Cyclist ahoy! A pice of Finland’s most picturesque archipelago is within your reach, without a boat or worrying about ferry timetables. Whizz round the whole 50 kilometre route non-stop or take your time, enjoy the islands scenery and make a day of it.
The islands of Velhovesi have been populated over thousand years. The Velhovesi Ring Road was born when two bays of the sea, Ruotsinvesi and Velhovesi, were dammed to provide water for the town. The two bays formed a large body of freshwater, separated from the sea in places by only a narrow isthmus. This route takes you cycling from one island to the next, with no shortage of swimming places! You can decide whether you want to take a dip in freshwater, seawater or both! The Velhovesi Ring Road will take you into the historic atmosphere and picturesque surroundings of the archipelago villages.
Back in the 1500s, Agricola mentions these people of Larsmo (Finnish “Luoto”) as being Finland’s first Christians. It was here that Saint Henry is believed to have been shipwrecked in 1154. It is said that Pyhämaa (lit. ”Holy Land”) used to be called Pahamaa (“Evil Land” or “Bad Land”). Did this name come about because of the residents’ bad lives and robbing others, or because of the “bad” stony sailing routes?
One thing is certain: an ancient sea route has passed Pyhämaa, along which foreign traders sailed into Kalanti to trade at the Männäinen market. Männäinen was a significant commercial centre in Finland at the time, not least because the manufacture of wooden vessels in the area had grown into a massive industry, for which the people of the region had become known throughout northern Europe.
The roaring trade that had been going on since the Finnish Middle Ages, and perhaps the beauty of the Maid of Kalanti, eventually persuaded the king to establish the town of Uusikaupunki as a place for the locals to trade. The people of the region were active seafarers, and trading took place all around the Baltic Sea – although not always strictly according to the king’s edicts. Shipwrecks lie in their watery graves, both in the sea and in the freshwater basin.
Cyclists are greeted along the Velhovesi Ring Road by old peasant houses, ship owners’ estates, windmills, piers and pastures. The fishing shacks and boat shelters remind of the times when pike landed by the fishermen of the archipelago were taken as far as Stockholm. These waters have seen many kinds of people – from smugglers to seal hunters and island children making their way to school in little flat-bottomed rowing boats.
One industry employed many men on the islands and has left its mark on the Ring Road scenery: the stone industry. Local granite, known as “Uusikaupunki’s Grey”, has been widely used for building, notably the National Museum in Helsinki. Stone was shipped from Lepäinen to many European countries, and even as far afield as America. During the war the quarries produced so-called “Hitler stones” for the Nazis regime’s monumental construction projects.
The archipelago is somewhat isolated from the mainland, which has led to the development of unique culture, habits and names. Completed in 1891, the Katarauma Bridge connected the people of the islands with the mainland. Many stories are told about the bridge; according to one such story, neither a living bull nor a sane person ever crossed the bridge.
Along the Velhovesi Ring Road friends of nature can also spot birds that are rare in other parts of the country, such as the white tailed eagle, the Caspian tern and the black guillemot. Going along from Lepäinen towards Pyhämaa, the route passes wind-weathered sea-buckthorn bushes and leafy oak and ash groves, black alder forests and European crab apple trees, which are endangered in Finland.
In the picturesque church village of Pyhämaa, one of the Ring Road’s finest attractions awaits visitors: the mysterious 17th century “Church of Sacrifices”. The unassuming exterior hides a large number of impressive paintings.
On your journey you can also drop by to see the old Radansuu water mill and the Inhamo Bridge on the Sirppujoki River. Just a stone’s throw away is the historic trading place, the area of the Männäinen ironworks. Take a break from cycling to enjoy the services along the Ring Road, and perhaps even some fresh produce from the growers along the route.
We hope you enjoy the Velhovesi Ring Road!
Rauhankatu 10, P.O.Box 37, 23501 Uusikaupunki
Tarinat kerännyt ja kirjoittanut: Johanna Pakola, Terhi Raumonen, Mikko Paana, Heli Walls
© Mainostoimisto Tekokuu