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  • Couple hiking

    Photographer: Roger Borgelid

Pilgrim Trail: Varnhem – Lake Hornborga – Falköping

Västergötland offers an extensive network of walking trails, and one of the most beautiful sections is the 43,7 kilometres between Varnhem and Falköping. It is also the section that has the strongest links to the pilgrim phenomenon of the past. Discover a rolling cultural landscape, two ruined mediaeval monasteries, and the rich and varied birdlife around Lake Hornborga.

Follow in the footsteps of the Crown Princess

In the area around Skara, Skövde and Falköping you can follow classic pilgrim routes that have been in existence for centuries. The terrain is comparatively easy to negotiate, a little steeper in parts, and the trail can vary from narrow forest tracks and meadowland paths to gravel roads. There are even some paved roads, although with relatively little traffic. The red cross of St Olav is one of the classic pilgrim markings used to guide the pilgrims on their journey. In autumn 2017, Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria, who is also the Duchess of Västergötland, set off on a walking tour through the Swedish landscape with her husband Prince Daniel. Together, they made her way along the picturesque section between Varnhem and Lake Hornborga. 

A great deal to discover

Along the trail there is a great deal to discover, including one of the most important bird lakes in Europe, Lake Hornborga, which each year acts as a resting place for thousands of cranes during their annual migration. The cranes are renowned for their very distinctive ‘dance steps’. At the Naturum Lake Hornborga Visitor Centre you can also see an exhibition dealing with the fascinating crane dance and learn more about birdlife in the area. The ruins of the medieval monasteries at Varnhem and Gudhem are two other interesting stop-off points along the way. Located on the hill behind the abbey at Varnhem are the remains of one of Sweden’s oldest churches. The site is known as Kata Gård, and historians believe that the church’s crypt could very well be the oldest preserved room in the country. A steep section brings you to picturesque Billingen Hill, which offers a superb view across the plain. In the very south, the trail passes the slopes up to Mösseberg in Falköping. This plateau is the ideal location for a range of outdoor activities, including walking and running, mountain biking, and downhill and cross-country skiing. 

Photographer: Mårten Bergkvist

Several stops along the way

Walking can be a drain physically and it is important to top up your energy reserves from time to time. There are several places to eat along the Pilgrim Trail: Klosterkaféet in Varnhem, Café Doppingen at Naturum, and Löfwings Ateljé och Krog are all well worth a visit. You can also taste the culinary delights on offer at Kurorten Mösseberg and enjoy a massage, sauna or steam bath while you are there. Accommodation is also available. The cosy Nästegården B&B and Konstnärsvillan at Löfwings are two further alternatives for an overnight stay. You can begin your journey at several points. The town of Falköping is a rail hub and there are regular bus services to Varnhem from both Skövde and Skara. 

Photographer: Sebastian Streith

Find inner peace as a pilgrim

Following pilgrim trails is a phenomenon that goes back many hundreds of years and examples can be found all over the world. In Sweden, it began in the Middle Ages. During this period, many pilgrims passed through Västergötland on foot as they followed the Dalsland Pilgrim Trail, continuing northwards. The trail ends in Nidaros (Trondheim) in Norway, the site of the tomb of St Olav. Following pilgrim trails was eventually forbidden by King Gustav I Vasa in the middle of the 16th century, although there has been something of a revival in modern times. Nowadays, it is not just religious motives that prompt people to walk the pilgrim trails. In most cases it is a longing to spend time in the countryside, experience nature, and take a break from the stress and tribulations of daily life. Do you feel inspired? 

Do you know all about the Freedom to Roam?

In Sweden you can move around freely in the countryside, swim in a lake, erect a tent, or have a picnic on a beach – all thanks to the Freedom to Roam enactment. Find out more about your rights and obligations here.  It should be noted that certain sections around Lake Hornborga are birdlife conservation areas and there could be special rules in force.