These evocative ruins are some of the most beautiful in Scandinavia. We've often stood here for an hour just taking in the eerie beauty of this setting at the top of the sheer, steep face of the Landborg Cliffs, just southwest of the center of Borgholm. As the keeper of the castle told us, "Strolling through the ruins is like thumbing through the pages of a history book covering 8 centuries."

In the Middle Ages, this was one of Sweden's major royal castles and was a center of intrigue and endless battles. Subject to frequent attacks, it guarded the sound and was Sweden's southernmost outpost against Denmark. The castle was partially destroyed during the Kalmar War (1611-13). King Karl X Gustav ordered that the castle be restored and turned into a baroque palace, but building was interrupted in 1709 because of a cash shortage. In 1806, fire reduced the palace to its present ruins. Remains of the original fortified circular tower can still be seen in the northwest corner of the inner courtyard.

We like to attend summer concerts here -- called "Music in the Ruins" -- and there's also a nature reserve nearby good for wandering. From late June through mid-August, children's activities are scheduled.

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Lying only a short walk south is the royal family's Italian-style villa, Solliden, which they use as their residence in summer. This white palace was built between 1903 and 1906 by Queen Victoria of Sweden. Their home is off-limits, but you can stroll through Solliden Park , the gardens of the villa.