Idöborg – A new star on the swimrun map

For you as a swimrunner, Idöborg, is a hidden gem in the archipelago of Stockholm. The untouched nature, the food at the newly opened beach bar (Strandbaren) and the excellent training opportunity for swimruns, makes the trip a must for everyone who longs for the archipelago. And a true challenge.



The permanent swimrun course

So, together with Jonas Hållén and Mats Öijvall at Idöborg, TOT Swimrun have put up a permanent swimrun course. It is, of course, open to everyone. And it takes you through the stunning nature of Idöborgs surroundings. We suggest that you go there, do the course, and have lunch or dinner at the bar. Its a perfect break from city life!

In the table below, you find the split description of the course. Also, note the interactive map further down.

SplitDecription
Run 1Start from Strandbaren Idöborg and run towards the Kayak beach.
Swim 1The kayak beach at Idöborg to the big island outside Långskär.
Run 2Across Stora Skäret, wading a few meters in the water to a small cob where the next swim-leg begins.
Swim 2Stora Skäret to Långskär’s western shore.
Run 3South on Långskär. There is no clear path through the sparse forest. Find a good line yourself. It is best to run near the shoreline on the cliffs.
Swim 3Långskär to Björkkobb. Stop for a beat before jumping in. Here you have the archipelago in all its glory
Run 4Around the outside / south side of Björkkobb, over the rocks. Take in the view of the Nämdö archipelago
Swim 4Björkkobb to Långskär. Over a narrow, shallow sound with small couplings.
Run 5Långskärs southernmost part and north. There is no clear path. Find a good line yourself. Stay close to the beach.
Swim 5The narrow strait between Långskär and the Böteskobben. Here, boats can come at a leisurely pace, on their way to settle between the islands.
Run 6The west side of the fin scoop. Here is a fairly clear, soft path to follow just inside the shoreline. At the end you will come up on a cliff overlooking the strait between Böteskobben and Långskär and Rågskär (bird sanctuary area)
Swim 6From Böteskobben back to Långskär.
Run 7We take a turn north on Långskär along a small path. and then turn around back south out on a cliff.
Swim 7Back from Långskär to Stora Skäret. We go ashore in the same place we went in the water on our way out to the islands.
Run 8Wade a few meters in the water until you reach the bigger Isle. Run across to a cliff overlooking Idön and Idöborg.
Swim 8Stora Skäret back to the kayak beach at Idöborg.
Run 9From the Kayak beach back to Strandbaren.

Course map

Even though it looks like it is far off from the city life of Stockholm, you can travel here via public transport (write: Idöborg as your final destination). The trip from central Stockholm only takes one and a half hours and is well worth it!

Long course description

Editors note: This section is written by Jonas Hållén, who is responsible for the outdoor activities at Idöborg.

Our swimrun course starts at the sauna on Idöborg, now transformed into the restaurant, café, and bar.

Just as you leave Strandbaren, take a glance at the large, white Jugend style house on top of the island. The house with its impressive green roof was built 1909 by Gustav Pott, owner of the Stockholm Shoe Factory, and many of the islands in the area.

Pott was an avid hunter of seabirds and to be able to move around the area quickly he built wooden bridges between Idöborg, Idö, Lilla Kovilan, Stora Kovilan, Långskär, Rågskärs Kalvholme, Rågskärs Grund, Rågskärs Västra Udde, Rågskär and Lilla Finnholmen around 1910-1914. In total, the bridges were 2 500 meters, a stunning length out here in archipelago. Now long gone, but you can still see some of the stone fundaments.

If you swim/paddle along the eastern shore of Idön you will see somewhere the bridges once connected Idön to Långskär via two islets.

From Pott to Kreuger

During the ’20s and ’30s, many of the islands in the area were purchased by Torsten Kreuger, a Swedish engineer, investor, owner of several newspapers, and a member of a wealthy family. Torsten Kreuger loved the archipelago, sailing and the animal life on the islands. He probably spent a lot of time on our next stop, the elongated strip Långskär. The island has a rocky coastline southwest, with sinks, soft undergrowth a sparse forest in the middle.

The Långskär reserve has an exceptionally rich and distinctive birdlife.

As we run south on the island we get a glimpse of the main island in the area, Nämdö. The island has everything from lush forests and flowering meadows to the outer archipelago barren rocks and cliffs.

swimrunners at Idöborg
Långskär with its rich birdlife

Nämdö is one of the few large islands that still shows off original buildings and remains unexploited. Animal life is rich and the sea eagle can often be seen on the hunt. The animals at Östanvik farm dating from the 1500s keep the landscape open and alive. Several well-protected nature and cultural trails begin at the farm, which also runs a small farm shop.    

On the southern edge of Långskär and while you run over the rocky outside of Björkkobb you can see Bullerö on the horizon. 

Bullerö – 900 islands

The Bullerö Reserve consists of more than 900 islands, skerries, and islets in an area less than central Stockholm. Around all these rocks are the sea. In the east, it’s just the water and the horizon, north and south you can spot some other islands. In the west, you have the archipelago.

The heart of the main island Bullerö is the little village Hemviken in a bay in the south. Here people have been living since the middle of the 16th century when the seabed had lifted so much that there was proper space for a settlement on the small island. The first formal registration of inhabitants took place in 1657.

Records from the church show that the few people living here had a pretty good life fish from the sea, small scale farming, mushrooms, berries, and fruit from a small orchard.

In the late 19th century Bullerö had a population of 23 people, most of them from two families. The inhabitants took their fish and grain and sailed to the markets in Stockholm, a journey that took a full day.

Bruno Liljefors takes over

A few years later, in 1908, there was a revolution that forever changed the way of life on the small island: the famous Swedish painter Bruno Liljefors bought Bullerö and the 300 closest skerries and islets. Liljefors had been very successful around the turn of the century with a large exhibition in Paris and several paintings sold to the rich banker Ernest Thiel, who opened a gallery in a beautiful villa in Djurgården in Stockholm.

After the success, the artist was looking for an estate in the archipelago to take his art to the next level and Bullerö, with its faraway and beautiful setting, turned out to be the perfect spot. As a part of the deal, the last permanent residents moved away. Instead, Hemviken was taken over by the Swedish art elite.

A year later Bruno Liljefors built the Hunting Cabin, a large cabin with a combined studio and dining hall with enough room to throw lavish dinners for fifty-sixty people.

Party on with the cultural elite

Now the heydays of art started on Bullerö. Liljefors brought in friends like the painter Anders Zorn, the writer Albert Engström, the zoologist Gustaf Kolthoff, photographer Axel Sjöberg and the ”Flying Baron”, Carl Cederström. They called themselves the Bullerö Party and apart from painting and intellectual pastimes they had dinners and parties with servants from the luxurious Grand Hotel. They even brought out a full ballet from Stockholm to entertain the twenty or so all-male crew.

Bruno Liljefors spent the summers on the island with his large family and friends. The painter lived a life with plenty of ups and downs and long periods of financial insecurity but was a great entertainer. When not entertaining his friends the artist painted and made drawings of sea birds and animals.

It’s said that he threw out three kilos of herring per day, to attract seagulls so he could study and draw their movements. He even tried to bring a tiger to the island, but the authorities stopped that idea. But a big brown bear from a zoo in Stockholm roamed the cliffs until the beast prowled into the basement of the cabin and had a feast on the meat inside. Things started getting a little bit too dangerous and Liljefors decided they had to shoot the animal.

Zorn – who is famous for his paintings of the nude, voluptuous women, often having a bath in a lake, a river, or the sea – made one of his most well-known motifs on the shore of the little bay close to the cabin.

Hollywood visits

The Swedish art elite held court at Bullerö until 1923 when Bruno Liljefors moved on to other projects. His friend Torsten Kreuger bought the island and continued to entertain the rich and famous in the archipelago. Kreuger wasn’t just a large investor in Swedish media, he also put in money in movies and had plenty of contacts in Hollywood.

According to legend Torsten Kreuger brought some world-class actors on the shores of Bullerö: Mary Pickford came by, as did Erroll Flynn, Greta Garbo, and Charlie Chaplin.

”I only take a dip on sandy beaches.”

Zarah leander

We need a beach!

There are many tales about visits to the stars. One, in particular, is about the time singer Zarah Leander was at a dinner party in the cabin and Torsten Kreuger proposed a toast by saying: ”Tomorrow we’re going swimming!” According to legend Zarah Leanders replied:

Torsten Kreuger made a quick telephone call to Stavsnäs on the mainland and ordered a barge filled with sand to be sent out. The next morning, when Zarah Leander woke up, Kreuger had created a small sandy beach close to the village Hemviken. The star had to show class and actually go for a dip.

Nobody knows if the story is true, but today there is a sandy beach just south of the jetty in Hemviken called Zara’s beach.

A mutual bond between Liljefors and Kreuger was their love of the sea, their respect for the archipelago, and their strong bond to nature dispersed around the hundreds of islets and skerries. In a time when many groups of islands were sold to the highest bidder and shattered among the nouveau riche, Liljefors, and Kreuger kept the Bullerö archipelago together and defended its special atmosphere.

Open to everyone

The crash on the stock exchange in New York 1929 ended the Kreuger family’s wealth. After some harsh decades, Torsten Kreuger got an offer to sell the Bullerö archipelago in the ’60s to a developer for 80 million SEK. Instead, he chooses to sell it to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency for 4 million SEK. He demanded that the Bullerö archipelago would be open for everyone and that the nature and culture of the island would be preserved. That’s why we can move around in this area freely today and that is also why we have to respect the wildlife and nature and move around with care.

Crystal clear water at Idöborg

Today Hemviken on Bullerö is governed by Ann–Sofie Andersson, the supervisor of the Bullerö Reserve. She lives in a small cottage close to the jetty, surrounded by three other houses; the hostel buildings and the guest cabin for guests on day trips.

National Reserve

For years there has been talking about making the Nämdö Archipelago, that includes Bullerö and the surrounding islands, into a National Reserve. Finally, it’s going to happen. A year or two from now the work will begin and hopefully during the 2020’s the archipelago we move through with its flowers, trees, birds, seals, and rocky beaches will be fully protected from exploitation.

On the way back over Böteskobben you might bump into some sheep from Östanvik gård, summer grazing on the island, keeping the landscape open. Böteskobben, Kalvholmen, and Björkskär is one island and is the last stop before a bird protection area, that is closed for visitors most of the year. Before we head into the water again to swim back to Långskär, we climb a knoll with a view of Rågskär.

On the island, you can see a couple of cottages, a jetty, and some sheds. It’s an old fisherman’s cottage, now managed by the regional authorities, Länsstyrelsen, and rented out to holidaymakers. Back in the days the family Sandström lived here. They moved to the small island in the 1880s and stayed her until after the Second World War. There are some fascinating pictures taken in the 1910s, maybe by Bruno Liljefors, that records their everyday life on the small island.

Jack-of-all-trades

Winters were cold and hard. Fishing was the Sandström’s main trade during the rest of the year; lots of perch, pike, Baltic herring, eel, and flounder. They also had some fields where they grew cereals and hay. Around the cottages, some cows (milk), pigs (meat), chickens (egg and meat), and sheep (wool) grazed.

The family didn’t own the land, so they had to do day’s work for the owner Gustav Pott. It was the Sandström’s who built the bridges between the islands, on Pott’s demand. As of today’s inhabitants, the Sandström’s became a jack-of-all-trades, doing farming, fishing, slaughtering, building houses, bridges, and boats. We turn our backs to the past and jump into the water and swim back to the north part of Långskär. It’s the last stretch of running and swimming before we head back to Idöborg.

Between the trees, we can see Idön and the harbor on Idöborg. When Torsten Kreuger sold his islands in the Bullerö archipelago 1967 he kept three. One, Lilla Alskär, was given to his oldest son Björn, who was an avid bird watcher. The middle son Sten got Idöborg and the youngest son Harö.

In 1976 Sten married Annette, and they got Otto and Emma. Sten was like his father Torsten and his uncle Ivar interested in boats and started shipbuilding on Idöborg. First, he built plastic boats, but later he went to build larger vessels in steel and aluminum. He built ferries, fishing boats, taxi boats, and a larger ship for marine exploring. During this time Ängsvillan, Solnedgången, Förstugan, and the storehouse were built.

Mindfulness

Almost ten years later Sten decided to move his business to the mainland and sell the island. That made it possible for Annette, now divorced from Sten, to buy her beloved island. Annettes plan was to start a conference center on the island and had the guests enjoy the beautiful scenery.

A small house called the Dojo was built, with one end in full glass turned towards the sunrise in the East. Annette converted to Buddhism in the 1980s and lectured in Tibetian Buddhism on Idöborg. Even today the island is a popular retreat for yoga classes, people that want to practice mindfulness and Buddhism.

Take a break when you return to the start. Sit down on one of the rocks and relax and think about the past out here and your future in this world.

Namasté, Jonas


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