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Wheelchair visitor inside log cabin from Hawkhill Cottage Resort

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Hawkhill Cottage Resort and Experiences Accessible by Wheelchair


This article is written by Sanna Kalmari - an accessible tourism expert and traveler. Find out more about Sanna at her Finnish blog PalmuAsema.


I have spent time in a cottage in the summer and winter but never before during the autumn. What a mistake, autumn is a great season for this! The cozy atmosphere is great, the air is crisp, there is still natural light, and most likely great weather for enjoying the outdoors. Another new experience for me on my one-day autumn cottage trip was that I was able to travel to the cottage in just over half an hour. This is possible for the residents of the Helsinki metropolitan area thanks to the high-quality, luxurious Hawkhill Cottage Resort in the heart of the Nuuksio National Park in Vihti. It is worth your time visiting the resort from nearby, and people come here from abroad as well. I drove here, but Hawkhill will also help you arrange an accessible taxi ride.

There are a total of eight different-sized cottages at Hawkhill. Three of the cottages have been made more accessible recently. Hawkhill has become more observant of the importance of accessibility in recent years thanks to increased knowledge, training and accessibility surveys. The owner, Annu Huotari, recognised that the accessibility of some of the cottages could be improved quite easily. At that point, however, the cottages had already existed for several years and it was not possible to improve accessibility to the level that could have been planned in the construction phase. For example, the bathrooms are small and do not comply with accessibility regulations. With minor changes and accessible entrances, three of the Hawkhill cottages were made more suitable for people with reduced mobility. However, I should warn you that the cottages are still not ideal for everyone.

I spent a whole day in Villa Maria with my assistant Jenni and my friend Saila, who also uses an electric wheelchair. In addition to the wonderful cottage and magnificent views from the windows, we were able to enjoy the accessible activities related to a cottage holiday Hawkhill has to offer. The day became a comprehensive adventure holiday, just what Hawkhill wants to provide to the guests. In addition to the activities and high-quality cottages, Hawkhill provides its customers with friendly services, an exemplary sustainability model and the opportunity enjoy things together.

Wheelchair visitor admiring lake view
Photo: Sanna Kalmari

Partly accessible Villa Maria

Or even completely accessible, depending on your needs. Villa Maria is a six-person cottage, made from handcrafted logs in 2014, that can also be called a villa. Villa Maria is located next to the lake and its high windows reveal magnificent lakeside views. All of the Hawkhill cottages are located in the same area but all of them have their own calm environment. The Villa Maria entrance has a long ramp equipped with handrails that suit the style very well and a wooden threshold ramp at the front door. Accessing the door with my electric wheelchair from the ramp was easy. The villa has a spacious interior. The views I already praised were before me in the glorious combination of the kitchenette and the living room, where I could have spent another day just enjoying the scenery while sipping wine or glögg. I worked remotely for a while in the morning, and the views could not have been any better. The kitchen is equipped with all amenities. The cottage has two bedrooms with separate beds. Both bedrooms can be accessed easily with a wheelchair. With the sofa bed, located in a calm space in front of the sauna and bathroom, the cottage offers a total of six beds.

The bathroom is spacious and barrier-free. The shower has a sturdy, movable shower chair. The first steps of the sauna can be removed in order to access the sauna with a small wheeled shower chair. The largest challenge related to the accessibility of the interior of the cottage is the small toilet. You can get inside in a wheelchair, but you can’t turn around. My friend can get up from her chair and sit on the toilet on her own, so the room is perfectly suitable for her as she can get her electric wheelchair across the toilet. My assistant managed to carry me to the toilet. It was a fine arrangement in these circumstances as we knew each other well, but this would not work in a conference, for instance. I was also prepared to use my wheeled shower chair to get on the toilet. There is no barrier at the door, so getting inside would have been easy. I was not able to reach the sink in the toilet, which would have been unpleasant if we had stayed longer. Instead, I used the bathroom and a bowl of water to wash my hands. 

The lakeside back terrace of Villa Maria can be reached from the interior. You can also go around the building to reach the backyard. The beach can only be reached by steep stairs, which was surprisingly not so disappointing as there is only a dock at the beach and the point is to spend time in the backyard anyway. The barbecue hut is not accessible, but you can also bring the grill next to the terrace. Hawkhill has an accessible route to this beach or an adjacent beach in the list of their future development plans.

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Wheelchair visitor inside log house by Hawkhill Cottage Resort
Photo: Sanna Kalmari

Partly accessible Villa Taavetti and Villa Eino

Villa Taavetti is the most accessible of the Hawkhill villas. I also had a look at this spacious, luxurious villa for eight persons made from logs, just like Villa Maria. Villa Taavetti is popular among business guests, but it is just as suitable for holidaymakers. Its interior features the same accessibility challenge as Villa Maria, a small toilet. You can get inside to face the toilet seat, but there is no room for turning. The bathroom, bedrooms, and other rooms are spacious, the terrace is accessible and a stylish wooden ramp leads you indoors. It is possible to get inside the sauna in a small, narrow-wheeled shower chair if you move the lower steps under the sauna boards. The Villa Taavetti yard is large with an accessible fireplace and beach. A beautiful wooden bridge improves the accessibility of the yard. We visited the Villa Taavetti yard and beach on our first night, the following day it was reserved for others.

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Wheelchair visitor approaching partly accessible toilet
Photo: Sanna Kalmari

Villa Eino is Hawkhill’s oldest accessible cottage and has the poorest level of accessibility. It is gorgeous, however. According to the description on the Hawkhill website, the villa combines Finnish tradition of building with logs, the amenities of a detached house and the atmosphere of a hunting cottage. Its large front terrace has a spectacular view of the lake. The beach and the fireplace there can be reached by steep steps. You can also get there by going around the cottage, but the terrain there seems challenging. A ramp built next to the terrace leads you inside to the spacious interior. The toilet is very small with a narrow doorway. The doorway to the bathroom is also narrow. You can’t get inside the toilet in a wheelchair, so this cottage is more suitable for people who can walk a little.

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Wheelchair visitor approaching Villa Eino in Hawkhill Cottage Resort
Photo: Sanna Kalmari

From a cottage holiday to an accessible adventure holiday

The Hawkhill area and its partners provide various accessible activities for your cottage holiday or a company meeting. The area is surrounded by the Nuuksio National Park, which can be explored on your own or on a guided tour by renting an all-terrain wheelchair from Hawkhill. We started our cottage holiday with a quiz led by Janne from Erä-Atlas. We identified (or rather, tried to identify) the animal droppings encased in glass jars and the tracks of animals in the snow. We did pretty poorly, but we learned a lot about nature. We also practiced making different types of knots. I did better in this activity and the thin, light rope was easy to handle with my hands. Starting a fire with a tinderbox was not for me, which I knew already in advance. Janne is very friendly, skillful, and easily approachable.

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Woman with disabilities inside canoe
Photo: Sanna Kalmari

One of the highlights of our day at the cottage was canoeing, something I have been looking forward to trying for a long time. This was particularly special as we were accompanied by Risto Karjalainen, whose company, Adventuristo, has arranged canoeing and other nature activities for people with a wide variety of disabilities. I am always a bit skeptical if I take part in an activity that requires me to leave my electric wheelchair. I can’t put any weight on my feet, my core is weak and I can’t sit just anywhere. However, Risto’s character and professionalism made me trust him immediately. He has made various seats suitable for canoes. A seat that provided back support and a little side support without restricting my position was ideal for me. A mode with support between the legs is also available for those who need more support.

We used my ableSling transfer sling to get in the canoe with the help of Risto and my assistant Jenni. The Hawkhill beach is not ideal for these transfers and it was not possible to get the wheelchair right next to the canoe, but we managed. I sat in the middle while Risto and Jenni paddled on a calm lake in the autumn weather – so perfect! After my canoeing trip, we changed places with Saila so she could enjoy this experience as well. Risto is a really skilled professional. He doesn’t make a fuss and it is easy and safe to be around him. He is involved in the events of various associations and likes to work with different types of groups. Risto also makes accessible fireplaces. The Adventuristo website is under development, but they are already on Instagram with the handle

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Guide and wheelchair visitor at Wildherbs guided tour
Photo: Sanna Kalmari

After canoeing, we sat around a campfire to enjoy warm sandwiches that were topped with freshly picked mushrooms. For dessert, we made crepes. They were just the best at that moment. Especially when I covered them with spruce sprout caramel made by Annu. The next morning, after Saila had gone to work, me and Jenni met with Lisbeth, who helped us take a moment to breathe and relax. Lisbeth’s WellStudio offers a variety of wellness services suitable for all that can be arranged in nature. Breathing exercises feel completely different on a lakeside terrace than when performed indoors.

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Our wellness morning ended with a wild herb walk around the Hawkhill area with Annu. We learned a lot about edible wild herbs that can be found in nature from Annu. It is amazing how much can be found so near. There were mushrooms all around and, in the berry season, you can pick berries right from the yard. At Hawkhill, you can genuinely feel nature with all your senses. Only the noises made by airplanes reminded us of how close our homes were. We also made foot bath salts from sea salt and nature’s bounty for each of us to take home. I plan to treat myself with a foot bath in the dark October evenings and reminisce about the warm autumn day.

Genuinely sustainable

Hawkhill is a family company that invests strongly in sustainability and respects nature in all of their decisions. They instruct their customers to pay attention to nature, they build bug hotels, birdhouses, and decayed wood fences with their guests, they have their bed linen washed by a small local company and the forest restaurant serves local food with low emissions, etc. The cottages' yard has a place where guests can borrow various pieces of equipment for activities and other useful items for their cottage holiday. A really nice idea! For example, it would not make sense to get children’s life jackets for all of the cottages as they are not used all the time. You can just borrow the jacket that fits you best. In addition to the environment, Hawkhill pays close attention to social sustainability, the well-being of their guests, employees, and local community. Developing accessibility and meeting as many needs as possible plays a major part in this.

Although it is a shame that not all of the Hawkhill cottages can be made accessible to everyone, I value it greatly that they are making an effort to make the resort more accessible. Accessibility surveys of the cottages have been carried out before the alteration work and comprehensive information about accessibility can be found on the Hawkhill website. Different people have individual needs regarding accessibility and at the moment, the cottages can be enjoyed by those who need a ramp to get inside but do not necessarily need an accessible toilet. However, Villa Maria was surprisingly comfortable for me as well. Even during this brief visit, everything that Hawkhill and Annu Huotari did conveyed a sense of sincerity, attention, warmth, and good cooperation with other local companies. I encourage everyone to contact them without hesitation to explain your needs. 

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This stay was part of my cooperation with the Sustainable Growth for Tourism: Southern Finland - project. This autumn (2023), I tried out sites and services in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Turku that have invested in accessibility to tell you more about them. The Sustainable Growth for Tourism project supports the recovery and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and the Regional Council of Southwest Finland as part of the measures carried out in 2021–2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. -Sanna Kalmari

Hero Image: Sanna Kalmari