West Sweden is a land of lakes and forests, with gentle hills and deep rivers flowing through narrow valleys. From the region’s capital, Gothenburg, a number of railway routes provide easy access to a variety of walking trails. Some of these are multi day hikes but, using the train, it’s possible to pick and choose different stages. I’m going to be sampling both the Gotaleden Trail and the Biosphere Trail which runs through Sweden’s first UNESCO Geopark.
Gotaleden is an enjoyable hiking trail where you can have coffee, eat and stay comfortably in several places. The trail is bi-directional and you can easily reach the different stages from commuter train stations along the route. The trail passes some smaller towns but runs mainly through forest and beautiful nature.
This complete trail, from Gothenburg to Alingsås is 71km long and is divided into nine stages. It follows forest paths and country roads and takes between three to four days to complete. I don’t have that much time so take a 25 minute train ride from Gothenburg to the station at Lerum.
Stage 5: Lerum to Floda 9.3km
This stage of the Gotaleden follows the Säveån River along a magical valley with lush deciduous forest on either side. Part of it is through the Säveån nature reserve, the silence only disturbed by birdsong. The trees are home to Streamers and Kingfishers while the river contains the unique Säveå salmon with beavers on its banks. There’s even the chance of a moose sighting, although I’m not that lucky.
A good place to stop, around halfway, is Hillefors Grynkvarn, a restored oat mill, which is now also a museum. It’s the only one of its kind in the world which is still operational. It comprises the mill, wooden chute and turbine house, as well as a water-driven saw and electricity generator. There is also a bone crusher, a smithy and a wash-house.
At Floda I take the train to Jonsered where Poppels Bryggeri offers a range of organic beers and excellent food. From here it’s another short train hop to Alingsås, a pretty wooden town on the banks of the Lillån River. It’s also the capital of Fika, the Swedish cultural tradition of coffee and cakes, and its narrow cobbled streets have a patisserie or bakery on every corner. There are about thirty cafes, the oldest of which dates back to the end of the 1800s.
The Biosphere Trail
The Biosphere Trail runs between Mariestad and Läckö Castle for 140km. hugging Lake Vänern’s southern shore. The trail takes you through beautiful, varied landscapes with viewpoints, islands, charming town centres, historic spots, cafes and magical forests. You can access it from the Kinnekullebanan, voted Sweden’s most beautiful train line, skirting the shores of Lake Vänern on Kinnekulle’s western slopes.
The train takes me to Lugnås, a small hamlet, on the Biosphere Trail, where I’ll be spending the night at the Ekohotell. Set in beautiful surroundings, it’s then a short walk to Qvarnstensgruvan, through open countryside. I’m here to visit the old mine where they extracted millstones for 800 years. You can see several opencast mines but the thrill is to explore the underground galleries. There’s also a small museum and café.
Stage 5: Hällekis to Trolmen 13.5km
Next day, it’s a short rail trip to Hällekis Station and my walk starts by following the shores of Lake Vänern. The trail then turns upwards to the mountain plateau of Kinnekulle. After 3.5km the beautiful gardens of the manor house Hellekis Säteri come into view where I have lunch. It’s then a climb to Stora Stenbrottet, or Grand Canyon, a stone quarry 40m deep, filled with water.
From here I pass through the Gröne Skog nature reserve, with its distinctive rock formations before dropping down to the lake at Råbäcks Harbour. Here the quarried stone was transported by boat, but now all is quiet. It’s a beautiful spot and the final stretch follows the shore before turning inland to Trolmen station. The waiting room houses the world’s smallest library just in case your train is delayed.
The end of my journey is Lidköping, the largest town on the Biosphere Trail. In the past it was famous for its porcelain and the Rörstrand Museum has a collection spanning three centuries. Enjoy Chinese inspired 18th century blue and white faience, the romantic dinner services of the 19th century and 20th century Art Nouveau. In the café I enjoy coffee and cakes served on genuine Rörstrand porcelain, an appropriate way to end my visit.
GO: British Airways flies direct from London Heathrow to Gothenburg
STAY: Hotell Royal is in the centre of Gothenburg in a historic building.
Grand Hotel Alingsås is near the station and has an excellent restaurant.
Lugnåsberget Ekohotell is on the Biosphere Trail in a beautiful rural setting.
Lidkoping Stadshotellet is near the station and is full of atmosphere.
EAT: Poppels Brewery has a café where you can enjoy their food and drink.
Trädgårdscafè at Hellekis Kök serves good food in a beautiful setting.
Mellbygatans Restaurang in Lidkoping serves local seasonal dishes.
INFO: Visit Sweden has information about the country.
West Sweden has information about the region.
West Sweden supports sustainable tourism.