THE FLAG of a Norwegian football club has been flying proudly in Otley.

Sporting a large owl emblem, the Kristiansund Ballklubb flag caused more than a little bemusement amongst passersby after it appeared outside Dowgill House.

It was put up by the Bondgate guesthouse's owners, Helen and Tim Wilkinson, to welcome back some Leeds United supporting Scandinavian visitors who have taken a shine to the town.

Mr Wilkinson, who organises flag displays around Otley for Yorkshire Day and other national occasions, explained: "Egil, Einar and Ivar stumbled on us a couple of years ago and really seem to have taken to the place, returning with their wives last summer.

"We found the flag of their local club, Kristiansund, so it seemed a nice gesture to welcome them back to Otley by flying the colours of their local team.

"The Peacocks (Leeds United), along with Newcastle and Spurs, have a big constituency of supporters in Norway, mainly dating back to the 1970s when Norwegian football was at a lower level than today.

"Norwegians often adopted an English team and for them it was the Bremner, Lorrimer, Hunter team of the Don Revie era.

"These three happy characters first booked in with us two years ago and quickly fell in love with Otley.

"They are charmed with the variety of independent shops and local produce, which is a contrast to the one supermarket filled with imports where they live, and our rolling countryside.

"This is their fourth visit and they seem to be becoming familiar faces in some of the restaurants and pubs - Egil was delighted when Tony Grey at the Junction invited him behind the bar to pull his own pint!"

Mr Wilkinson even treats the trio to a sightseeing drive into the Dales each time they come - and says one of them keeps abreast of Otley news by reading the Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer online.

Their UK visits represent a major journey that starts from the remote Norwegian island of Smøla and involves two ferries, a flight to Oslo, another to Manchester and a train ride to Menston, via Leeds.

Mr Wilkinson added: "They don’t seem to have much luck with the games at Elland Road as they’ve seen four defeats out of four.

"But a few days of Otley hospitality seem to more than make up for that and, in time, we hope we can tempt a few more friendly Vikings over to these parts."