King's Road (Kungsvägen in Swedish / Kuninkaantie in Finnish) is an old postal route from Bergen, Norway to St. Petersburg, Russia. In Finland the route goes from the west coast of Finland to the Russian border across the fields and forests of Southern Finland. This a narrow winding path and along the route are many castles and B&B's for the tired journeymen and their horses.
Ever since the 14th century Swedish government, the road has been occupied by kings, tsars, bishops, couriers and armies. Today the old path is covered by enlarged cities and highways, but there are still several scenic parts that can be travelled by car or even by bicycle. The route is fairly well marked with specific signs, not to mention that it is largely tarmac for driving comfort.
Best of all, it is truly a very rewarding drive. Beautiful country scenery, manor houses, castles and farms connected by a twisting road that embraces every hill and valley. Partly very slow with 40 km/h limit, but partly 80 km/h limit on fast tarmac curvy roads between the golden yellow fields. There are many idyllic farms and estates through which the road passes, very slow and dangerous places as you never know what awaits behind the tight bend and trees. It is also very considerate to drive slowly and carefully by the farms and houses and not to offend the locals by vulgar traffic behavior - it is their land anyway. On the other hand there are many streches across the fields where you can see the road twisting a mile ahead and can really enjoy the car at its best, hugging the bends hungry for more speed.
I took off from Helsinki for this journey, with Turku in my sight. My plan was to find curvy country roads and see a few castles along the way, hopefully grab a bite to eat at a local tavern. If you take the highway, it's a 2-hour dull ride, but take the King's Road making the most of it, and soon enough you find that enjoyment takes a win over time. Reserve a full day, or two and stay over along the route. Be sure to stop atleast these great locations:
The Mustio castle (Svartå slott in Swedish), at Hållsnäsintie 69 Mustio, is a truly scenic and peaceful old manor house with a beautiful garden, superior restaurant and a hotel. First manor house on this estate was built already in the early 17th century, however in the late 18th century the old buildings gave way to the current structures, consisting of five different buildings. This is absolutely a place to stay over for the night and endulge on the restaurant offerings, followed by scenic walks across the garden and along the nearby river bank. Since it was only 11am when I arrived there, I was thinking of having only a shot of refreshing espresso at the restaurant but the menu and portions to neighbouring tables made me order the whole lunch menu. And it was absolutely worth it, the food was totally to die for. Make sure you arrange your arrival here during the dinner time as the restaurant building is a very romantic and rustic place where atmosphere surely accentuates the alreadt excellent food by 100%.
Fiskars Village (Fiskars Bruk in Swedish), at Fiskarsintie 9 Fiskari, is a historical landscape built around a former mill in 1646, that lead to early industrialization and birth of Fiskars Oyj corporation. The village accommodates an active artisan and artist community, that offers tourists especially during the summer a lot to dig into and see. For accommodation, see hotels Tegel or Wärdshus.
Mathildedal Ironworks (Mathildedal bruk in Swedish), at Ruukinrannantie 6 Mathildedal, is an old industrial site from 1852 that has been restored gently after being abandoned for many years, and now you can travel back in time in this historical village, that also offers a hotel (Ruukin Majatalo) as well as a restaurant and cafés for the travellers.
There are a few route alternatives depending on which way you wish to drive and where to stop. Fortunately, at many places the road is very winding and narrow for the ultimate driving feeling. I was at times having mixed feelings about trying to follow the official route versus finding the best road to drive. I did even get lost a few times on gravel roads but quickly made the decision to turn back to a bigger road. Gravel roads really aren't that enjoyable to drive for leisure purposes, unless of course you have a street-legal rally car.
To take the northern route from Helsinki towards Turku, take road 1130 from Espoo towards city of Lohja. Following this, especially road 1070 northbound from City of Lohja around the Lohja lake is a very rewarding road to drive with a good car. Also recommended by Michelin as a scenic drive. Road 104 towards south will then take you to Fiskars.
Another alternative is to go through Espoo to Kirkkonummi and then over to Degerby, and from thereon directly to the Mustio castle. Third and most southern route alternative extends from aforesaid Degerby to Inkoo and continues with road 1050 (old coast route) west over to Raseborg castle ruins. All three routes cross at Tammisaari (Ekenäs in Swedish). Then head west to Tenhola. Road 1824 towards Salo is a final country road stretch before approaching the city of Turku and you can find the Mathildedal just before Meri-Teijo golf resort. Ýou can study the different routes and places best via Outdoors Finland route map.
The destination on my journey, Turku (Åbo in Swedish) is the oldest city in Finland dating back to the late 13th century. It was also the nation's capital until 1812 when Helsinki earned the title under Russian government. Misfortunes followed as in 1827 almost the entire city was destroyed in the Great Fire of Turku. Word 'turku' comes originally from old slavic word 'turgu' meaning market place. Port of Turku has also played a crucial role in creating this ancient market place as a meeting point for merchants from Sweden, Germany and the Baltics. I think that open friendly attitude is still living amongst the local people, who take pride and joy in this great city - regardless of often being put down by the people of Helsinki.
Turku offers an excellent choice of restaurants and cafés, most located near the river bends crossing the city center. An interesting exception to the local Finnish restaurants is Sergio's Italian restaurant where food is prepared with big Italian heart and tastes are in order.
The Turku castle is an obvious way to end the castle roadtrip this time. Castle has several museum exhibitions and guided tours to dwell into the long and eventful history of this magnificent fortress. Just nearby, is also Forum Marinum, the maritime museum with diverse indoor exhibitions as well as ships on display by the river dock - also open for visitors. The museum succeeds in reflecting the city's long history with sea as a way of living.
This route is recommended to anyone who enjoys driving and history, you will have an amazing opportunity to learn how sea has carried merchants and travellers, how iron works have created large multinational corporations and how castles defended the locals from aggressors during centuries of uncertainty. As such, this can be a real eye-opening excursion even for Finns.