000-square-metre space on Copenhagen’s waterfront has the feeling of being on a ship. You can’t see the land from within; you see water all around. Our dream for the future is to start sailing to work,” he says, smiling.
Finally, an exclusive dinner was set up in the heart of the current studio with Michelin-starred chef Christian F Puglisi, who champions sustainable agriculture to define his organic menus.
Every aspect of this trip, including the detailed finishing touches, was meticulously thought through. This road trip will suit like-minded friends who share an enthusiasm for experiential adventures in unusual places to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Attendance is priced at £19,950 per person, based on two people sharing (prices vary per destination).