The oldest manned lighthouses were built in the mid-1800s. Small lighthouse communities developed a long way out to sea. The lighthouse keepers and their families lived in a barren and harsh environment a long way away from normal life in the community. You can visit several of the lighthouses either with your own boat or on a guided tour.
The lighthouses were often manned by three or four lighthouse keepers including the chief lighthouse keeper, who was their boss. Their life was hard – they had to endure many an ordeal and much drama on the skerries.
The number of lighthouse employees decreased in the 1950s as the lighthouses were automated. Märket was the last manned lighthouse in Åland waters. Today there are about 50 lighthouses along the whole of the Finnish coast. They are all automated and unmanned.
Märket 60° 18’ 1” N 19° 07’ 9” E
The border between Sweden and Finland runs through the island where Märket lighthouse is located. The place was closed to visitors from 1976 when the last lighthouse keepers left the island. It is now possible to visit Märket again thanks to Finland’s Lighthouse Society. From the middle of May until August/September the Lighthouse Society’s own “lighthouse keepers” are on the spot to receive visitors. Excursions are organised from Eckerö.
Sälskär 60° 24’ 7” N 19° 35’ 5” E
An excursion to Sälskär lighthouse station in north-west Hammarland provides a whole raft of adventures in nature. For instance, there are plenty of curious razorbills here. Sälskär lighthouse was built in 1868 and was manned until 1948. You can read more about life on Sälskär in the book “Sälskär – Lighthouse Life 1868–1949” by Bengt Häger. In the high season there are boat trips every week on the excursion boat M/S Silvana from Skarpnåtö in Hammarland.
Lågskär 59° 50’ 4” N 19° 55’ 7” E
There are many sunken rocks around the exposed lighthouse island of Lågskär, 17 nautical miles south of Mariehamn. This was why a beacon was set up on the island as far back as the 1600s. In 1840 Åland’s first lighthouse beacon was built here. The current one dates from 1920. People lived here until 1961 when the lighthouse was automated. Now there is an observatory station here and the old lighthouse residences are used by visiting ornithologists. The cobbled beach on the north side is also worth seeing. The island was the shooting location for the film “The Disciple”, the Finnish entry for the 2013 Oscars. Customised tours are available. You can book a tailor-made boat excursion with Shipland for example to Lågskär or some other islands outside Mariehamn.
Bogskär 59° 30’ 3” N 20° 21’ 3” E
It is extremely difficult to land on Bogskär. If you come in your own boat, the best thing is to enjoy the lighthouse environment from a distance. Finland’s first wireless telegraphy line was opened between Bogskär and Mariehamn in 1906. After the first World War the 1882 lighthouse was automated and came to run on acetylene gas. When it was refurbished in 1981, a helicopter pad was built. Bogskär became a radar lighthouse and was equipped as a weather observatory. Nowadays it runs on solar energy.