Silverskär and Sviskär: Life on your own private island

By | Category: Travel destinations
a greeting awaits as you reach your "own" island of Silverskar

a greeting awaits as you reach your “own” island of Silverskar

I was telling a Finnish friend recently how I’d always fantasised about owning an island. “Oh, we don’t think much of that here,” she replied dismissively. “There are so many.”

It is true that at the time my husband and I were on the Åland archipelago where 20,000 islands, islets and skerries rise from the Baltic Sea.   “Still,” she added. “I do know a lovely private island you could rent.” In fact the island of Silverskär is usually rented out to big family parties, for corporate team building events or club reunions but as there was no one in residence at the time, our friend arranged for us to go over and have dinner. We could have come by helicopter, a huge slab of local granite serves as the heliport but in fact we took the more usual route and were ferried over by manager Johan Mörn in his boat.

At the dock Victor Ericsson, the island’s private chef, met us and  offered us a glass of schnapps and a semolina pancake with whipped cream and prune jam – a traditional local welcome. Beyond, in the evening sunlight we could see hayfields dotted with vivid blue lupins stretching up toward a haze of woodland.   It was exquisite and knowing that there was no one other than the four of us on the island made it very special. Before leaving the dock however, Victor opened a trap in the planking and brought up 3 live perch which he promptly dispatched. “For our starter,” he said with a smile. “All food here is very fresh and very local.”

A series of cottages and farmhouses painted the traditional ox-blood red, all restored to the highest standards of modern comfort with fine linen and  high-tech equipment including Wi-Fi, form the accommodation. The island was inhabited by farmers and fishermen until the 1950s and old farmhouse Mellangårds which sleeps six in three bedrooms is one of the most attractive option in which to stay but there are also small cottages for couples and a more recently-built barn-like building, Ladugårds, which has an upstairs loft with seating for a hundred, is the focal point for parties and meetings. All the rooms are rated 4 star and looking out across the silvery water we couldn’t think of anywhere more beautiful to sleep.

a walk before dinner is what many do

a walk before dinner is what many do

While Victor prepared our dinner we set off with Johan through the woodland, passing banks of wildflowers and scatterings of lichen-covered granite rocks. He told us that berries and fungi are foraged here for the restaurant while other produce comes from the island’s greenhouse. At one point we came to a deep shaft, apparently the remains of the ancient silver mine which gave the island its name. To celebrate this, a local silversmith created some beautiful pieces of jewellery which are on sale in a small cabin.

Soon, however, we arrived at our destination, the attractive wooden Champagne Cabin overlooking the sea – a perfect place to sit sipping champagne as the sun goes down.   It is so called because here at Silverskär the Veuve Cliquot company is conducting an experiment called The Cellar in the Sea which involves lowering bottles of champagne in a special cage to mature deep in the Baltic. This came about because in 2010 champagne was discovered in a wreck which sank in the Baltic in 1841 and surprisingly this extremely vintage champagne was in perfect condition. The Baltic environment with  dark surroundings and temperatures of  four to six degrees even when the sea is frozen,  having proved ideal, it was decided by the Veuve Cliquot Company in 2011 to inaugurate this unique experiment  by storing some current vintages  in this way  for 40 years and then comparing them with vintages stored conventionally in the chalk cellars in Rheims.

We later took a stroll amongst the slabs of the grey granite which edge the beach  and with only the gentle whooshing to the waves, the golden rays of the setting sun and a sea eagle soaring above, the  sense  peaceful and seclusion was palpable and we had to admit that his would be the perfect place for de-stressing. There is however, plenty to do on the island for those who feel more active and on the way back Johan showed us the sports facilities which include tennis and archery. Fishing, canoeing, water-colour painting  and excursions are also available and are popular when there are corporate or club events taking place on the island. We however, were by now ready for dinner – and Victor had excelled himself.

the landscae surrounding us

the landscae surrounding us

We began with the perch which he had smoked with herbs from the   island garden and served with edible flowers and leaves. Next came belly of local kid rolled with black trumpet mushrooms, parsnip purée with lovage, coriander, wood sorrel and onions, then a fruity pudding and local cheeses…all as good as in any top-end restaurant and nothing from farther than a nearby island. One of which is Silverskär’s tiny sister island, Sviskär where couples or small families rather than groups can ‘leave the world  behind them’ and enjoy the simple life sleeping in a comfortable newly-built, ‘ old-style’ cottage known as The Hermit’s Cabin. This is equipped with a gas cooker and a fridge but you have to fetch your water from the spring and there is no electricity so you settle down in the evenings by oil lamp and log fires to enjoy the serenity. There is of course, that essential of Finnish life, a sauna.

We weren’t quite sure that this sort of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience was for us – although the option to have Viktor’s food delivered daily made it somewhat more tempting. It does however appeal strongly to people, and there are more and more of them as city life becomes increasingly busy, who want to live, ay least for a few days, as close as possible to nature.   On either Silverskär or Sviskär you have the opportunity to experience this on your own private island – and  at considerably less than the cost of a night in many hotels.

The island of Silverskär lies in Finland’s Åland’s northern archipelago at a stone’s throw from the main island. To reach the archipelago  there are  daily ferry services from Sweden and Finland and daily flights from Stockholm or Helsinki. Alternatively you can come by helicopter or boat. GPS coordinates for Silverskär, the harbour at Skatan in the municipality of Saltvik 60º21´0N 20º 7´6’ E. The minimum price for renting the whole island of Silverskar is €3950.00 per day for 8-13 people. This includes accommodation, all meals and the services of your own chef and host. 48 people can be accommodated for weddings and larger events at prices to be arranged.

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