There are still several historic structures on the Åland Islands that are visible to the untrained eye. However, there are also much older structures on the islands. In those cases, most of us usually need someone to tell us what it is we are looking at. Borgboda in Saltvik is one of those places.
In the midst of forests and fields, you find the remains of the largest hillfort on the Åland Islands. The place offers a nice hike with great views in a historic landscape. In other words, Kastelholm Castle and Bomarsund Fortress are far from the oldest defense structures on the island.
Hiking at Borgboda
Borgboda offers two hiking paths, both starting at the small parking lot at Ida’s Cottage. The first one, a couple of hundred meters long, takes you to a large cairn. In other words, a mound of large stones.
It is the second path that will take you to the main attraction – the Hillfort of Borge.
The hiking paths are in total 2.5 kilometers long. They are easy, there’s only a shorter climb at the end to the top of the hill, Borgberget. The paths are easy to walk and with signs leading the way.
Ida’s cottage is the first sight that you will stumble across upon arriving at Borgboda. The cottage is nowadays a memorial to all those people who were unable to own their own home. Back in the day, many people provided for their families by working for landowners. This particular cottage was inhabited by a woman named Ida Jansson.
Ida Jansson was born in 1885 in Bertbyvik, Saltvik. Ida worked as a cook for several years in Germundö and gave during that time birth to four illegitimate girls. She had to give away all of them. Around the year 1924, she got her the cottage in Borgboda and gave birth to one more illegitimate child, this time a boy. Gustav Adolf Jansson was born severely handicapped and Ida was soon unable to keep working as a maid at the nearby farm. Ida died in 1966 and it was first around 20 years later that her cottage was opened to the public.
Today it is possible to both walk around the cottage as well as enter into its interior to get a view into the past.
Cairns from the Bronze and Iron Age
There are several cairns from the Bronze and Iron age in the area. The path leading up behind Ida’s cottage takes you to one of the bigger ones. The large mound of stones has a crater in the center. It is still unknown what has caused the crater or if it was intended. The cairns date back to the years 1500 to 400 BC.
Ängisbacken’s Grave Mounds
Around the hillfort Borge there are several remains from the Iron Age up until the Middle Ages. The remains are both residential as well as burial.
Ängisbacken is one of the two major burial fields and has 65 known grave mounds. Excavations of a few graves show that they date to the Iron Age and late Viking Age, around 400-1000 AD.
There are six known ancient forts on the Åland Islands. The Borge Hillfort is the largest of these with its three hectares. The fort was located along the steep cliff at Borgberget. During the Iron Age, this fort would have been surrounded by water on three sides. Today it is calculated that the land has risen around 5 meters and the waterways are now far from the hill.
The longer hiking path takes you to the top of the hill and offers a great view across the landscape and the Borgboda farm. The path leads clockwise around the hill-top and then takes you back the same path down the hill again and across the field. Along the path, you will also be greeted by several wooden statues that at least gave us the feeling to be inspired by the Viking Age.
Borgboda with a Toddler
We visited Borgboda with our 2-year-old Little A. She was more than happy to walk most of the distance herself and only required assistance when crossing the fences (there are stairs over them) and when ascending and descending the hill. Great caution is required from parents as there are a few dangers along the path. These include electrical fences for the animals, deep ditches, steep stairs, and the steep cliffs. A toddler roaming freely in the area would not be recommended. However, but we do not consider the area unsafe, as long as the young ones have adult supervision.
What is great is that the distance is not that great, so it is always easy to get back to the parking lot.
Finding Your Way
Borgboda is located in Saltvik, located north of Mariehamn. It is reachable from Mariehamn both by bike and car and has space for at least three cars in its parking lot. If you are coming from Mariehamn, then drive north along road 2 to Haraldsby and then road 50 to Saltvik. In Saltvik, take right in the roundabout onto Långbergsödavägen and then soon afterward turn right onto Rangsbybägen. The parking lot is located right along the road Rangsbyvägen.