Tag Archive for: Raseborg

In commercial collaboration with Visit Raseborg

Article & photos by Johanna Kleemola @outdoorfamily.fi

Sneaking around Raseborg castle on a foggy November night, we might have heard two ghosts playing hide-and-seek in the castle ruins. Had we gone in Mid-July, the arcadian village Snappertuna would have been bustling with medieval markets and wild tournaments. However, our visit to the castle ruins on an ordinary day in early summer was still certainly fascinating, surprising, and rewarding.  

Raseborg castle is already a captivating attraction in itself, but a guided tour provides the opportunity to immerse yourself even more in the environment. Or what do you think about the following experiences?

A medieval castle surrounded by green countryside

Sunlight reflected on the surface of the road that winded through the countryside. The fields were ready for the coming growing season and bird song filled the forests, indicating the start of summer.

Flowing river views could already be seen from the car park, and the couple hundred-metre walk from the parking lot to the castle ruins already boasted the verdancy of Raseborg. More was to come.

Bug safari – entomology with professional tools

We began our family day with a Bug safari. First we caught small insects with sweep nets. Then we got to study our catches under a microscope. We also managed to fish a few different types of bugs from the riverbank.

Catherine Munsterhjelm introduced us to the world of spiders, water striders, and other insects in an interesting and compassionate way. She gave us the chance to test professional tools and observe bugs, each even more interesting than the last – while respecting the insects.

Through the microscope, miniscule organisms grew gigantic. The smallest details stood out.

There were dragonfly nymphs and caddis larva. Centipedes! And a giant snail! And a beetle that jumps in the air at an explosive speed!

Catherine organizes hour-long bug safaris in the courtyard of Raseborg castle on-request for families and other groups (€100 / max. 10 people / English, Finnish, or Swedish). There are also general safaris that anyone can join for €10. Availability can be found on Visit Raseborg’s website, and tours are suitable for all ages.

Catherine can also arrange longer bug safaris – as well as something completely different…

Wild herb walk – dive into the exciting world of free natural treats

This something different is immersion into the world of wild herbs. We got a brief taste of Catherine’s wild herb walk, but the half hour was enough to get the family super excited about wild herbs. My first-grader wanted to write down all of the herb names that we tasted so that none of them were forgotten at home. At home, it was imminent that we immediately start going through stinging nettles to gather the free superfood.

When you can taste tens of herbs and hear plenty of tips on preparing them within half an hour, one can only imagine how much a 2.5-hour wild herb walk has to offer.

There’s ground elder, viola, and rosebay willowherb. There’s alder, birch, and rowan. There’s greater plaintain, spruce tip, and polypody roots. You’ll taste licorice flavours and asparagus-like delicacies. Best of all are the stories, recipes, and ideas.

Catherine guides her guests around Raseborg castle while giving tips, advice, instructions, and taste samples. You can’t gather just anything from anywhere, but many common plants can be used to create more delicious and healthy treats. Catherine always offers small samples of these herbs at the end of the walk. It was an incredible experience! Thank you Catherine!  

You can book a wild herb walk from Catherine for your own group. Shorter and longer walks are also possible. Additionally, wild herb walks are organized at all open events during the summer. Participation costs €25 and availability can be found here.

Catherine Munsterhjelm

Biologist specialized in underwater research

Has worked as a nature school teacher in addition to research work

Instructed courses and guided tours at Raseborg castle for c. 5 years

More info about guided tours: catherine.munsterhjelm(at)gmail.com

Guided castle tour – a unique theatrical experience on historical ground

After the bug safari and wild herb walk, we were ready to learn about the castle itself. This is definitely not your average guided tour! From the moment Dan Idman steps into the castle yard clothed in full medieval garments, the most unique 1.5 hours of your life begins.

The tour is full of life and emotion. Dan explains facts from the castle’s construction in the 1300’s, abandonment in 1558, and vacancy of over 300 years. However, the facts are mixed with details, feelings, and strong visions. The Raseborg castle tour is an energetic theatrical performance that you can attend for an extra €5.  (Children under 7 years €0, 7-15 years €2. Castle has a separate entrance fee.)

On Dan Idman’s tour, beer kegs rattle, jokes are flung, and emotions flood. We walk along corridors of the castle ruins, climb up stairs and explore the scenery. We see how flocks of eider circle the ruins and hear about life in the castle during its time. The stone walls are bursting with intriguing secrets, stories, and phases throughout the castle’s lifetime.

Built on a sheepback surrounded by water, the castle has gone through some rough wear in its time. Dan guests from the 2020’s through this one-of-a-kind journey through history to hundreds of years back in time. This is definitely an experience worth participating in – if you dare!

Guided tours are organized throughout summer (see raaseporinlinna.fi/en/) and are suitable for all ages. The tour lasts c. one hour, but you should be prepared for enough stories that it may last longer.

Dan Idman

Theatre performer

Summer 2022 is Dan Idman’s 25th year as a guide at Raseborg castle

Up to 90 guided tours per summer

Tours can be found from raaseporinlinna.fi/en/

Lemmenpolku trail and more

When the time comes to say goodbye to the historic ruins and leave the ghosts behind, there’s still more to see before heading to the car. In addition to the guided tours there is plenty to see and do nearby the castle, such as the restaurant/café Slottsknekten, the Swedish-speaking summer theatre that has operated for over 50 years, and kayak rentals.

One particularly fantastic experience is the short Lemmenpolku trail, starting from the castle to Forngården outdoor museum. The trail is only 500 metres in one direction, but on the way you’ll find sheep pasture, grove, riverbank, and even a scenic bridge.

The verdant trail and charming old buildings are enchanting. Raseborg’s river flows freely under the wooden bridge and a sea of windflowers bloom beautifully. To top off the wonderful day, on our way back the sheep come within petting distance.

Lemmenpolku trail was established in the 1960’s when local biology teacher Einar Öhman, who was interested in the area’s history and culture, wanted to create a direct path from the village’s hostel to the castle ruins. The man started calling it Lemmenpolku (”amorous path”) due to the lovelorn birds that filled the air with mating calls each spring (source: luontoon.fi).

At the other end of Lemmenpolku, Forngården outdoor museum transports you to life as it was in the archipelago during the 1800’s. The museum includes the main building as well as different sheds, fences, and lofts from the 1700’s and 1800’s that were brought from Halstö island. You can read about Forngården’s opening hours and more here.

The area around Raseborg castle is a fascinating combination of enchanting history and mesmerizing nature, living culture and culinary experiences. A fantastic summer daytrip for the whole family, you can enrich your experience of the area by joining these unique and unforgettable guided tours. Who’s ready to go?

You can read more about Raseborg castle on its webpage: raaseporinlinna.fi/en/ as well as Visit Raseborg’s page: Visit Raseborg – Raseborg Castle.

Translation: Karolina Salin

Beautiful places nearby

Ekenäs’ serenity and autumn colours are fit for a postcard – only one hour from Helsinki

Billnäs ironworks is now 380 years old – the beautiful village is a great destination for a summer trip

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

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

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

In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

Ekenäs old town, a colorful array of quaint houses and passageways, looks like something out of a painting. Given its picturesque appearance and proximity to the nature paradise of Ramsholmen, as well as the reasonable travel time for most Finns, the area is surprisingly quiet outside of the summer season. As summer fades, the streets of Ekenäs grow silent. Yet, it’s hard to imagine this hidden treasure more stunning than in this moment of peaceful bliss. This scenic spot is just a train or bus ride away!

Ekenäs on a map

Villa Skeppet is visible from the parking lot and starting point of Ramsholmen hiking routes. It is currently owned by the Christine and Göran Schildt Foundation, and you can learn more about its history by booking a guided tour. The building was designed by Alvar Aalto as a home for his friends Christine and Göran. Read more.

As we set off on our Ekenäs sightseeing trip, the cool October day was already turning to dusk. A sunflower peeking out from behind a wooden fence caught my attention. It seemed to be gazing at the sun and sea, and turned out to perfectly encapsulate the evening ahead: the scenery of our Ekenäs trip was fit for a postcard, filled with sunlight and lovely shades of “ruska”, Finland’s autumn colours!

Walking through Laivuri park, we marveled at what might be the thickest trees I have ever seen. In the other direction the blue sea glimmered beautifully, yet another view fit for a postcard.

My adventure buddy Karoliina turned her gaze up from the roots of the gigantic trees and spotted a bell hanging high up. The bell is a monument to the artist Helene Schjerfbeck, made for anyone to ring by pulling the string handle that hangs on a pillar. The sound travels far with the sea, even to Ramsholmen forest where the artist was said to enjoyed painting. Schjerfbeck lived in Ekenäs during the year 1925–1941, even having a nearby street named after her.

In one step we had left the park and were surrounded by the charming passageways of the old town. My mind was already somewhere much further, as far as Åland or even a storybook, with quaint houses and polished alleys. The magnificent features of the landscape contained captivating intricate details, such as the blocks named after sea animals. Among them were shark, whale, seal and many more, in Swedish.

The streets and alleys had revealing names such as “glove-maker’s” street and “hatter’s” street – the latter immediately brought to mind Alice in Wonderland. The names actually signify the town’s history, which is deeply rooted in the working class of the past. Nowadays the old working-class homes are mostly vacation homes. For those tickled by the thought, there were a few houses with “For Sale” signs in the windows!

Read more here about Ekenäs old town and other guides.

We stopped by the church. The current church building was completed in 1842. The original church was a small wooden building built in 1600, and in between there was a stone church that was burned down in a fire. The current church looks like a white stone giant towering over the low-lying wooden houses of Ekenäs old town.

Porcelain statues, teddy bears, and special mirror installations were on display in the house windows, which I figured were “gossip mirrors”. These allow those inside the house to see what’s happening on the street and who is walking there (with who!) without being seen. A great method of observation, and probably a spectacular source of gossip back in the day.

I liked that bulletins had been put up on the streets about people who influenced the area. Some were familiar, but most were completely new to me. One of the new names included Olof Bäckström (below), but I learned that he was the one to invent Fiskars scissors! These bulletins were scattered around town, a great addition for independent travelers.

Karo and I walked around solely on intuition, choosing to take whichever street or alley looked inviting. The setting sun of the October evening cast moody shades of light on the landscape only seen at this time of the year. The late autumn light is a magical sight by the sea of the south coast, and it beautifully complimented the nature and old town of Ekenäs. The rays of light refracted by windows and colourful shades completed the scenery with contrasts and effects.

We arrived at Raippatori. It was a small, cobble-stoned square between the old town and beach. The spot’s gloomier history aside, I enjoyed the sparks of colour: the yellow, red, and green shades from the buildings, trees, and vines were almost too much against the blue sky!

Raippatori is reminded of its history not only by its name, ”whip market”, but also by the still standing pole of shame in the market. There was a time “when crimes were punished by public whipping”, as mentioned on Visit Raseborg’s website. The current atmosphere here does not at all give away its past.

Our journey continued from the pole of shame to another narrow passageway. The colours of the houses and fences continued to intensify, competing for saturation in different shades of red. The sunny weather forecast for the evening did not disappoint; the place would be stunning in any weather at any time of year, but on our trip it felt like nothing could be better than a sunny autumn evening in Ekenäs.

The city of Ekenäs was founded in 1546. Four years before Helsinki! Back then it was a small fishing village and Sweden’s king Gustav I gave it city rights. Most of the preserved buildings to this day are from the 1700’s and 1800’s. To think! But if you look around you, the charming houses speak for themselves. 

Though the houses are not quite as old, it’s mind-boggling to think that the same passageways we were walking have been there since the 1500’s. It’s difficult to imagine what the world looked like back then, it feels so distant. At the same time, my heart is filled with warmth and comfort by the thought that my ancestors might have walked these same streets on their daily errands. 100, 200, or even 500 years ago – these streets already existed.

The air was calm. There were few other pedestrians, some passageways were totally empty. It was peaceful and clean; I noticed that the only “trash” on the streets were shriveled leaves from the trees, which were swept by the gentle sea breeze and rustled softly against the cobblestone asphalt.

Even without a map, it felt like were always exactly where we needed to be. Next we arrived completely by chance at a square, Raatihuoneentori, lined with cafes and restaurants. Café Schjerfbeck was already closed, but it looked cute and the windows mirrored the park’s autumn colours wonderfully. I walked a small round in the park (bottom right picture below) and noticed some city bikes. It would have been a great option for sightseeing the area if I had noticed early. You can read more about city bikes here

Market days at Raatihuoneentori are year-round on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I will have to come back when there’s snow to see the area in a totally different way!

Ekenäs old town hall below. So magnificent!

At the edge of the square was a map of the old town. This map is a great guide of the area if you prefer more organized sightseeing than Karo and me. We were more tempted by the freedom of letting our thoughts and feet guide us instead of the map. Laivuri park, which we passed through in the beginning of our trip, is seen on the bottom right of the map (Laivurin puisto).

Karo luckily noticed that cafe Cafferien at the edge of the square was still open. The time was quarter to five, so we had 15 minutes. The café was bustling with teens spending time together, mothers and children, as well as older folks. We ordered coffee and cake – the vegan raspberry pie with oat vanilla sauce was delicious – and we had just enough time to enjoy them peacefully. It was the perfect pitstop before the next leg of our journey, as our city break was about to be swapped out for a nature hike.

After the coffee, we meandered through the town to our starting point, from where we would start heading in the opposite direction. First we wandered for a moment on the silent Kuninkaankatu (“king’s street”), which was full of brick-and-mortar stores that had already closed for the day. I already knew the story behind this, as I read beforehand that this was the first pedestrian street in our whole country, and the stores still close in the “old tradition” at five o’clock.

For those who enjoy shopping and dining, I recommend Ekenäs as a day trip in the sense that shops and cafes are mostly open during the daytime. My introverted heart was less interested in the services available but could have burst from joy at the quiet and exquisite views that provided endless photo opportunities.

As we once again passed Laivuri park’s giant trees, Helene’s bell, and Villa Skeppet, we were soon back at the parking lot where our car was waiting. The car could wait a little longer, however, as we went past and found the starting point for the hiking paths of Ramsholmen. The guidepost effectively displayed the main features of the area, and we took a picture as a backup on our journey.

Though Ramsholmen is most often spoken of, the entire area also includes Hagen and Högholmen. Wooden bridges connect the islands, and the route’s charm comes from the European-style grove’s magical atmosphere and the sea views. The views are best admired by choosing paths that occasionally escape the forest’s shade to open shores.

The sun approached the horizon, producing a jungle of cool shadows and warm rays of light. The main track was solid and wide, but smaller paths strayed here and there. We once again allowed our feet to guide us. We crossed paths with dog walkers, photographers, parents with their children, runners, walkers, and cyclists. Many smiled and greeted us.

At the first bridge, we stopped to take in the scenery so elegantly painted by the sun and the running water below us.

I must shamefully admit that I am unfamiliar with the tree species in the area. Some trees seemed to reach the sky, at the least. The few I could recognize were maple and common hazel. Many spots on the ground were covered in a carpet of maple leaves, their colour enriched by the refracted light.

The refracted sunlight is a reason why I recommend Ramsholmen specifically as an evening stroll destination. Why not a morning walk as well! The thick shade of the grove is in striking contrast with the bright sunlight on the shores, and in many places we felt like were shifting between worlds as we stepped from light to dark and vice versa.

The next bridge is longer than the first, and the scenery totally different. The bridge stretched across reeds openly while water flowed narrowly beneath it. The gold-tinted reeds swayed in the wind and gave the archipelago an authentic touch.

As we moved onward, the route narrowed and was totally covered in leaves in some places, but it was still easy to follow throughout the trip. Our surroundings switched between blue-green pines of the coniferous forest and grove filled with green foliage and yellow-orange leaves on the ground.

Most of Ramsholmen is wheelchair-accessible, but the area of Högholmen is not suitable for wheelchairs. The coniferous forest was particularly uneven.

On the way back, we had one last cherry on top of our Ekenäs cake. This was watching the sunset on the beach, and it was timed perfectly! The passage shaded by the common hazel led us to the beach, where the bright orange light awaited us.

As we arrived to the beach, it was empty. It would have been an amazing spot to go swimming if we had brought swimsuits and towels. There was even a changing cubicle conveniently there. Next time!

The sun gives off the most intense rays and fullest colours just before it dips beneath the horizon. We were able to enjoy the breathtaking view of the final orange rays shining on the forest floor. Dusk began to descend on our way back to the car, and had just about taken over as we arrived.

We were given one final goodbye from Ramsholmen on our way back. Above, the light of the setting sun shining through the treetops set the autumn colours into blazing flames.

In addition, I noticed a small movement from a bush on the side of the road. A deer crossed the road, seemingly quite tame as it let us pass quite close by it once it had made its way to the shelter of the forest.

Though I had guessed that Ekenäs old town and Ramsholmen were beautiful destinations, I have to say that the trip exceeded my expectations. The area is also so close to Helsinki metropolitan area that most can visit relatively easily. It’s vital to remember your camera, as a more photogenic place is hard to even imagine! There is plenty of accommodation available in the region, so I would warmly recommend a mini-vacation here for those who have the chance.

Learn more

VisitRaseborg.com

Travel to Raseborg without a car (VisitRaseborg.com)

Ekenäs Old Town (VisitRaseborg.com)

Helene Schjerfbeck (VisitRaseborg.com)

Alvar Aalto architecture in Raseborg (VisitRaseborg.com)

Beautiful places nearby

Billnäs ironworks is now 380 years old – the beautiful village is a great destination for a summer trip

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

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

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

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

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 cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Johanna Suomela

Another world surprisingly close to the busy highway no. 25, and beyond the grain fields, awaits the curious hiker who is hungry for new experiences. Encircled by the reed beds, Lake Lepinjärvi is a paradise for birds, providing memorable experiences in nature in historical surroundings. The prehistoric graves of this versatile region date all the way back to the Iron Age. Come with me to discover the cultural path of Lake Lepinjärvi – let’s follow the sunshine to the lush hazel grove!

Relatively easy trail, length approx. 3 kilometres

Travel time 2 hrs

Table for eating outdoor snacks and a campfire site, but no firewood service.

Map showing the starting point of the trail

My mobile phone wakes me up persuasively. It is time; actually it is 03.45 in the morning. Very early in the morning, on the day we celebrate Finnish nature. They say that an early bird catches the worm, so I must be catching a lot of them. I am about to go to a place I’ve never visited before, and I hope to see the best birds in the best light possible – when the sun rises.

It is still dark, though, when I start my car and drive towards Karis in Raseborg. These wee hours are the time of animals, such as rabbits and foxes, so I drive carefully.

Already on the way to my destination, I am fascinated by how lovely nature can be. The morning mist is just unbelievable! The landscape by the roadside has never been more beautiful!

In less than an hour, I have driven from the middle of Espoo to Karis to meet my friend who I haven’t seen for a long time. We spot a clear path leading to the underpass under Highway no. 25. Let’s go there!

The autumn morning is chilly, and the temperature is just 6 degrees above zero. Good thing that I brought my gloves.

The underpass is a safe passage to the other side of the highway.

The mist is soft like a feather, as it floats over the fields surrounding Lake Lepinjärvi. There’s so much moisture in the vegetation on the side of the trail that my pant legs get wet.

Blooming season is mostly over, but the last brown knapweed of the summer is still shining in the dim light of the morning.

The trail running on the side of the field road ends up in a lush forest and forks. Wooden signposts direct us to take a left.

I have to get to the beach before the sun rises.

The old bird observation tower of Lillnäset rewards those who dare to come here.

In the time of corona, you should consider a few things if you wish to go to any bird observation tower. Birdlife Finland recommends that you should prefer close-by destinations and not let anyone else use your binoculars and telescopes but your family members. You should also maintain a safe distance to other birdwatchers.

Being considerate is especially important when visiting bird towers. This means, for example that you allow others to use the tower as well and don’t stay up there for too long.

This morning, however, we have the tower to ourselves as no-one else is around.

Carefully we climb up the stairs to the tower as they have no handrail.

Using these kinds of built structures happens on everyone’s own responsibility as does roaming in nature in general.

A breath-taking view opens up from the tower above the tall reeds.

The sun is about to rise, and Lake Lepinjärvi is full of water birds! In the mist, it feels like it is from a fairy-tale.

The busiest time of autumn migration is not yet here. However, the birds can be counted in tens, if not hundreds already. The cackling and chattering sounds overwhelming. 

Majestic pair of mute swans are swimming in the middle of the mist.

Mist is floating above the surface of the lake.

Time seems to stop just before the sunrise. This is happiness!

As much as they talk about congestion and masses of people in nature brought on by the corona, I don’t really see any of that right now!

Should someone who loves peace and quiet head to these kinds of small and less-known places instead of over-populated national parks? Moreover, should they choose an early time such as now for a tailor-made experience in nature? Selecting the most beautiful morning light and silence instead of afternoon rush hours and hard light.

It is so beautiful that I almost forget to breathe.

The only thing breaking the silence is the flapping of great wings as the swans take to the sky.

The pair of swans,who were gliding gracefully on the surface of the lake just a moment ago, is now taking off somewhere. Oh, I wish I could get a nice shot in spite of this thick mist!

The cultural landscape from the Iron Age at Lake Lepinjärvi

Thoroughly impressed by the flocks of birds and the breath-taking lake views we descend from the tower. Still going east, we take a little side step off the path.

In the middle of the rocky mound, stands a sign from the Finnish Heritage Agency which has seen its better days.

There is a rock that has about 10 hardly visible indentations, so-called cups, over a small area, and a cremation cemetery under level ground.

Archaeological digs have revealed spear tips, ceramics and charred bones. We are at an ancient sacrificial ground, with Finnish national history from the Iron Age beneath our feet.

Some rustling sounds carry from the forest, but we don’t see anyone else. There’s a hint of mystery in the air.

We head back to where we came from, walking past spider’s webs that are now visible due to the dew.

We almost miss a small information sign that tells us that there’s a place ahead of us called Stora Näset. Stora Näset is a small, rocky hill, surrounded by mist and grain fields.

This place dates all the way back to the Iron Age, too. Archaeologists have found pieces of pottery and revealed layers of earth that indicate there might have been a level-ground cremation cemetery here as well.

Walking counter-clockwise on the path going over the hill and climbing down a short but steep cliff, we come to a large and moss-covered stone wall.

The age of this 20-metre wall on Stora Näset is still a mystery.

In a moment, we go past the wooden signs again.  The path leads us to a new bird observation tower named the Pelican Tower.

About 20 metres length of the oldest duckboards is wet and slippery due to overhanging vegetation, but soon there’s also dry wood to be walked on.

The trail passes hazels and large coniferous trees, leaving the cliff of Själdberget to our right.

It feels like in a real wilderness – it is unbelievable that we’re so close to the highway.

Just before the stairs leading to the Pelican Tower, a large information board standing at the crossroads shows us where we are on the map. It also tells us what to expect.

If all goes well, one could spot the long-tailed tit, bearded tit, water rail, red-necked grebe, mute swan and the smew. Other species that have been recorded here are for example marsh harrier, ruff, corncrake, Bewick’s swan, Slavonian grebe, wood sandpiper, common tern, crane and whooper swan.

Lake Lepinjärvi in Raseborg is one of the most important bird lakes in the Uusimaa province.

About 100 species of birds nest here regularly, but as much as 160 have been recorded in Lepinjärvi and its surrounding areas.

At the time of spring- and autumn migration, this shallow and eutrophic lake is an important resting and feeding place for migratory birds. When the migration is at its highest, there are over 220 different species here, and over 3000 water birds have been seen visiting the lake at one time!

During migration, you can also spot the pintail, bean goose, grey heron, gadwall and the redshank and spotted redshank.

So the bird plate is quite full at Lake Lepinjärvi!

The autumn migration is on its way, and more birds can be seen then, because the migration is divided over a longer period, and thanks to successful nesting, there are more birds going out than coming in. The best time to see migratory birds is between September and October.

I notice that recognizing the birds is not easy. They fly overhead so quickly, and the dim sunlight shining through the mist doesn’t help a bit. Are they greylag geese, perhaps?

Lake Lepinjärvi is part of the Natura 2000 regions, protecting biodiversity in the EU. Lepinjärvi is also part of the national bird wetland protection programme.

Lepinjärvi is definitely the ideal place for birds, as it is approximately one metre deep, and the shoreline is covered by a tall reed bed.

Moreover, there is a very rare plant species at Lepinjärvi, namely  

Najas tenuissima which is one of Finland’s – if not the world’s – rarest aquatic plants.

The Pelican Tower of Lepinjärvi

The off-main trail path leads down from the information boards to the beach on stairs and onto wide duckboards that are placed well above the ground.

That means that you can come here to see the birds even during spring flood!

Standing on the Pelican Tower, we can see how the sun of early autumn makes the mist floating over the lake golden. The birds are hiding somewhere under the opaque blanket.

My friend picks an empty beer can up from the ground as we leave the tower. Beer cans are not indigenous to this region, so it’s best to take it with us to be disposed of properly. A little plastic bag normally meant for dog poo will work as a handy place to store the can temporarily.

We start walking alongside the field to the northwest. There are supposed to be more stone structures from the Iron Age somewhere close to Själdberget, but they seem hard to find at this time of the year. Slowly rising morning sun sheds its rays on the slopes, painting the fields golden.

The trail rises up for a good while and turns to the left. There is a resting place with a canopy ahead of us, equipped with a campfire ring and benches. There’s no firewood available.

The hill of Brobacka brings travellers from the Iron Age to the 20th century

As we cross over the ditch, we see more signs along the path to Brobacka that tell us what we can expect to find on the hill. 

Evidence of settlement and cultivation has been found in Brobacka that date back to the Iron Age and up to the beginning of the 20th century.

The signs also tell us that there’s an instructive video available about Brobacka on Mobiguide. We walk up a wide and smooth path covered in tree needles. Ground on this section of the trail is full of forest litter and so far the easiest to travel. As there are roots growing over the trail, it is not accessible by wheelchair for example.

If you are lucky and patient, you may be able to spot the nutcracker that lives in the hazel groves. As much as we try to move quietly, the nutcracker eludes us today.

Only a few squirrels are afoot, foraging for nuts.

The bushes filter the sunlight that is casting shifting dark and light spots on the trunks of the trees and flashing playfully in the foliage.

We pass the nationally valuable cultural heritage landscape, the meadow of Brobacka, as the trail slowly turns to the left.

Under the hazel by the meadow, a sturdy table awaits for hikers eager to have their lunch.

I wish I could be here in the spring or in the early summer as the flowers on the meadow are in their full bloom! Actually, guided tours are arranged here in the spring, when the ancient remains from the Iron Age are best visible.

After a while, as we go further along the trail, a clearing opens up in front of us. When we see stakes entangled by the common hop and black and red currant bushes, we immediately know that there used to be a croft here.

The croft belonged to the medieval mansion of Domargård until the end of the 19th century.

This must have been a nice place to live, on this warm slope, with a beautiful view to the lake and a fertile soil to cultivate!

Due south, on the edge of the former croft’s courtyard, a big and old pine with crooked limbs stands guard.

We wonder what might have happened under its branches, and turn back to the direction we came from.

The trail turns right, behind the spot where the croft used to be, to reveal more stacked stones covered in moss.

The oldest relics from the region are presumably from 200 to 400 A.D. The most famous of the relics is a buckle that was found in one of the stack of stones. The buckle was named the Buckle from Karjaa and used as a model for a jewel from Kalevala Jewelry. The original buckle, though, is most likely from the Merovingian Period, from 600 to 800 A.D., so it is believed to have been put inside the stack of stones some time later. For what? For an offering, maybe?

Diverse natural experiences in historical surroundings

As we get back to our car, I notice that we have spent two hours outdoors and covered over four kilometres, including the trip to the start of the trail and back. The trail itself is about 2.5 kilometres long. There was so much going on and so much to see that it feels like we have done a much longer hike.

The Finnish Nature Day couldn’t have been better celebrated than spending it on the cultural trail of Lepinjärvi!

Diverse nature and interesting ancient remains meet here in a beautiful way.

Moreover, Mother Nature pampered us with a misty morning and sunrise painted with a delicate brush.

When I get home, I will contact Göran Fagerstedt, who is a guide who knows Lepinjärvi like the back of his hand. Göran lives in Karis, and he has a friendly way of telling people about the ancient sites and history of the region. I value even more the work that volunteer organizations have done for the enjoyment and benefit of hikers like us, when I hear that the duckboards and the campfire shelter have been built by the Natura Society of Karis.

Göran also tells me that there are plans to replace some of the signs and information boards during 2021. Also building a new bird observation tower to replace the old one is in the plans. The signs from the east side of the region will be removed, but the historical sites will still be there, though. That side will probably be the more interesting one for the adventurous explorers.

More information and links

The trail in this text starts 2.2 km from the Karis train station and 2.5 km from the Travel Centre.

Your guide on the Raseborg region is Mr. Göran Fagerstedt who will be back at Lepinjärvi next spring. You can contact Göran and see more information about the trips he arranges by clicking here.

The Raseborg Tourist Services website provides tips for hiking in nature and different outdoor activities.

More stories from Raseborg and its many sights you can find here on Finland, Naturally.

Below is a map of Lake Lepinjärvi, found both on the information board of the Pelican Tower and the lobby of Karis ABC service station.

Read more:

Visit Raseborg – Welcome to Raseborg

Visit Raseborg – Plan your stay

Translation Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Kukka Kyrö

The Embankment Route takes you on an adventure to Fiskars to experience culture and art in many forms. Combining both train and bicycle, it’s easy to embark on it from Helsinki by taking the IC train to Karis. Just remember to reserve a place for your bike in advance to Karis and also for the return trip. The length of the bike ride from Karis to Fiskars and back is 24 kilometres. You can also split it for two days to check out the romantic accommodation available in the Fiskars region.

Length of the route from Karis train station to Fiskars: 12 km (using the same route to return)

Easy route, click here for the map.

You can find the starting point of the Embankment Route on a long map attached to a wire mesh fence next to the Karis Sport Centre. The starting point is just one kilometre from the Karis train station. You won’t get lost, because the Ratakatu Street running parallel to the track leads you directly to the sport centre. The route is marked with brown and white markings, first of which you will find when making your way towards the sport centre.

A resident of Raseborg, Jan-Peter Stenvall, joins me on my outbound trip. He knows all the possible, and some impossible (as far as a Sunday cyclist like me is concerned) cycling routes in the region. The Embankment Route between Karis and Fiskars runs alongside old railroad tracks, as the name suggests. Stenvall tells me that it took a very long time to get the route realized. The project was finally launched by the help of the local Billnäs horse riding club. The club asked the town if they could have a safe riding route at their disposal, and the result was this magnificent lane for light traffic, running through forests and fields, accommodating both horses and bicycles as well as hikers.

(caption) Horseback riders have a dedicated, gravelled lane through the whole length of the route at their disposal.

The first four kilometres from Karis to Billnäs are tarmac, but from Billnäs onwards, it is gravel. The gravel section might be uncomfortable to pedal if you have very narrow tyres on your bike, but most of the time a regular bike is quite sufficient. I have an old trekking bike which works just fine on gravel. After a while, the Embankment Route proves to be an excellent route for Sunday cyclists like me. The tyres roll on so effortlessly, that it feels like I don’t have to pedal at all, when riding on the straight and flat sections. I can follow my progress from the kilometre signs along the route. Several interesting rest stops along the way provide a chance to hop off the bike and cool down.

Even though you could chug on like a train from start to finish, there’s nothing to stop you from taking an extra break off the road. A perfect chance for that is right in the beginning of the route, at Billnäs. Extending on both sides of the Mustionjoki River, the ironworks village provides an impressive milieu for an outdoor snack, for example. Behold and listen to the roaring of the water as it makes its way towards the sea through the floodgates of a magnificent dam. At a certain time of the year, you might also see the fish as they make their way up the fish steps of the hydroelectric plant, and wish them good luck on their journey up to their spawning ground.

The light traffic bridge over the Mustionjoki River provides a great view towards the dammed reservoir of the Billnäs power plant.

If you’re interested in ironworks villages, you might also want to stop by at Åminnefors. If you are not only interested but in love with the ironworks villages, you have seen nothing yet: the Embankment route is part of a longer Ironworks Village Route which boasts five or even six different ironworks villages. My guide Mr. Stenvall is responsible for designing the Ironworks Village Route. In addition to that, he has also designed two other thematic cycling routes for the town: the Castle Route concentrating on castles and fortresses, and the Front Line Route concentrating on war history.

When I said that the Embankment Route as a cycling route is easy, it was almost true, as there is one section that will bring sweat on you. After passing Åminnefors, we arrive at Pohjankuru, where the route runs over a high hill on a long and steep gravel road. “I don’t like this part very much”, says Stenvall when we reach the top of the hill. Luckily, after each uphill, there is inevitably a downhill, and in this case, an equally long one. Rolling down the hill, the sweat dries off and pedalling on feels fun again. When the trains still ran here, obviously they didn’t go up and down the steep slope but rather through a tunnel that goes under the hill. Stenvall says that hopefully one day, the tunnel will be made safe to travel on a bike and attached as a part of the Embankment Route.

As for an icing on a cake, the most beautiful section of the Embankment Route from Fiskars to Pohjankuru, is a gravel road running alongside the shore of Borgbyträsket. Large black alders, oaks and other big deciduous trees border the landscape. I am thinking about what it would look like in the spring when everything is bright green, or in the autumn when the leaves explode in multiple colours. I have to get back here then! Trains still ran here a hundred years ago on tracks that are now gone. A little steam engine called Pikku-Pässi ( Little Ram) used to operate between the harbour and the ironworks, and the tracks were named after it as Pässinrata (Ram Track).

If you want to experience the Embankment Route during the wettest season, you should be aware that the elevation of the route at this section is not much higher than the surface of Lake Borgbyträsket. Last winter, one section of Pässinrata was out of commission for a while due to flooding. In normal conditions, the route is open year round, even in the winter.

A beautiful cultural landscape opens up before my eyes in Fiskars. Every detail seems to be carefully considered. People walking by are dressed so stylishly that I don’t quite know which country I am in right now. Maybe Southern Sweden, as the majestic trees by the riverside would suggest? Or maybe even somewhere in Central Europe?

If you look at the map, the main street of the village seems short. However, as you are on it, time seems to lose its meaning, because you can easily spend several hours exploring it. What the village has to offer owes everything to the numerous artisans, artists and designers working in Fiskars. Thanks to them, many quaint little shops are like galleries – or really ARE galleries. I notice myself holding my breath as I carefully walk among the shelves displaying beautiful glass decorations, skilfully-made ceramics and wonderful wooden utensils.

The fascinating items on display seem endless, and I find myself going over most of the shops twice.

There’s more to see in the ironworks than just the shops and galleries on the main street. My favourite place turns out to be at the south end of the village, next to a building called the Granary. The river at that point flows exceptionally gently, and the tree canopies lean out above the crystal clear water which is so shallow that I can see the sand bottom. Providing a strong contrast, the Granary is an impressive sight to see. Made of black slag bricks, it is a testament to the bygone industrial era, noise of the machines, smoke and long, and heavy work days.

At the opposite side of the village lies the Karin Windnäs’ KWUM Museum of ceramic art. On a bike, it takes only a short while to get there from the Granary. In the summer season, the museum is open every day for visitors. Even the building, designed by the architect Tuomo Siitonen, is a sight in itself.

When I visited the museum, the changing exhibition in KWUM was displaying lovely snowy owl artwork by Kyoung Kim.

There were also works from Margaret O’Rourke on display upstairs. She combines light and almost paper-thin porcelain in her art.

I pedal back to the village from the museum on a gravel road. I relax in a lovely Café Hammarbacken, trying to get my head around the cultural extravaganza I have experienced today. Fiskars is without a doubt a village for those who love art, good food and drink and atmospheric cafés.

The summer season in Fiskars is short, from June to August. The village might be crowded especially on the weekends, but you can try to avoid the crowds by starting early in the morning and/or staying there until the evening. The pace of the village is on the slow side until around 10 AM during summer mornings, and things start to wind down again by 6 to 7 PM when most of the shops close for the day. That doesn’t mean that you have to leave just yet, on the contrary. Why not stay for an hour or two to enjoy some cold drinks on the terrace of Café Bar Pesula, which, by the way, is Bicycle Friendly.

For those who prefer more peaceful times, the ironworks is at its best during the coolest seasons. I find myself already planning to come back here again in the autumn, Christmas and spring. Bear in mind, though, that some of the shops and exhibitions close up for the winter, and others may be open only at certain times. So, please check for the opening hours here.

If it turns out you feel that you can’t get your fill of cycling on the Embankment Route, there’s an extensive MTB trail network in the forests of Fiskars. If you don’t have your own bike or can’t bring it with you, you can rent one at the Fiskars Village Trail Centre.

© Translation Mikko Lemmetti