Waking to find some of the alpacas grazing right outside our bedroom window made me realise that on my fortieth birthday I was finally living the dream! After one of Paul’s very filling breakfasts, including fresh eggs from the resident hens, we headed outside for the Saturday morning tour of the farm, during which visitors and guests get the chance to feed the alpacas, or just to gaze adoringly them.

I always feel very calm around alpacas and llamas. I once heard them described as the land based equivalent of ‘dolphins’ – capable of connecting with human beings in a particularly special way, and instinctively knowing when some of those humans need a bit more tlc. They’re very curious about children, and love watching them play, whilst at the same time young camelids can also be very playful. I once had one try to mount me, but that’s a whole different story!

I certainly don’t feel forty, but by this time you’ve sort of realised that you never will feel your age. Instead you just try to maintain the adult facade for as long as possible, until wine or close friends and loved ones get the better of you.

Having fed the alpacas their breakfast we headed into Sala – the closest town, and parked up near the Mans Ols restaurant. From here we walked around Langforsen lake, and along the ‘Green Walk’. I always feel the need to enjoy a good walk on my birthday, and there’s certainly plenty of it available in and around Sala. For some reason though the area isn’t mentioned in the guidebooks – bizarre given that it surpasses the crowded lakeside towns of Leksand and Mora for instance. Maybe it’s best that we keep quiet about it though, to keep the hordes away.

Back to Mans Ols for a much anticipated buffet lunch. For £11 per person you can feast on a range of salads, meats, fish, and potatoes, all of which tasted delicious. It wasn’t surprising that the place was full to the brim with locals.

With sated appetities we then nipped back to the farm to grab our swimsuits and instructed Dervla to take us to Hällsjön lake, near the village of Möklinta. Paul had recommended this as a fabulous wild swimming option, and he was right. After a few wrong turns because Dervla gets confused by gravel tracks – not ideal when travelling in Scandinavia, we eventually found it. One word – wow! It’s a large lake (by UK standards) with a cordoned off bathing area, changing hut, toilets and picnic tables, and on a gorgeous sunny day we had it to ourselves. Whilst the water was a little chilly to begin with your body soon adapts, so much so that we soon abandoned the cossies and went skinny dipping. Hell of a way to celebrate reaching middle aged-dom! I intended to start as I mean to go on though, growing older as gracelessly as possible…

After programming the correct location of the lake into Dervla as ‘nudey swimming’, so that we could find the spot easily the following day, we headed back to the farm for a well earned hot chocolate before preparing dinner in the self catering kitchen. Before bed we nipped over to see the new baby cria (alpaca), and to meet ‘Sputnik’ – a particularly naughty young alpaca who likes to test boundaries, but does so in a way that’s hard not to love. After trying to knock Rich over a few too many times we decided that it was time for bed, for us and the creatures. A lovely end to a perfect birthday.