Today we are looking back at our trip to Skaraborg last year. During the spring and summer of 2021, we enjoyed many trips, both short and long. We really tried to be as careful as possible since the outbreak of the pandemic, especially after almost getting stuck on the island of Malta in 2020 when Covid-19 started to spread in Europe. Initially, trips were scarce and far between, but during the spring of 2021, we felt that it was time for a new short adventure. This is how we came to book four nights at a hotel in Skara and took a few days off from work to explore the region of Skaraborg.
The pandemic has in many ways given us a great opportunity to explore more of our home country Sweden. In 2020, we made a summer road trip to the north and last year we visited some, for us, new areas. Sweden has so many places of interest, historical villages, modern towns, and nature in abundance, the list will just go on. Seeing some of this has been amazing and our Little A has of course joined us for most of it. The region of Skaraborg is just one part of a large country.
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Driving to Skaraborg
During the last years, we have not seen the traveling part of getting to our destination as a straight line. We tend to find places of interest and make both planned and spontaneous stops along the road. Driving to Skara was no exception and we would find ourselves on new small adventures also this time.
After a very short stop in Linköping for some lunch, we were soon on our way again. When I lived in Linköping about a decade ago I found a few places of my liking in the area. One of these was a farm shop in Brunneby, so this was our first main stop along the route. Here we took the chance to refill on some drinks and small snacks for our weekend away. Little A slept by now, so we took turns to visit the shop and stretch our legs.
We were soon back on the road, driving around lake Vättern. This is the second largest lake in Sweden and we had to get to the other side, meaning driving around its northern tip. What was good with this plan was that the route took us to Karlsborg on the other side, one of the places I really wanted to see on this trip. Karlsborg is an old garrison town with an impressive fortress. It is located along the shores of Lake Vättern and is in many parts still in use by the Swedish Armed Forces. Little A was happy to climb the fortress walls and walk along its streets. She had plenty of energy now that she had spent a few hours in the car.
It was, however, getting late and we were soon back in the car towards Skara. It was time to check in and get some rest before it was time to explore Skaraborg.
Exploring Skaraborg – Day 1
Skara was once the center of a county called Skaraborg, named after an old castle that was located in the town. Skaraborg is since 1998 a part of Västra Götaland County but it is still mentioned separately on many occasions. We had a few days in Skara and were going to explore a large part of this side of Sweden. Many of the places we visited were also mentioned in Jan Guillou’s Crusades trilogy about the fictional Knight Templar Arn Magnusson. So after our first night at the hotel in Skara and a nice breakfast in the room we were on our way to explore the area. Yes, it was possible to get the breakfast delivered to the room due to the pandemic.
Our first day exploring took us first to Varnhem. This is a small locality with an impressive abbey church. This is the location of one of the first known churches in Sweden and even though we don’t usually stop for churches, it was a possibility to explore an impressive past. The abbey church is still standing, right next to the ruins of the former abbey. Walking along the small paths at the outskirt of the former abbey offered an impressive view and understanding of the former size of this place.
Read more: Varnhem, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Our second stop for the day was the town of Skövde. It is today an industrial center and the home of one of Sweden’s military bases. For us, it was a possibility to see a town that is mentioned from time to time but that we so far had never visited. Skövde might be missing the number of historical sights that Varnhem and Skara have, but it was actually the weather that cut our visit short. Little A had some time to play at a playground in the center until the rain started to fall and we were on our way back to Skara.
Read more: Skövde, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
We finished our first day in Skaraborg with a walk through the center of Skara. This impressive city, with its majestic cathedral at its center, is for many Swedes mostly known for its summer theme park outside of town. However, there is so much more history here. Even though the castle is no longer standing, there are a few sights to explore in the town. Our walk had its limitations, however. This was at a time when Little A started to get tired and we were soon buying pizzas and driving back to the hotel for an evening with some food and more rest. We still had a few days left to explore Skaraborg.
Read more: Skara, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Exploring Skaraborg – Day 2
The second day in Skara was a day of further exploration. We were about to concentrate our time around Lake Hornborga, a lake famous for all the cranes that dance here during spring. At this time of the year, the lake is crowded with birds making a stop during their migration. We were sadly too early to see the cranes, even though the first reports of sightings had started to drop in during these days. Either way, the lake is a beautiful sight even without the many birds.
We started by heading east towards Varnhem which we visited the previous day. Just south of the old abbey church is the settlement of Amundtorp. This is the site of a large burial field with many ancient remains. Raised stones form the shape of stone circles and there is also a stone ship. Its location high up on a hill provides an amazing view out over the fields and even as far as Lake Hornborga. Susann and I took turns to head up the hill, as Little A was not interested in a short walk at the time.
Read more: Amundtorp, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Naturum Hornborgasjön & Broddetorp
From Amundtorp we continued towards Lake Hornborga. Along its eastern shores is Naturum Honrborgasjön, a visitor center for the nature reserve that covers the lake and surrounding shores. It was still calm here, but it was just days before the place would get crowded with visitors wanting to see the dance of the cranes. We did instead enjoy a walk along the shores and the view from the different viewpoints. There is so much to see in nature, also when the animals are elsewhere occupied. The tranquility of a lake during a calm spring day is something that is possible to enjoy. On our way from Lake Hornborga, we made a stop in Broddetorp for an ice cream. This is one of the localities closest to the lake.
Read more: Broddetorp, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
There are several historical abbeys in this area of Sweden and in addition to Varnhem there is also Gudhem Abbey. The Abbey is today in ruins, but this is the attraction. The high valves that are still standing create an impressive sight right next to the local church. So on our way to the other side of Lake Hornborga, we had a short stop in Gudhem to see the ruins. But we were soon on our way to the southern shores of the lake.
Read more: Gudhem, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Trandansen & Bjurum
Trandansen is a rest stop along road 184 with a great view out over Lake Hornborga. The name actually translates to “the Dance of the Cranes”. Trandansen is a popular stop for anyone wanting to see the cranes and several people had already found their way here to try to see the first sights of the cranes, as they were expected to arrive at any moment. For us, it was a stop for lunch. We had brought with us salads and found a table and sat down to eat. The view of the many birds and the lake itself really is great and a perfect stop for lunch when exploring the area. Overlooking the area is also Bjurum church.
Read more: Bjurum, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
From Lake Hornborga we continued further south to the town of Falköping. In Falköping we focused on a recreational area known as Mösseberg. It is a hill on the western side of the town with nature and even a small zoo. Blue sky and a great view for Susann and me and several playgrounds and animals for Little A to explore. It took some time for Little A to explore and she was more than happy to play, something that so far had been missing this day.
Our visit to Falköping ended with a short walk through the town and a stop at a local café for an early dinner. Little A got a large plate of pancakes. While eating we talked about what to do next. Head back early to the hotel? Well, the room was nice, but not that interesting. Instead, we continued our small road trip a bit to the east to the town of Tidaholm
Read more: Falköping, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
There are many towns and places to explore in Skaraborg and Tidaholm is one of those towns. For us, it turned out to be a short visit to the historically industrial area on the island of Vulcanön. This is where the former ironworks were located, on a small island in the middle of the Tidan River. This island is today housing the last match factory in Sweden. It was a short walk, but still interesting to see this part of Sweden as well.
Read more: Tidaholm, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
We were soon on our way back towards Skara, but not before making one more stop. Kungslena is a small village with an interesting, but disputed history. It is believed that this is the location of the Battle of Lena in 1208 between King Sverker II and Prince Eric. Sverker was supported by Denmark, but it would be a victory for Prince Eric, also known as Eric Knutsson and later as King Erik X. Today there is a memorial of the battle in Kungslena and it was at this site that we decided to make a short stop before continuing back to Skara. After all, it is these small sights that are so fascinating to explore and that always provide some additional insights into the local history.
Read more: Kungslena, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Exploring Skaraborg – Day 3
Day three in Skaraborg started with another breakfast in the room and then a new road trip. This time we wanted to see the shores of Lake Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden. Our main focus was the island of Kållandsö, in the southern part of Lake Vänern.
The drive northwest of Skara soon took us past the town of Lidkping and to the island of Kållandsö. Otterstad is the main locality on the island and it was here that we stopped to get our bearings and decide where to head first. We had two places we wanted to see, the first was the fishing harbor of Spiken and the second was Läckö Castle. While walking around and enjoying some of the barely visible rock carvings, we decided on this order and were soon heading further north towards the northern shores of the island.
Read more: Otterstad, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Spiken is one of the largest lake-based fishing harbors in Europe and a tourist attraction during the summer months. During this early spring day, the ice was still mostly covering the water and few people were around. Instead, we got to enjoy this sleepy lakeside village all by ourselves with the views out over the water. It turned out to be a short but nice walk before we continued to the main attraction of the island.
Read more: Spiken, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Läckö Castle looks like something from a fairytale. It looks out over Lake Vänern. While we walked along the waterfront, trying out one of the many hiking trails here we had the chance to enjoy both a nice sight as well as the surrounding nature. The hiking trail we had chosen actually had several activities for kids along its path, such as trying to jump as far as specific animals. This meant that Little A was also enjoying the walk and wanted to try as many of these activities as possible. We did not enter the castle, but these are usually more impressive from the outside.
Read more: Läckö, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
From Läckö we continued to the main town in the area, Lidköping. This is where we had hamburgers for lunch before we continued with a walk around the town. The weather was a bit unstable, but we could still enjoy the central parts of Lidköping. It is a town with a long history and the many wooden buildings in the center create a nice atmosphere. But this was also a time when Little A started to get tired, so we were soon back in the car to let her rest while we drove a bit further.
Read more: Lidköping, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
We had initially planned on continuing south from Lidköping towards Vänersborg. About halfway I felt that the drive would get a bit too long. This was about the time when we passed a large statue of the aircraft Saab 37 Viggen. This was at a rest stop at the outskirts of the locality Grästorp and instead of continuing towards Vänersborg we had a short stop and drove to the center of Grästorp.
Here I took a short walk while Little A had a nap. I didn’t get far before Susann called me to say that a drunk man was behaving strangely next to the car. Well, I was there in seconds and the man, who tried to make funny faces to Susann and Little A probably shit himself when I came close and with a bit higher voice than normal asked what the **** he was doing. Well, he instantly backed away and pleaded for me not to hurt him. It was a sad sight and even more sad if that is how he had been treated on earlier occasions. Instead, I asked him to just leave and then we were soon on our way from Grästorp. There are probably better ambassadors to these small localities, it is unfortunate that it is the local drunks that are the most visible.
Exploring more: Grästorp, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
From Grästorp we continued along the smaller roads to the east instead. This is where we found our way to the village of Sparlösa and their very special rune stone. The rune stone is the second most famous rune stone in Sweden and has inscriptions on all four sides. Seeing this impressive stone really was a must when driving past.
Read more: Sparlösa, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
From Sparlösa we continued along the countryside roads and came to the village of Stora Levene. Opting for some more fresh air we took turns to explore a smaller nature reserve at the outskirt of the village. Nature was really just waiting for spring and we can only imagine that the fields and trees here would have been green shortly after our visit.
Our last stop for the day was in the town of Vara. Once more we wanted to stretch our legs. Well, I wanted to stretch my legs. From here it would be straight back to Skara, but not until we had explored the town and especially seen their quite decorated blue train station. It was another short stop as the sun was already about to set. The hotel beds in Skara were already really inviting.
Read more: Vara, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Heading Back Home From Skaraborg
Our last morning in Skara was also the first morning when we actually had breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel. As it was time to head home, we were not as worried to get stuck in case we got sick with any kind of virus. After all, this was a time when a normal cold could get you stuck while waiting for the test results. We were also preparing for the long drive back home. A drive of around four hours, if driving the fastest route. Well, we had no plans of staying on the highway. Instead, we had several places we wanted to explore along the way.
Our first stop was already in Götene, where we let Little A explore a local playground before Susann and I had a look at the possibility to explore Kinnekulle, a flat-topped mountain located nearby. It was just one of several detours this day, but it really was worth the time.
Read more: Götene, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Högkullen at Kinnekulle
We found our way to the top plateau of Kinnekulle and parked our car close to the ski slopes of the hill. From here it was just a short hike across the hill to the main sight of the mountain. On the other of a small forested area are a watchtower and a few memorials of past events. With the sun shining, the hike itself offered an amazing view out over the very flat surroundings and it was just sad that the watchtower seemed to be closed this day. Instead, we enjoyed a walk around the few memorials here. These are the memorial of a 1944 air crash at the location and the stones of the kings which engraved names. Little A was actually happy to run around along the path and especially to play train with Susann and me.
Read more: Högkullen, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
On our way from Kinnekulle, we came across one more place from the books about the Knight Templar Arn Magnusson. This turned out to be a short stop, as there is not much more to see than the church and a nearby stone museum.
Read more: Forshem, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
From Forshem it was just a short drive to the town of Mariestad. This is a town that is probably most famous for the beer with which it is sharing its name. We didn’t enjoy any beer during our visit, but we did make sure to find a restaurant for some lunch. A pizza later and we explored the town that for a long time was the seat of Skaraborg County. Its location at the shores of Lake Vänern means that there are some beautiful views of the water and that is what we focused our time on. Especially around the mouth of the Tidan River. The sun was still shining and we did enjoy the sunshine and were in no hurry to get back to the car.
Read more: Mariestad, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
Eventually, we were heading back to the car but had a small detour planned instead of heading back home. We were driving to Askeberga, a small community with a fascinating ancient remain. This is a location of a large stone ship, a stone formation shaped like a ship. These are huge stones and even Little A found them fascinating. How they once were moved is a mystery, but it is an impressive sight and a place that is not always easy to find. But if you are in the area, have a look at this place and read the legends.
Read more: Askeberga, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
On our way back from Askeberga we made a short stop in Tidan to have a look. This small locality had some interesting sights. One of these is Vaholms Brohus, an uncommon style of a bridge in Sweden where the bridge is covered.
Read more: Tidan, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden
From Tidan we continued to Töreboda, where we stopped for some ice cream for Little A. This was our last stop on our route back home, so Little A was happy to get some ice cream before she continued to sleep. Toreboda is one of the towns that have the waterway Göta Canal through its center. Across the canal is actually a regular ferry service, the Line Ferry, which is the smallest ferry in Sweden that is used for regular traffic. With that said, it was still quite a long drive back home, but we had really been able to enjoy a great weekend in Skaraborg. There is still so much to explore in a region so famous for its historic past. We will see when we will return to Skaraborg to explore even more.
Read more: Töreboda, Västergötland – Exploring Sweden