East of Sund, this is another mighty sight in Åland. Following the war of 1808–09, Russia began to build this major military structure and naval base as its westernmost defence against the Swedes. At its core was a huge fortress, built from brick and strengthened with distinctive octagonal blocks, containing a garrison town, and protected by ramparts and a planned 15 fortified towers. Over the bridge, Prästö became Bomarsund’s island of the dead, with a military hospital and separate Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim and Christian graveyards . The epic construction work took decades, drawing in masons, craftsmen and soldiers from across the Russian Empire.
In 1854 the fortress was still incomplete when the Crimean War began and a French-British naval force bombarded it heavily from the sea. The fortress had been a quarter of a century in the making; within two days the Russians were forced to surrender it.
The ruins stretch for a couple of kilometres, on both sides of the road. Only three of the defensive towers were completed and today, along with the Huvudfästet (Main Fort), they make the most impressive sights, particularly Brännklint tower , its walls scarred by cannon- and rifle-balls. The overgrown foundations of the garrison town Nya Skarpans , populated only by ants and butterflies, are also atmospheric.
Across the water on Prästö, the small Bomarsund museum displays bits and pieces excavated from the ruins.