Towering 52 meters above the sea, Bengtskär lighthouse is the tallest one in Scandinavia. The building started in in 1905 after the shipwreck of S/S Helsingfors and was completed in 1906. The lighthouse was designed by architect Florentin Granholm. On December a special petrol lantern, designed and built in Paris, was brought to Bengtskär and installed atop the tower.
German fleet bombarded Bengstkär in the First World War in 1914. Since the Gulf of Finland was heavily mined, it was not until 1919 that the surrounding seas were declared safe for shipping, that the light was lit again.
After the war the military value of Bengtskär increased as part of the defence system of independent Finland. In Second World War (1941) Soviet Union made a suprise attack to island. After a bloody battle, the small Finnish garrison emerged victorious. Intermittent repairs to the facility continued during the post-war period. Finally, the lighthouse was re-opened in 1950.
Today the Bengtskär lighthouse is a popular tourist attraction providing a museum, varying exhibitions, cafe and accomodation services. The lighthouse is open for visitors every day between June 1st and August 31st. The shortest sea route to Bengtskär goes through the beautiful archipelago. The trip from Kasnäs to Bengtskär takes about an hour.
Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.
The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.
The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.