Fly, drive and discover the riches of Denmark's rural Jutland, says Jeannine Williamson
‘You’re listening to Always Elvis Radio,’ announces the DJ as we climb the steps to Graceland and another hit from the King of rock ’n’ roll fills the air. Nearby, people are taking photos outside a replica of the humble home where he grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi.
What makes the remarkable experience even more extraordinary is that we’ve just landed in Aarhus – Denmark’s second city – not the United States. Under two hours’ flying time from the UK, it’s a gateway to the country’s mid-Jutland region, a beautiful area filled with all kinds of surprises.
Graceland Randers, the only Elvis museum outside the US, is the brainchild of die-hard fan Henrik Knudsen, who built a copy of the Memphis mansion to share his vast collection of memorabilia with the public.
The hundreds of artefacts include stage costumes, original gold records, guitars, personal letters and intriguing files kept on the singer by the FBI.
For a real taste of all things Elvis, we visit the retro diner and order his all-time favourite snack – a fried peanut butter, jam, banana and bacon sandwich. Only £6.30 and mere 1,465 calories!
We remain a little star-struck checking into the comfortable Hotel Randers that evening, where past guests include Ringo Starr. Dating back to 1856, it’s one of the oldest hotels outside Copenhagen, although please note that at time of publication it’s closed for refurbishment until January 2016.
With Denmark’s longest river, the Gudenåen, flowing through its heart, the town of Randers is the country’s only natural river harbour.
Charming medieval half-timbered houses reflect the wealth of former merchants, and a self-guided trail takes in 15 historic buildings and landmarks.
They include 18th-century Randers Handsker, northern Europe’s oldest glove manufacturer. Apparently, French queen Marie Antoinette was so taken with the soft gloves she wore them in bed.
Next morning we follow the banks of the 109-mile river and drive to Silkeborg, less than an hour away. With its changing scenery of small towns, villages, farms, forests and lakes, it’s a very picturesque region, and the quiet, well-signposted roads make it an excellent destination for leisurely fly-drive holidays.
Another curiosity awaits at Silkeborg Museum, where the most famous exhibit is the mysterious Tollund Man. Discovered by peat diggers in a bog west of the town, he is the best-preserved Iron Age human.
Curled in a foetal position, with his head topped by a leather hat, his serene features make it look as though he’s sleeping. However, he was discovered with a rope around his neck, and speculation continues about whether he was murdered, hanged as a criminal or sacrificed to a god.
Next stop is a lakeside lunch at the foot of Himmelbjerget, better known as Sky Mountain. The King’s colossal sandwich aside, much of mid-Jutland’s cuisine is based around delicious and light fish dishes.
At Hotel Julsø, a lovely white-timbered building with panoramic views, we tuck into a beautifully presented plate of mixed seafood that showcases the talents of its Italian-born chef.
Suitably fortified, we head up the path to the mountain summit, one of the highest points in a virtually flat country.
The Danes are happy to joke about the fact it’s only 482ft high, but the views from the top are impressive, particularly if you scale the tower erected in 1875 to honour King Frederik VII, who created Denmark’s first constitution.
We take a rest on the bench marking a spot beloved by children’s author Hans Christian Andersen, who said of the area, ‘All these woods and lovely lakes. It’s perfection to me.’ And if you don’t want to walk, you can also drive to the top.
Back down to earth, our next stop is Bryrup, for a nostalgic, three-mile steam train journey on part of the old Horsens-Silkeborg railway.
The line runs past more tranquil lakes, and at the end we can’t resist tea in the former station building in Vrads, where the towering cream cake is topped by fresh berries and mint. That night we enjoy more pretty views from our base at Silkeborg’s Radisson Blu Hotel overlooking the harbour.
The following morning we unlock the door to another very unusual attraction in Horsens, where the state prison used from 1853 to 2006 has been turned into a museum and cultural centre.
Shadowy figures of inmates and guards dart past on the walls, and interactive displays reveal the chilling reality of prison life. Visitors can adopt the persona of a former prisoner during the tour, and even spend the night in a cell.
From Jailhouse Rock to a former penitentiary, fairy-tale scenery, painters and food that resembles art on a plate, this relatively undiscovered corner of Denmark has a wealth of fascinating stories to tell.