Visit Källskär - "The Baron Island"!

kaellskaerskannan1_ithomassonKällskär is a small, mythical island, far out at sea, outside mainland Kökar. The island is one of the most popular destinations for excursions from Kökar. What has attracted visitors for a long time is the so-called "Källskärskannan", a unique rock formation created during the ice age. The formation reaches about 3 m from the rock, soft and round. There are also other amazing natural phenomena created throughout history.

What has recently contributed to the legends of Källskär is the oasis created by the Swedish Lord Göran Åkerhielm. Despite the rough ground and the exposed situation of the island, a harbour, several houses and a magnificent garden have been constructed here.

During the summer months the island is accessible by excursion boats from Kökar.

Källskär was, from the early spring to the late autumn in the years 1958-1983, the residence of baron Göran Åkerhielm from Stockholm. The locals called him "the Baron". Åkerhielm later transferred his part of the island and the houses to the region of Åland in 1984. 

Göran Åkerhielm (1920–1992) and the island of Källskär

In 1958 baron Göran Åkerhielm disembarked in the barren island of Källskär, and it was love at first sight.

First, he stayed in a fishing cottage on the more sheltered northern part of the island. He registered on Kökar, to later have the possibility to buy his beloved island. To his great sorrow, the northern part of the island was not for sale. Luckily, in 1965, he had the opportunity to buy the central part of the island instead. Here, in a stony marsh overgrown with alder trees, he enthusiastically embarked on a construction project that went on for 18 years.

dsc00208The first to be built was the path of footbridge from the northern part of the island. It was built through a rugged terrain, since there otherwise was no harbour to tie up in at rough seas.

Åkerhielms intention was to combine the cultural heritage of Greece and Fenno-Scandia. His plans included an ancient Scandinavian house, surrounded by a Mediterranean garden. With plenty of help from the people living on Kökar, as well as from friends, the marsh was cleared from shrubs, and the heavy moraine boulders were rearranged to form the foundation of the house and the different sections of the garden.

All work had to be done by hand, and no machinery was allowed. Åkerhielm considered the hard work itself to be an important part of the life style out here.

stockhuset_brolinThe buildings

Åkerhielm hired one of Finland´s great architects, Reima Pietilä, to design the house. The house was made in the shape of a Karelian cottage that was open to the roof, with a large brick fireplace in the middle of the house, and outside a Greek peristyle made of thick logs on the seaward side. The log house was built in Österbotten, Finland, and was transported by boat to Källskär as a construction kit in 1969.

The peristyle was built on a large stone terrace overlooking the sea, and in the middle of the terrace a huge flat stone was used as a cheese board during the sumptuous dinners that were served out here.

At the stone fields on the western part of the island is a small cottage, called “The house of the witch”, and on the top of the mountain is the gazebo, in popular speech “The moomin house”. The baron enjoyed company, he invited nobility, business men and writers, among others the writer and artist Tove Jansson. The gazebo on the mountain was her favourite, and the spire on the roof inspired her to a similar one on her Moomin house.

In a letter to Tove Jansson, Åkerhielm asked her to make a painting for the open fireplace in the log house: “Please paint something with wild cliffs, why not a hysterical fillyjonk, sea monsters, and by the way, just anything…”. The painting above the fireplace at Källskär is nowadays just a copy, the original is to be seen at the Art Museum in Mariehamn. The painting has also been pictured as a stamp in 2007.

There are also some minor buildings by the harbor. One of the cottages is today a scholarship residence for artists and cultural workers, and is administrated by the culture delegation of Åland.

The harbour

As a protection from the mighty storms from the south, Åkerhielm already the first summer constructed a pier. Even the harbour is built only by handicraft. It is said that Åkerhielm took his inspiration to the piers from the Greek town Pireaus. Every spring the nature kept Åkerhielm busy; when he after the winter storms arrived on the island, the great stones in the harbour were torn down by ice and wind. Though, no man-made materials were allowed at Källskär, so there was no question of concrete or iron.

dsc00230The garden

The different sections of the garden were constructed gradually. Large stone walls were erected by young people from Kökar, using only iron-bar levers and wires. These walls stored heat from the sun and sheltered the plants from the wind. In normal conditions the species planted would not have survived in the cold, windswept outer archipelago, but thanks to the walls the plants flourished.

Nevertheless, there was originally almost no soil in the garden, and to fulfil his dream, Åkerhielm had to bring in large amounts of soil for the planned cultivation. Soil from rock pools and crevices was collected and carried to the garden, and all the waste from the household, garden and outhouse was used as fertilizer. Guests were sent off to neighbouring islands to collect soil.

A fantastic rhododendron garden, with an open water channel, was laid out between the house and the cliffs. In the flowering season in June, the garden becomes an ocean of flowers in white, blue and red.

On the opposite side of the house, Åkerhielm constructed a croquet court with exact measures, laid out on a very well kept lawn. In the evenings, a game of croquet often was played here, per strict rules. In between the croquet court and the house, a herb garden for the household was arranged, with a variety of aromatic herbs: thyme, sage, caraway, rosemary, lovage, garden cress among many. In other parts of the garden, there was sweet-smelling roses, vegetables, potatoes, and a heart-shaped strawberry bed.

In a sheltered, warm part of the garden, Åkerhielm laid out a small vineyard with grapevines. The vines are still there and produces delicious grapes in the autumn! To enhance the impression of Mediterranean environment, deciduous trees such as oak, chestnut, lime and maple, as well as shrubs like cypress, arbor vitae and honeysuckle were planted.

The precipitation during the summer is often low his far out in the archipelago, and sometimes there are periods of prolonged drought. Therefore, Åkerhielm constructed an ingenious irrigation system with channels that lead to three wells in the lowest part of the garden. The excess water is drained through a channel that passes through long hosepipes.

hermesohamnen_henrikssonAs the crowning glory Åkerhielm placed marble statues in all cardinal points of the garden. Among these you can find Sergel’s famous statue of Mars and Venus and a marble statue of Hercules. And, high above all a bronze statue of the Greek god Hermes is keeping watch. He was the Gods’ messenger, but also the God of travellers, rhetoric and sports. 

Källskär is a fragile place!

Please remember not to leave any garbage behind. Keep to the marked footpaths and do not make a fire, in order not to damage the fragile nature.

Please note that sea birds breed from mid-May to the beginning of June. Please, do never disturb a brooding bird.