Gusty breeze and shrieks of seagulls, the definite signs of a seashore welcome us to the fishing harbour in Vikarskat in Björkö island. This small, modern fishing harbour faces the Kvarken, the throat and narrowest point of the North Sea slightly hidden in the arms of forest and at the end of a few kilometre drive along a dirt road from Svedjehamn.
Here, behind the Kvarken Archipelago map and sign, and few steps backwards along the road we just came from, starts our walk to Finnhamn. Our destination is an old, rustic fishing cottage or sauna (hamnbastun) located on the cape pushing into Finnhamn like a narrow finger pointing towards the East.
We are in the UNESCO World Heritage Site but this 5-kilometre-long hiking route is, at least at the moment, explored more by local day hikers than the main streams of tourists, which is part of Finnhamn route’s attraction.
These rocky shores and forests have a lot to offer, and these particular parts have never been crowded when visited but each one who walks on the paths have been truly able to truly stop to listen to the nature, and to spend a moment alone looking at the sea feeling something from past, when Björkö Island was much more isolated and not connected to the continent by a bridge.
The first parts of the route are going through an old forest left in natural state. The feeling is quite different than in maintained commercial forest as in here the bush is thicker and fallen trees rest where they have landed – only some trees have been cut and move on the side.
Walking is also easy as the route is well marked and there are no hills or wide wet areas. Some visitors may find it however challenging that some duckboards are rotten and broken, however still walkable. Proper hiking shoes are anyway recommendable.
Fascinating detail is that old pine trees have grown into interesting shapes forming gates and kind of statues along the path. If one has enough imagination, it is possible to see different faces formed by the greenish grey barks.
Along the walk it is also possible to explore the famous land-lifting phenomenon as the shore line is full of pebbles, field of jagged rocks and salt marsh lakes shaped once by the icecap.
To me it was an interesting piece of information that the land is not actually lifting in literal terms but the bedrock under us in fact still recovering from the weight of ice. It is like an empty football that is very slowly pumped full again.
Each year the surface area of the Kvarken Archipelago is expanding by one square kilometer.
We stop by one of the salt marsh lakes formed by the rising land. In practice when the threshold under the sea has slowly risen above the sea level, it has isolated areas of water forming small lakes. Their water is permanently or temporarily fresher than in the sea and very nutritious. In future these salt marsh lakes will close up, if the land-lifting continues as expected.
Close to our destination the terrain changes as the forest withdraws and mainly birch trees and junipers remain surrounded by fields of lichen. This is maybe my favourite part, as the landscape is not very traditional or common. There’s something in the rough and sharp beauty where pebbles are whipped by the sea.
Despite being a loyal summer girl, this particular part had even more character during spring time when the leaves were just about push out and the landscape had cleaner and more naked lines than during the summer.
Here, close to shore line, is a memorial for villagers taken by the sea. As the Kvarken Archipelago is continuously changing, the area has strong currents, and the waters are shallow and full of reefs due the rising land, sailing has always been relatively challenging. For this reason, navigators have been a respected group of professionals.
Almost at the tip of the cape, is our destination. The red and rustic cottage stands as among the rocks and is surrounded by wild raspberries. Today the cottage serves visitors as it is open for everyone to have a break or to overnight.
Equipped with fire place, tables, chairs and two bunks on both sides of the room close to the sealing, the cottage can be utilized even early spring and late autumn. The area has also an outdoor dry-toilet and woodshed. However at least during our visit, the shed was empty so a tip to day-hikers: prepare to make a plan for the fire wood.
The old cottage itself is a place to drift away from the surrounding reality. I could just sit in the cottage looking at the light playing on the wooden floor and table, imaging the ones who lived before us. There’s a hobby for me for the winter to dive deeper into local history and to explore the stories of the folk in Kvarken.
Tips for further reading: The Kvarken Archipelago World Heritage Site, Echoes of the Ice Age; Tiina Hietikko-Hautala (2011)
Interested in doing the Walk to Finnhamn? Join us on one of the Fishermen's Pebble expeditions or request a special nature trip for your own group.