The sun is high in the sky and the southern archipelago full of summer tourists and bustling with activity. But a calm is not as far away as you might think. A couple of minutes from Nåttarö and a stone’s throw from Utö you will find Rånö, a summer paradise that takes you back to a simpler and calmer life.
There is a long line of people waiting for the boat at the harbor in Nynäshamn, but we manage to get on the boat and settle down ready to enjoy our fresh cinnamon buns we bought at the harbor, in the bright sunshine on the upper outdoor boat deck. Most people seem to be on their way to Nåttarö, where the sandy beaches attract both vacationers and day visitors. The boat passes Ålö and the outdoor dining area of Båthaket restaurant, a place that will soon be filled with lunch visitors and bikers that have crossed the bridge from Utö. The archipelago is teaming with life. Next stop - Rånö! As soon as we get off the boat, we can feel the calmness. We walk the short path up to the island’s culinary center, restaurant Rånö Källan, where chef Christian Henriksen is taking a break from the lunch preparations to have a little chat with us. He describes Rånö Källan as a typical archipelago restaurant with classical food.
– People usually tell me they have waited all winter to come here again, to have the Rånö burger. We serve it in a classic style with brioche bread, white onion and beefsteak tomato. Our famous boullabaise, we can never remove that from the menu, people love it too much. We make unique Toast Skagen – with eggs. This time of year, you need to book a table. Many guests come from the cabins, and others have taken the boat from Nynäshamn, or sailed here by private boat. On Fridays and Saturdays, the place is packed with people.
But Christian still says that Rånö is an unusually calm island. Even though we are approaching high season, you can feel the peace and quiet at the restaurant’s outdoor dining area. According to the chef, it is the peaceful atmosphere that attracts so many visitors to the island west of Utö.
– Rånö feels quite far from the city life, like a separate and special island compared to Utö and Nåttarö, islands that usually have more visitors. Here, you can just take it easy, in the calm environment.
Just like back in the 60s!
The cabin village seems to be a central spot at Rånö, so we follow the gravel path for a ten minute walk to the cabins. Fist we are led through a pretty dense spruce forest that then opens up into a clearing with a lovely sandy beach, and small houses dispersed in the area. On the map, the place is called Knicksand, but everyone we meet just refers to it as the cabin village, “stugbyn”. Outside the first cabin we bump into Linda Hammarberg that is staying here with her 11-year-old daughter.
– I used to come here with my mother. Now I am here with my own daughter. The daily activities here are ice-cream time, swimming and barbequing … and sometimes we visit the restaurant. Rånö is truly a gem.
On the stairs outside cabin number 11 we find Sussie and Göran Nilsson from Bagarmossen. They gladly welcome a visit, so we have a seat at their nicely decorated porch. They are no newcomers to the island as they have been visiting Rånö for the last 15 years. First, they used to come during the weekends, and after they stopped working, they have been coming out here in April and don’t go back home to Bagarmossen until October.
– All the seasons have their own special charm here on the island. You can go for walks, read a book or pick mushrooms and blueberries, says Sussie.
Göran has been visiting Rånö since the 1960s, with some time off here and there. When he returned after a break he was worried that the place might have changed too much.
– I wondered what it would be like to come back here. But it is the same as in the 60s, nice and calm even when fully booked. Even at midsummer when there are a lot of families with children! It’s so nice to have kids playing outside. Our children and grandchildren have also become frequent visitors. Our son is here now, for example!
As more and more of the cabin guests start to set the table for lunch on their cabin porches we start to feel a little hungry, so we take a walk back to Rånö Källan.
At the restaurant we find one of the visitors helping to cover the outdoor dining area with a sun roof. It is one of those days when it is worth putting in some work to get some shade. After the work, they will be able to enjoy their reward. The bar has opened and the popular local beer from Nynäshamns Steam brewery is flying off the shelves.
That Rånö feeling and frequent visitors
On the other side of the gravel path from the outdoor dining area there are two older houses, one from the 18th century and the other from the middle of the 19th century. They are lovely quaint buildings that have been built for people a bit shorter than those that live on the island today. Mikael Zetterström, that runs the restaurant, the grocery shop and the cabin village on Rånö, lives in one of these houses. He is a man of normal height.
– In the beginning when I used to come here, I used to bump my head in the door frame every time I went outside. But, now I have gotten used to it and have installed both running water and toilets in the houses!
Mikael has been running operations at Rånö since 1995. He was originally just going to work here over the summer, but then he stayed. Mikael sounds a bit surprised still when he tells us about it. But then he describes his love for the island that makes us understand why someone would choose to stay for so long. He views the summer guests at Rånö as one big happy family.
– We have so many regular returning visitors here, says Mikael. Usually the families stop coming here when the kids are in the teenage years, but then they always come back. Many of the summer employees I have had have been kids that have spent their summers here together with their parents or that have grown up on one of the neighboring islands. More and more people fall in love with that special Rånö feeling as the regulars bring new guests. We never have to advertise; we are just automatically fully booked at the restaurant and in the cabins all the time.
Even though many visitors is good for business, the head of tourism at Rånös does look a bit tired in the bright sun. As responsible head at a place like this, you don’t get any time off in the summer.
– That’s the way it is with seasonal work. You work very hard during the summer and take it a bit easier during the winter. Sometimes it feels hard that you can’t enjoy summer, but we are here to make sure everyone that comes here for the summer has the best time possible.
Long walks and swimming
The fact that Rånö is a fairly uninhabited island that doesn’t fill up with archipelago tourists in the same way as Utö and Nåttarö does during the summer, and this attracts a certain kind of visitor. There is not much partying, besides a couple of beers at the bar, and those who book time at the cabins usually come to experience the peace and quiet.
All across the island there are many nice walking paths. If you follow the compass to the northeast along the so-called main road, you come to Rånö farm that has both cows and sheep. From there, it is not far to Hästholmsviken, one of many beautiful shallow beaches on the island.
If you prefer to swim from cliffs, you can stroll along the shore to the natural harbor Rånö harbor and then take a dip at Harviken, a bit north of the second natural harbor, Skutviken. After that, it is not far to get back to the classic archipelago lunch at Rånö Källan. Sometimes life doesn’t have to be so complicated.
Text: Annika Edestrand