A visit to the medieval castle at Kastelholm in Sund makes for an exciting outing for the whole family. It was mentioned for the first time in writing in an estate inventory for Bo Johnsson Grip in 1388.
Kastelholm was strategically situated in what was once the middle of the Kingdom of Sweden. At that time Sweden extended to present-day Russia and the waterways united the realm. The landscape has changed somewhat in the 700-odd years since then. From the start the castle was completely surrounded by water and was naturally sheltered by the Slottsundet’s steep beaches.
Towards the end of the 1300s Kastelholm was a typical fortress with a tower, residence and curtain walls. Following much rebuilding and extending, the castle ruins today consist of two sections, a higher main castle and a fortification that is surrounded by a curtain wall.
In the 1400s Åland became a castle fief of its own and during the troubled century that followed Kastelholm was also drawn into the war between Sweden and Denmark. The castle was besieged by the Danes several times but was recaptured by the Swedes in the end.
Gustav Vasa visited the castle for the first time as king in 1530. Twenty-six years later he conferred Åland and Kastelholm Castle to his 18-year-old son Duke Johan, who stayed at the castle several times in the years that followed.
Later the Duke deposed his brother King Erik XIV, who was then imprisoned in the castle in the autumn of 1571. He had his wife Karin Månsdotter and their children with him during his period in captivity.
Gustav Vasa’s widow Katarina Stenbock occupied the castle until 1603. It was run by royal governors until 1634 when Åland was transferred to Turku and Pori Province in Finland.
Kastelholm lost its significance after that and fell into decay. In 1745 a devastating fire broke out that reduced most of the castle to ruins. Sweden lost Åland and Finland to Russia in 1809 and the centre of power moved to Bomarsund.
At the end of the 1800s protective measures started to be taken and temporary repairs were made. The most recent restoration was started in 1982 and was completed in 2001. Attempts have been made to uphold the castle’s characteristics as a ruin with traces of older reconstructions so that there is a clear demarcation between the new construction and the authentic brickwork.
Admission to the castle includes a daily guided tour in Swedish and Finnish from midsummer to the first week in August. For English-speaking guide (or other languages), please contact Ålands Guider rf. Combined tickets include the Vita Björn local prison, which dates from the 1780s. Behind the castle is the Jan Karlsgården open-air museum, a park consisting of old houses from various places based on the style of the 1800s. The museums are open from May to the middle of September.
Smakbyn, Åland golf club and Kastelholms guest harbour are located close to the castle area. In the summer the bus to Sund runs via the castle.