15th July 2020

The island of Bornholm is located in the Baltic Sea, roughly 130 kilometres south-east of Copenhagen. The local authorities recommend visiting it for its dramatic coastline, tasty experiences, and cute fishing villages, but for readers of these pages there is one even better reason: the presence of Denmark’s oldest permanently-installed steel roller coaster. (Obsessive enthusiasts may point out that this wasn’t actually true at the time this visit took place, but Racing was sold to a travelling fair before I finished writing this report, so it's unequivocally the oldest now.)

Under ordinary circumstances the easiest way for enthusiasts to get to the island is an eighty-minute ferry crossing from Sweden, but that option is only available to Danish citizens at present due to enhanced border controls as a consequence of Covid-19. Domestic flights to Rønne (RNN) are the only other reasonable option, albeit with a catch: there are a very limited number of rental cars available at the airport, and they tend to sell out. All three of the local agencies had nothing left when I was making bookings for this trip, and limited public transport options left me with little choice but to abandon my plan and reallocate the day to sightseeing in greater Copenhagen.


Yesterday morning during boarding of my flight to Denmark I decided on a whim to have one final look using my phone, and was thrilled to discover that Avis had mysteriously discovered an Opel Corsa. Though the rental cost was not exactly value for money (to put it mildly...) I decided Foxtrot India and booked. I had minor problems trying to get flights to match, but after some back and forth I was able to get the day set up the way that I wanted it.

My flight into RNN was on OR-JRY, a colourful ATR42-300 that will shortly celebrate its thirty-third birthday, making it one of the oldest aircraft in commercial service in Europe, as well as the oldest aircraft I’ve travelled on (edging out P-885 by a few months). The service was about ten minutes behind schedule but otherwise uneventful, and there was a surprise waiting for me on landing: as I approached the car rental desk, the staff member greeted me by name and handed me the keys for a brand new four litre Audi A6 with less than 300 kilometres on the clock. I was apparently the only customer expected today, and as the car I’d reserved was being serviced they decided to upgrade me something fun instead. I wasn’t about to complain.

Brændesgårdshaven, literally Brændesgård’s Garden, is a family adventure park located on the eastern side of the island, around three kilometres as the crow flies from the coast, and about thirty minutes drive from the airport. It has a petting zoo, a small water park, miniature golf, and a collection of self-operated amusement rides. The star attraction is Mariehønen (#2863), a small roller coaster installed in 1975. Passengers of up to eighty kilograms are invited to push the car to the top of the track, where they climb on board for around seventy metres of momentum-driven coasting, comprising a straight descent (with airtime bumps) and a 360 degree banked turn. The ride is very much in the family category, but despite that it is pure fun; I could have ridden all day long were it not for a large number of bemused children wondering about the lunatic waiting in line alongside them.

Another not-to-be-missed attraction is a funicular swing across a lake in the middle of the park. The hardware looks at first glance like a Sunkid Heege Skydive, but it is completely manual; one rider at a time takes a seat at the higher point of track, and their weight allows the system to pull an empty car back from the unload station. (While this attraction looks to be homespun, the team at Heege did manage to sell other hardware to the park, including a Luna Loop and a Nautic Jet; I chose to forego both on this occasion.) There is also a small zoo area featuring donkeys, llamas, and pigs.


After leaving the park I spent the remainder of my time on the island sightseeing, including an hour or so in the area of the Helligdomsklipperne and an hour or so at the Hammershus Castle Ruins. I’d recommend both, along with a gentle drive along the coast road, to anyone with time to spare. There’s precisely no value in getting to the airport a long time before take-off, as there is only one gate and the security check point doesn’t open until 45 minutes before departure.