Gränsö: get pampered in the great outdoors
Jennifer Heape · 20 Aug 2009, 16:44
Published: 20 Aug 2009 16:44 GMT+02:00
Article produced in cooperation with Västervik - Sweden's most beautiful archipelago.
One of Sweden’s most beautiful nature reserves, Gränsö is a stunning natural peninsula located in the heart of an archipelago of over 5000 islands. A nature lover's delight, Gränsö covers around 325 hectares, reaching from the north, where the peninsula is separated from the mainland by Gränsö canal, to it’s southern-most point, Gränsö udde.
The reserve is best known for its established oak trees, particularly the hollow oaks which house a large numbers of insects, beetles, butterflies, mushrooms and mosses, which thrive in the dead wood.
Gränsö’s ecological importance was internationally recognised when it was certified as a Natura 2000 site. A EU-wide network of nature conservation areas, Natura 2000 was set up to ensure the survival of Europe’s most valuable species and habitats.
Other than the oaks, there are around 60 different types of tree on the peninsula. Many different types of flowers can also be found, especially during the spring, when the ground is carpeted with blooms, including Lilly of the Valley.
Between April 1 and July 10, certain areas in the reserve are protected to ensure the habitats of the many notable bird species remain undisturbed, including the stunning sea eagle.
In 1995 Västervik council declared Gränsö open to public use. This means that, as with most uncultivated areas in Sweden, the public has a right to walk around and enjoy the outdoors, as long as the natural environment is treated with respect and care.
Indeed, there is much to do on Gränsö. Hiking trails thread throughout the reserve, including the 12km Gränsöleden, which runs around the edge of the peninsula. This can either be hiked in one go, or if preferred, there are various places weary hikers can rest from the elements and light a cooking fire (in permitted areas).
Other shorter strolls include a 2.5km nature walk, which follows a forest theme and is great for families.
For the more energetic, canoe tours run from both the Gränsö canal and out into the archipelago. The beautiful Västervik archipelago, which many say is the most stunning in the country, is easily accessible by boat.
For swimming, Bondebacken offers sandy beaches perfect for children. If you prefer to stay dry, you can just gaze out to the ocean horizon from the smooth stoned shoreline of Gränsö’s furthest tip, Gränsö udde.
Although the natural beauty of Gränsö is a major reason for visiting, it is far from isolated, lying only 2.5 kilometers from the bustling centre of Västervik. Many events are held at Gränsö castle throughout the year, from the lively MC-Dagarna motorbike week held in the end of July, which attracts over 6000 bikers, to the Sweden Dance event and an annual Christmas fair.
The castle itself, which has been fully restored by Per Johansson after a devastating fire in 1994, is Sweden’s most modern castle resort. In June, a new 45-room hotel, spa and visitor centre was opened, adding to the existing 20-room castle hotel.
The hotel and spa is situated just 30 meters from the water and features terraces, a pool, jaccuzzi, treatment rooms and two saunas.
“The spa-hotel is the ultimate part of Gränsö and completes the resort area,” said Johansson.
“It communicates with the environment in a very nice way as it is also a Visitor Center for all people who come here to experience the nature reserve. It works both ways - it gives a better experience for nature lovers, as well as it communicates the good life and environmental conscience to all our guests.”
Gränsö offers the rare combination of nature and culture and is a fantastic location for a day trip or a longer stay. The flexibility of the resort means that all tastes can be catered for whether that is a massage and manicure, an adventurous canoe weaving through stunning islands or admiring woodland flora and fauna.