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In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

I had been eagerly looking forward to my paddling trip in Billnäs cultural landscape. The morning arrived very cold, and my car windows were covered by frost. Luckily, the weather forecast promised us a beautiful day with sunny intervals. I started my drive towards the Billnäs ironworks where I was going to meet my guide Gustaf Ahlroos, more familiarly known as Gutte. Gutte organizes, e.g., paddling and biking trips around the Billnäs area.

Mustio starting point on the map

Billnäs finishing point on the map

The length of the paddling route is about 20 km.

There are no rapids on this stretch of the Mustio river making the route a perfect fit for touring kayaks and inexperienced paddlers not familiar with rapids.

Usually the paddling trips start from Mustio, but we decided to leave my car at the finishing point of the route in Billnäs and head to the starting point by Gutte’s car. I took a scenic route to Billnäs, but still arrived there a bit early. So I had a little time on my hands, and I wandered around the Billnäs Ironworks and got to know its history. At the same time, I was curious about getting to the river already. Unfortunately, the fall colors had already faded, and stormy winds had left the trees bare.

But the river looked inviting. There is something so charming in fall season. The skies are gray, the weather is foggy, the air is filled with earthy smells – it’s always so beguiling. Seasons bring changes to river environment as does the river flow. As we were able to witness, heavy rainfalls result in increased river flow and higher water level. The fast flowing river may also speed up your paddling.

We set out to paddle on kayaks that Gutte had rented in Mustio. If you are not in a hurry, go check out the magnificent Mustio manor. The manor is situated only a few hundred meters from the starting point. But we had to get going, because the sun sets quite early in the fall. The paddling route to Billnäs is more or less 20 kilometers, so it’s a decent muscle workout at the same time. I have paddled quite a lot, but I’m not really used to kayaks, so this trip was also a learning experience for me.

Gustaf ”Gutte” Ahlroos

Gutte is a nature-loving guy and a versatile entrepreneur who works in the Billnäs area. Gutte’s company Lyfte hires out kayaks and mountain bikes and organizes guided tours like this paddling trip on Mustio river. It is also possible to experience a combined biking and paddling tour.

Gutte is also a Certified Mental Trainer as well as a Personal Trainer. He is also currently studying to be a hiking guide.

Read more about paddling and biking in Billnäs on Gutte’s Facebook pages.

This paddling route is perfect, if you have never done any kayaking and want to practice it safely with an experienced guide. The first three kilometers are pretty easy. The river flow is relatively slow, and the stretch is largely sheltered from the wind. During the first three kilometers, you will have time to get used to kayaking and practice different paddling techniques.

Just as I started to get the hang of some basic techniques, we passed by the small Junkarsborg island with ancient castle ruins. The castle dates back to the 12th century, the late Iron Age, and has presumably also been inhabited by Vikings. Tradition has it that the castle was first called Raseborg, and that name was later on passed to The Raseborg Castle in Snappertuna. My family is related to the former Lord of The Raseborg Castle, and that is why it was quite special for me to be paddling in the area connected to my family’s heritage.

There is a strong current near Junkarsborg, and there are also quite a few big rocks. So pay attention at this point!

After Junkersborg, we paddled over Lake Päsarträsket, after which the river meandered through the fields for several kilometers. Gutte told me that in the summertime herding cows come to the river bank to stare at the paddlers passing by, and it is not unheard of that a curious gray heron starts to follow a group of paddlers. The river banks offered us a shelter from the wind, so it was easy to paddle for a while, but as we approached the Kyrksjön lake, a brisk wind started to blow.

Gutte told us that this part of the route is often very windy, and that there may be big waves, even though the lake is shallow.

There are many suitable places to stop for a picnic along the route, but we decided to enjoy our packed lunch before starting to cross the lake. Gutte also kindly made us a cup of coffee, but just as we started to eat, it began to rain. The weather forecast proved not be accurate, but that’s just typical… Fortunately, we had these waterproof drysuits on, so the rain didn’t really bother us. When getting ready for a paddling trip, you should always pack a rainproof jacket with you, even when there is no rain in the forecasts.

Next we paddled over the lake and arrived at the city center of Karjaa. After a short stretch of urban paddling, the rain really picked up and it started to get dark as well. But we were right on schedule and our route was coming to an end – we made it to Billnäs just before dark.

At dusk the Billnäs Ironworks looked just absolutely beautiful. The quacking ducks welcomed us back to the same bridge where I had been admiring the scenery before the start of our little paddling trip. Luckily we were dressed appropriately for the weather and didn’t get cold. On the contrary, I was a little hot when we paddled upwind. We also took several short breaks.

I have been paddling my packraft in many places from wilderness to urban environments. I was pleasantly surprised by this route, as it was truly atmospheric with rich cultural landscape. It was nice to paddle in a kayak on a river like this at a moderately brisk pace. We were a little late, but I can only imagine the landscape with fall foliage in all its glory. We decided to come back with my wife and next time take the combined biking and paddling tour and top off the day by eating in the Billnäs restaurant.

Read also:

An impressive cycling route in Raseborg: Presenting the 46-kilometre long Front Line Route

One of the most beautiful hiking areas in Raseborg hides among the reed beds and hazel groves – hiking on the trails of lake Lepinjärvi at dawn

The Antskog Ironworks in Raasepori – a historical idyll by the river

Culture & cardio – experience the Embankment route from the capital region to Fiskars on a train and bike

In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Johanna Suomela

The Antskog Ironworks is a scenic and historical site few people know about in Raasepori, only about an hour’s drive from Helsinki. The picturesque ironworks reveals its beauty to an adventurer who appreciates its history and approaches the idyll discreetly and with respect for its nature that differs from other ironworks villages. 

The early evening atmosphere in Antskog in late June is magical. I have arrived in a seemingly sleepy, beautiful little village. The mass of clouds drifts by, almost touching the treetops, but the worst threat of rain has already passed.

I know that the only permitted parking spot is at the Antskog plaza. I have to check my navigator to make sure that I am indeed in the right place. Yes, I am at the plaza, at Harabackantie 3. I have never visited such a tiny plaza before, but a village community of 120 permanent residents hardly needs a Senate Square.

The plaza is recognizable by the yellow house standing on the corner – a former diner and shop – and an information board titled “Antskog as a copperworks” describing the history of the copperworks. When you see them in front of you, you know you have parked legally. Parking anywhere else is prohibited, especially in front of the old volunteer fire brigade building, as that is the turning area for the bus, and every square meter is needed.

The peacefully slumbering Antskog Ironworks is surrounded by a fence sealed with locked gates. Trespassing beyond the fence is not allowed, as the area is entirely under the control of its owner, Mako Ltd.

Fortunately, small glimpses of the buildings in the historical factory area, now used as warehouses, can be seen from permitted routes. Through my camera, I take a peek at a past world filled with our industrial history that lies beyond the fence.

The long and meandering history of the Antskog Ironworks

The Antskog Ironworks is the oldest and smallest of the ironworks in Pohja. The German-born merchant from Turku, Jacob Wolle, is considered to be the founder of the Antskog Ironworks. In history books, Antskog and Wolle are linked from the year 1630 onwards, so that year is considered to be the founding year of the Antskog Ironworks. 

As an ironworks, Antskog competed with Fiskars, which was founded much later (not until 1649!). In the end, Fiskars had a better location traffic-wise closer to the sea and triumphed.

When the furnace was still operational in 1650, the village had 80 inhabitants who were considered adults. People serving Antskog at that time included a master of the furnace, a pot caster, two pistolsmiths, a precision smith and a wheelsmith, several hammersmiths, a master builder as well as colliers and charcoal burners. 

The first church was built in Antskog in 1665. The ironworks parish was dissolved after population dwindled in the 1770’s, and the Antskog church was moved to the Koski Ironworks in Perniö, where it mostly retains its features from the Antskog era, although it is no longer in use.

All that remains of the church now in Antskog are the church site and the sign pointing to it.  At times when the undergrowth is more barren, the plinth of the church is visible. After June, the plinth is probably covered by Amazon-like vegetation.

As centuries passed, the ore used at the ironworks varied, as did the end products. From the present-day perspective, one of the most important owners was pharmacist John Jacob Julin from Turku. To facilitate access for ore barges from the nearby Malmberget mine, Julin built a sluice in Antskog in 1824. Julin himself believed the sluice to be the first one in Finland, and had his assumption carved into a rock next to the sluice, even though the honor of building the first sluice probably belongs to Henrik Johan Kreij, owner of the Mustio Ironworks, who is said to have built two sluices in the Mustionjoki river as early as 1745.

The copperworks closed down in 1880. Earlier in 1875, pharmacist Julin’s eldest son Emil Lindsay von Julin had been forced to hand his factory over to his debtors, but he also received a managerial position in the Fiskars Aktiebolaget company that was founded in 1883.

Industrial operation continued in Antskog, however. In 1839, John Jacob Julin had received a permit for founding a baize factory and a felting facility and dyeworks alongside the ironworks. The stone building of the baize factory was completed in 1841, and was rented by various entrepreneurs until 1849. When there was an attempt to sell the factories here in 1879, they included a small wool spinning mill, weaving mill and dyeworks in addition to the copperworks and mill. There was even a tricot production plant in Antskog before the turn of the century.

In 1900, the old baize factory was destroyed in a fire. The Antskog Klädesfabrik Ltd, founded two years later, built a large group of industrial buildings on the same site. The factory specialized in the manufacturing of baize, slipper, ulster and suit fabrics and employed over 100 people during the early years of the 20th century. The operation of the factory that provided a livelihood for the entire village ended in a surprising bankruptcy in 1959. In 1960, ownership of the area was transferred to its current owner, Mako Ltd, through a compulsory auction.

(This is an adaptation of the long and meandering history of the Antskog Ironworks. You can read the full long history at the Antskog Ironworks web site here.)

The Antskog Ironworks village today

Today, Antskog is filled with peace and quiet. The ironworks sleeps; nothing is being manufactured inside its factory buildings anymore.

The Anskunjoki river flows languidly through the fenced factory area. The sound of running water reaches my ears from somewhere, but I see no steps down to the water.

Although all manufacturing has ended, there is still a solidness about the old buildings. The abandoned factory buildings are reminiscent of past times, the history of Finnish industry.

The serene, unbroken surface of the Anskunjoki river paints beautiful images; even the slight blemishes created by the ravages of time do not disturb the full picture.

The grass isn’t growing wildly; the paths are clearly visible. The white fences look as if they had just been painted. Somebody is looking after this industrial-archaeological environment.

Even though Antskog and Fiskars are located next to each other, Antskog is worlds apart from Fiskars that waits for tourists with open arms a few kilometers away.

There are no shops here, nor artisans’ workshops with inviting open doors.

Antskog is meant to be enjoyed as is – raw, without sugarcoating to make it more tempting. There are no temptations here for loosening the strings of one’s purse, but plenty of peace and atmosphere.

The Antskog summer idyll is located on Slussintie

To get to the start of Slussintie, I cross the concrete road that runs through the village.

The speed limit is low, but it’s still a good idea to look both ways. Many of those driving by here seem to be in a hurry to get to Fiskars.

The former workers’ homes on Slussintie have developed into a paradise for summer residents. The rental apartments are modest, with outhouses at the back of the yard. Bathing takes place in the sauna, and a swim in the river feels refreshing. 

These affordable rental apartments are rarely available, and even when they are, they are rented under the counter. Marketing takes place through the grapevine. There are approximately one hundred lucky summer residents.

The houses have seen plenty of time and life, and they all have names. Plevna, Onnela, Fiskars I & II, Pomola.

The residents have their own little piers by the river.

The river sauna gets plenty of visitors. Women are cooling off with towels around themselves and their hair, and children are wading in the quietly flowing water. 

For a moment, I imagine that I have fallen into a historical, cosmic wormhole and travelled at least 80 years back in time. The number of children playing outside is beyond my comprehension. They really are swimming and running around, as they should in the summer. Outside! Even in the evening! People here are enjoying the summer and every single warm day. 

I wait for a good while before I’m able take out my camera. The surface of the river has barely settled as new swimmers enter the water.

Even the laundry/mangling room on the bank of Anskunjoki looks rather idyllic.

The nature in Antskog is particularly sensitive 

The opposite bank of Slussintie at Keskiportti is wilderness-like. The magnificent trees are reflected on the mirror of the water. Somewhere in the cover of the trees, a blackbird is singing its prettiest serenade. The water flows here from the Seljänalanen lake above, from which a waterway through a narrow canal also leads to the Määrjärvi lake. 

Here in the Pohja-Kisko uplands, especially in these river valleys, the nature is lush and diverse. There are many clear-watered, wilderness-like lakes here that have been spared from the construction of cabins and agricultural runoff, on whose shores smooth cliffs rise sharply towards the sky.

In 2017, the Pohja-Kisko lake uplands were included among the one hundred pearls of nature named by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. In the nature of Raasepori, one may spot the red-throated diver, which is rare in Uusimaa. The area is also the habitat of the black-throated diver, whooper swan, crane, eagle owl and Eurasian pygmy owl. Even a playful otter might be found in the brooks of the lake uplands. 

There is a large population of white-tailed deer. Moving quietly and downwind, one may even encounter moose, lynxes, bears and wolves. In the swamps, one may hear the wood grouse and black grouse, and there are large numbers of bats and dragonflies.

There are several conservation and Natura areas in the vicinity of Antskog. In order to keep their sensitive nature as untouched as possible, no routes have been built in them. The nearest marked routes are close by, however. There is a tree species path of about two kilometers in length in the Fiskars ironworks area that introduces as many as 23 different species of trees. The four-kilometer Rissla forest path leads through beautiful scenery to the Rissla waterfall and the structures of the old power plant. For those who enjoy cycling, the Fiskars Ironworks offers a total of 60 kilometers of marked and maintained mountain biking routes!

The Antskog idyll has even appeared in a movie

Slussintie winds along the riverbank; my steps are taking me towards the “slussi”, or the sluice.

While walking leisurely, one can constantly see eye candy along Slussintie: flowers, artistic and warmly humorous still lifes, summer residences for winged friends; the washing lines on the opposite bank and even the chair where the happy washer probably has time to wait for their laundry to dry. 

The Slussintie summer idyll looks straight out of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books! I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Emil i Lönneberga himself came running down the hill with his cap tilted, or Pippi Longstocking rode past me on her spotted horse.

No wonder the Antskog riverbank has even appeared in a movie. The adaptation of Eeva Joenpelto’s novel Vetää kaikista ovista was filmed here, and the Antskog workers’ hall can also be seen in the movie.

Nature is flourishing here. This landscape is a safe haven for many buzzing insects.

Members of the Antskog village society have received an honorable mention for their work for the preservation of the diversity of nature. Through its own example, Antskog proves that looking after the natural environment of one’s own village doesn’t necessarily require large resources, but good will and active hands willing to take action.

The Antskog village society has also made its own village plan for the development of their village. They want Antskog to be a vigorous village community in a pleasant environment, and they want to offer the people of Antskog diverse opportunities for exercise that keep people healthy.

The active Antskog village society organizes an annual summer fest, collective voluntary work, summer exhibitions, summer café activity and concerts. At the heart of these activities is the diligently restored cozy workers’ hall situated at the end of Harabackantie.

The Antskog sluice

After a few hundred yards of walking, I arrive at the historical sluice. 

The Antskog sluice was constructed in 1824 by Johan Jacob Julin, who was in charge of the refining of copper from the Orijärvi mine. Transporting ore to the foundries in Koski and Antskog was extremely laborious, especially during the winter with heavy snow. Julin solved the logistical problems by constructing a waterway from Orijärvi to Antskog, which had a connection to the Gulf of Finland through a series of small lakes. Julin’s solution was successful, as transportation costs were halved thanks to the sluices. 

The Antskog sluice became less important in 1830, when copper refining was concentrated at the Koski foundry. The Antskog sluice remained in use until 1908, when the actual sluice gates were dismantled.

The remaining reminders of history are the rusty sluice structure and the text “First sluice in Finland, J.Julin 1824” carved in stone. As mentioned before, the sluice wasn’t actually the first, but who would doubt information that has been carved in stone?

Slussintie ends at the beautiful Mikkola beach

Slussintie ends at a beautiful beach. The Mikkola beach is the villagers’ bathing beach. Littering and keeping dogs loose is understandably prohibited, as is camping. 

A smart guest always respects the rules of the house and never wants a bad mood for themselves, let alone to upset the permanent residents. During the COVID year, we’ve all read about sites getting damaged during the nature tourism boom and careless hikers who disregard the rules and leave trash behind. As smart and considerate nature lovers, we don’t want to be part of that group, do we?

Evening images at Anskunjoki river

As I walk back towards the plaza, I still wonder about the children splashing about in the river. 

The sign warning about playing children at the start of Slussintie should indeed be taken seriously instead of barreling down the road towards the sluice by car.

I admire the beautiful reflections on the surface of the river as the lens of the camera catches some boys on an evening kayaking trip.

Luukas Huppunen and Niilo Alander are enjoying the soft atmosphere of a summer evening in Antskog in the best possible way – on the water.

Villa Taika offers surprises and unique bed & breakfast accommodation

I quickly visit the Manibacka hill, a little ways from the center of Antskog towards Fiskars. Here, a real surprise awaits a hiker in need of accommodation. Raisa Kaipainen and Torsten Rüger have renovated an old schoolhouse into a unique bed & breakfast that almost certainly has no equal in Finland.

Immediately at the front door my thoughts fly towards southeast Asia. The dark wood used in interior design and the turquoise color of the common rooms act as a virtual ticket to foreign lands.

As I peek inside the comfortable accommodation rooms, nothing reminds me of an old schoolhouse. Each of the eight rooms is unique and individually decorated. 

In addition to the beautiful rooms, guests at Villa Taika also get to enjoy the serenity of the surrounding nature and a lovingly prepared vegetarian breakfast. A fountain bubbles in the large garden, and a large, wood-heated sauna is available for course groups on order.

Villa Taika is a memorable and cozy base for an explorer who values the beauty of the nature of Antskog. Rowboats are available for rent for those wishing to go out on the river, and those wishing to visit Fiskars can borrow a bicycle. By car, the drive to Fiskars is five minutes. Other sites to experience in Raasepori are also close by. The Billnäs Ironworks and Mustio Manor are only 15 kilometers away, and the distance to Tammisaari is 35 kilometers.

There are as many as five lakes as well as a conservation area within walking distance from Villa Taika. The bathing beach of the clear and strictly protected Simijärvi lake is only 200 meters away.

He who has happiness…

…should hide it, says an old Finnish proverb. After my time spent in Antskog, I can also easily understand those villagers who would prefer to keep this idyll entirely hidden. If there are no services for tourists and entrepreneurs in the village who would benefit from visitors, many may fear that their peace will be disturbed without any benefit for the community.

Antskog is unlikely to become a destination for the masses as long as the old industrial area lies slumbering behind locked gates, but for those who value peace and the beauty of nature and walk their own paths, Antskog is the perfect choice. Here, small parties and groups of co-workers will find not only the magical accommodations of Villa Taika, but also an opportunity for customized, guided adventures in nature.  The local company KD-Adventure organizes tourist services for lovers of kayaking, climbing, riding and tour skating. A survival course tailored to the group’s wishes or an evening of firewalking are also possible, as are outdoor cooking classes for gourmands who want to learn to cook on an open fire. Perhaps you’d like to learn how to cook a salmon on a fire or how to prepare an epic dish of rosvopaisti

A summer café has operated at the Antskog workers’ hall every summer during the summer fest and exhibition. This year, the summer fest will be held on July 31, and the summer exhibition will probably take place at the same time. If you are around in these parts in late July, you can find the Antskog workers’ hall at Harabackantie 30.

If the summer café is open, please support the active village society by having a relaxed cup of coffee, for instance. While doing so, you will also see the fabulously restored workers’ hall, and while enjoying your coffee, you can ponder on what a fine piece of the history of industrialization in Finland the Antskog Ironworks is.

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Visit Raseborg

In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

Billnäs is a significant part of Finland’s industrial history. The beautiful ironworks milieu may still be experiencing a moment of peace from a bigger tourist rush, but the village is coming to life thanks to the hard work of the ironworks’ new owner. In 2019, we cycled over the old Ratavalli train tracks, now open to the public, from Fiskars to Billnäs and enjoyed both the stunning Mustionjoki scenery and the impressive history of the ironworks.

Route length: 20km

Riding time around 2h

Destination on the map

Starting point and end point on the map

Easy route, some hills

One beautiful day in the early summer, we found ourselves unloading our slightly too tightly-packed bicycles from the trunk of our car on the outskirts of the village of Fiskars. We’d spent the previous day gathering our strength on the endless beaches of Hanko, and our minds, thirsting for action, were already racing through our route for the day.

For our home base, we chose Fiskars, from where we would cycle towards Billnäs on the Ratavalli, which was opened in 2019 as a footpath. The Ratavalli, named after the old train track base it runs on, starts at the Karjaa sports park and ends in Fiskars, and it’s an excellent route for travelers wanting to cycle. The trip can also be made without a car if you start in Karjaa, as you can bring your bike there by train from Helsinki.

The fields and farms are criss-crossed by numerous roads, mainly gravel, so you can pick your own path with relative freedom. The plan was to take a slightly different route back from Billnäs to Fiskars.

Taking the Ratavalli to Billnäs

You can find the Ratavalli route on Google Maps under the name Skuruntie, departing from the Fiskarsintie road that approaches Fiskars from the south, on the south side of the village center. We travel the first few kilometers around the shore of lake Borgbyträsket, which belongs to the drainage basin of Fiskarsinjoki river. Leaving the happy cows behind, we push onward on the peaceful gravel road on the first bike trip of the summer. We stop next to a wall of rock on the south side of the lake when my spouse shouts at me from behind. I only see a gray blur of the snake slithering by my feet. The viper slips away quickly in search of a calmer place to warm its poikilothermous body.

We roll on southward on the tracks, passing the Tallbacka village, until we cross the Turuntie road. Our initial plan was to cycle through Åminnefors village, but we realize around the bridge crossing Mustionjoki river that the Ratavalli passes Åminnefors on the north. If we wanted to stop at the only ironworks still in industrial use, we should have left the Ratavalli route and continued along Mustionjoki river towards the village center. Oh well, there’s always next time. We continue on our way towards Billnäs, where we have a date with guide Matti Piirainen, based in Tammisaari.

We arrive in the center of Billnäs and leave our bikes on the old railyard, bordered by the old dispatch center under repairs. This building was used for dispatching the ironworks’ products all around Finland and the world. Soon we are approached by the guide, Matti, who will guide us through the history of the area.

Billnäs, 1880

History of the Pohja ironworks 101

The Pohja ironworks were first formed in the early 17th century, and are as a whole part of Finland’s national landscape, a collection of 27 sites that proudly represent the country’s culture, history and nature. The ironworks are a significant part of Finland’s tradition of industrial history.

There are altogether five old ironworks in Länsi-Uusimaa: The Pohja ironworks, consisting of Antskog, Fiskars and Billnäs, as well as Mustio and Fagervik. They’re all located within 30 kilometers of each other and all have differing natures and histories. Antskog is very quiet and less of a tourist attraction, Fiskars is a village of artisans, and Mustio is the oldest of the ironworks, characterized by Mustio castle and the large manor park. Fagervik in Inkoo is noted by the Finnish Heritage Agency as “the most complete and representative ironworks of the pre-industrial era”, and it, too, is well within reach of a cyclist looking to visit the Länsi-Uusimaa ironworks.

The Billnäs ironworks was founded in 1641 under Swedish rule. Sweden’s own ironworks had shaved down the forests surrounding them, so the decision was made to build new ironworks in Uusimaa, known in Swedish as Nyland. The location of the ironworks was based on three key needs: a harbor for the logistics chain, a river to power the ironworks, and forest as a source of charcoal to burn. Billnäs manufactured various tools, from nails to ax heads, later moving on to office furniture – which is where many Finns know the name from today.

We start our walking tour from the gate of the ironworks. Attention is quickly drawn to the initials and dates on the ends of the houses. The wrought iron initials signify the period each building is from.

Billnäs was founded in 1641 by former customs officer Carl Billsten, who later passed on the title of ironworks tycoon to his son. During the Isoviha period of the Great Northern War, the ironworks was destroyed almost completely, after which the company was purchased by the Hising brothers. The Hisinger family ruled over the ironworks for a few hundred years, until they were acquired by Fiskars in the 1920s. Understandably, the buildings mostly carry the Hisinger initials.

We walk by the store of a tourism entrepreneur, sporting new, shiny city bikes at the front. In addition to Billnäs, there are bicycle rentals in Karjaa, Fiskars and Tammisaari. Thanks to this, you can cycle between the ironworks without much pre-planning or acquiring a bike beforehand. The entrepreneur also operates a workshop and a flea market in the same space, which will be neighbored by a canoe and bike rental in the future.

Matti Piirainen arranges boat trips in the Tammisaari archipelago national park and works as a guide in both the nature of Tammisaari and historic environments like the Fiskars and Billnäs ironworks. Matti has completed the Suomen Latu wilderness guide course. He has guided wilderness trips in Utsjoki, Lapland, and since expanded his repertoire. He started the boat tours about 10 years ago, and he has a rental boat driver’s license. Learn more on Matti’s website.

We continue walking towards the banks of the Mustionjoki river. A thrush nightingale is singing on the branch of a deciduous tree and the bright June light is casting sharp shadows all around us. Soon we’re standing on a wooden bridge over Mustionjoki on the east side of the dam.

Mustionjoki river is also suited for canoeing and kayaking. Right on the south side of the Peltokoski power plant, by the side of the Salontie road, is a boat launching place. There are no dams on the way, and aside from one small rapid, you can boat down the river for around 20 kilometers all the way to Billnäs. You can take your canoe out of the river before the Billnäs dam. As for renting, you can find rentals such as Melontatehdas, known in Swedish as Paddlingsfabriken, in the area.

Before the hydroelectric dam, a new pontoon bridge takes us to the newly-built fish ladder. We’ll hear more about them later from the ironworks’ current owner, Olli Muurainen. The ironworks creates an impressive view from the north side of the river, the factory chimney standing out against a nearly cloudless sky. We pass by the oldest houses in the village, smith’s residences from the 18th century painted in red ochre. The workers lived in these wooden houses painted with red earth pigment, charming from a modern viewpoint. Clerks lived in slightly larger stone houses.

The ironworks’ development

The ownership of the key buildings was transferred from Fiskars to the municipality of Pohja in the 1980s. In 2008, the municipality sold them to entrepreneur Olli Muurainen, who’s been renovating the area since. We meet Olli on the terrace of the soon-to-open summer restaurant, on the bank of Mustionjoki river. He tells us about the toil it’s taken to renovate the ironworks.

Now, after a gap of 10 years, the ironworks is open to individual customers once more. A hotel has been built in the ironworks’ old head office, offering 22 tastefully decorated rooms, some of which are located in the neighboring former design office. The ironworks also offers an unparalleled setting for meetings, events and celebrations such as weddings. As a pandemic specialty, the ironworks has offered remote work packages.

In addition to the current restaurant serving hotel guests and conference-goers, an outdoor summer restaurant will be opened this year and in the future, there will be shops in the old dispatch center, which is currently under renovations. Throughout July, there’s a Sunday market in the area.

The renovation of the protected buildings has been going on for years, and the work is now roughly at its halfway point. The forested area has been cleared heavily to better match the original landscape. 300 cherry trees have been planted in the area along with North-American maples and oaks, which are expected to sport stunning fall colors. The ironworks is celebrating its 380th anniversary in 2021, and the celebrations will be surrounded by gorgeous colors in both the summer and the fall.

Last year, fish ladders were opened as a bypass for the Billnäs and Åminnefors hydroelectric dams. Billnäs has a so-called vertical slot fish ladder, where fish swim from rung to rung and can rest in the pools along the way. The fishways are opened around May Day and closed in November, following the annual cycle of migratory fish. The brand new pontoon bridge along the opposite bank leads to a viewing spot for the fish climbing their ladder. Later, the bridge will allow for passage over Mustionjoki river.

Back to Fiskars

Now it’s time to return to Fiskars. Leaving the red-brick chimney behind, we continue northwest on our bikes, through the Billnäs tree nursery and past the gorgeous Billnäs ironworks manor designed by Lars Sonck. We ride along the Turuntie road for a while before turning back onto smaller roads at the Påminne skiing center.

Following the Lillforsintie, we make our way to the Brunkom waterfront road, which we follow for a few kilometers to the Brunkomintie road. We cycle along the edge of a field for a while, until we get to the Gästerbyntie intersection, surrounded by forest. After that it’s a straight shot to Fiskars along the Gästerbyntie road, sand billowing behind our bikes. We ride fast into the village downhill, stopping conveniently in front of Cafe Pesula. Leaving our bikes to lean against each other, we enjoy some well-deserved apple soda on the sunny yard.

On this hot summer day, the impressive history of the ironworks feels both distant and tangible at the same time. The structural change facing the ironworks has pushed them to reinvent themselves. Fortunately, their locations are beautiful without exception, and the charming ironworks milieus are an inviting destination for travelers. They’re anything but historical curiosities.

Text and photos: Mika Puskala

Learn more

Visitraseborg.com/Billnas

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