Cultural-heritage hikes in West Sweden
History abounds in the rich cultural landscape in and around Kinnekulle, making it the perfect place for hikes with that little something extra. Let the picturesque and sometimes hilly Kinnekulle Hiking Trail take you on a trip deep into Sweden’s fascinating natural and cultural heritage; a journey on foot that takes in both elegant manor houses and ancient rock carvings along the way.
Located just below the summit of the more than 300-metre-high plateau, the Kinnekullegården restaurant is a great starting point for hiking at Kinnekulle. If you start out by heading north, the first leg of your hike will take you on a bona fide woodland trek among the tall trunks of an enchanting spruce forest. After arriving at the foot of the plateau, you will pass by the shores of Lake Väner, where there are a number of pleasant rocky outcrops where you can sit and enjoy refreshments or take a dip in the lake’s clear waters.
After a well-deserved rest, you will head back in the direction of the plateau again, stopping along the way to take in the Hellekis Säteri manor, with a history dating back to the Middle Ages. This beautiful, lemon-coloured manor house is sure to capture your imagination. Although the house itself is privately owned, the estate’s garden, café and restaurant are popular stops for hungry hikers.
A window on the life of a stonemason
Next, the trail will take you past the old limestone quarry, which reveals the plateau’s many shifting colours. Just beyond lies the Munkängarna Nature Reserve, which offers visitors the chance to step into an almost fairy-tale-like environment, especially during the early summer when the ramsons blossom and their white, fragrant flowers decorate the forest floor as far as the eye can see!
Photographer: NICLAS SILVERSTRAND
The trail then continues southward, past the Råbäck harbour and the remains of the rail tracks that were once used to convey limestone down to the port in the late 19th century. The legacy left by the limestone mining and burning of times gone by is visible higher up on the plateau. There is also a museum down by the harbour that lets you take a step back in time and relive the glory days of the local stonemasonry industry.
Bronze-age rock carvings
Your trail will next take you across lush meadowland. Just before it turns northward, you will pass by the stone cottage known as Lasses Grotta, where “Lasse of the Mountain” (as its occupant was nicknamed) and his wife, Inga, lived for almost thirty years. Sadly, their cave-like cottage was plundered after their deaths, but has since been renovated and restored to the delight of every inquisitive hiker who passes through the area.
A detour from the main trail will take you to the Husaby Kyrka church, built in the 11th century. Sweden’s first Christian king, Olof Skötkonung, is said to have been baptised here. A little farther afield you will also find the rock carvings at Flyhov, with a combined total of over 450 figures etched into around ten different stone slabs. In fact, the large number of symbols found here makes the Flyhov site Västergötland Province’s largest collection of Bronze-age rock carvings.
Views over Lake Vänern
Returning to the main trail, the next feature on the tour is the Martorpsfallet waterfall, which, like most waterfalls, varies in size depending on how much rain or snow has fallen. While its flow is somewhat less during the summertime, the gushing waters rush in a frenzy over the fall’s limestone rock formations in the early springtime.
Once you have returned to your starting point, we recommend a visit to the lookout tower at Högkullen. From this vantage point, you can take in views of Läckö Castle and Lake Väner when the weather is clear – a worthy conclusion to an enjoyable hike!
Photographer: Jonas Ingman
In its entirety, the Kinnekulle Hiking Trail stretches for 45 kilometres. It largely consists of natural paths, some narrow forest trails and, for brief stretches, also somewhat broader paths.The trail is well suited to a two-day hike and there are a number of places to eat and stay overnight in the area.
More cultural-heritage hikes in West Sweden
The continental glacier left the beautiful area known as Valleområdet in its wake by the western slope of the Billingen plateau; a cultural landscape characterised by gently rolling hills and a string of small lakes laid out like a band of glistening pearls. When snow-white cherry tree blossoms decorate the area during the early springtime, a visit to Valleområdet is just like stepping into Astrid Lindgren’s heavenly fantasy world of Nangijala.
For those who wish, a steep path will lead you up to the edge of Jättadalen; a deep gully with sheer precipices, caves and towering dolerite boulders. From here, you can enjoy sweeping views of Valleområdet’s mosaic of lakes and fields below.
Photographer: Roger Borgelid
Pilgrimsleden hiking trail, Varnhem-Falköping
Steeped in history, the area around Varnhem provided the inspiration for Swedish author Jan Guillou’s popular books about the knight templar Arn. You will find that there is plenty of history to discover for yourself by following the classic pilgrims’ trails, including Gudhem’s ruined convent and Varnhem’s ruined monastery. On the hill behind the Varnhems Klosterkyrka monastery church lies the former Viking-era farming estate now known as Kata Gård, which includes the ruins of one of Sweden’s oldest churches.
Following that, the trail continues past the visitors’ centre (naturum) at Lake Hornborga – one of Europe’s most important lakes for birdlife and the stage for captivating performances by thousands of “dancing” cranes each spring.
Photographer: Roger Borgelid
Pilgrimsleden hiking trail, Mellerud-Edsleskog
Following the age-old pilgrims’ trails through Dalsland Province means immersing yourself in expansive areas of pristine Nordic wilderness with a diverse range of woodland types and countless tiny lakes. Recreate a moment from Sweden’s cultural history as you hike in the direction of Nidaros (Trondheim), as so many medieval pilgrims did before you. Your trail will also lead you past many historically significant sites – everything from stone fences and the natural rock foundations of olden-day cottages to a number of beautiful 13th-century churches.
Photographer: Gaby Karlsson Hain