We woke to a bright sunny morning in Siglufjörður and thought that was a good omen for the day. We were up, packed and breakfasted, ready to be out of our hotel by 8.30 am. We had around 28 kms to travel today. By the time we left, the clouds were covering the mountains. The first hour of our drive to Búðardalur was high along the headlands of the fjord and it was in deep fog. We could barely see 100 metres.
However, the rest of the day became fine and sunny. In fact, the temperature reached 18C.
For the first part of the day, we were driving on secondary roads with little traffic. By mid morning, we were back on Highway 1 (the Ring Road) and there was a considerable increase in the number of vehicles traveling in both directions. We noticed a few squiggly signs indicating points of interest and stopped at one that pointed to a cute little church at Glaumbær. Next door to it was a more significant POI and that was a turf house museum.
Turf Houses were the product of a difficult climate, offering superior insulation compared to buildings solely made of wood or stone, and the relative difficulty in obtaining other construction materials in sufficient quantities. When first settled, thirty percent of Iceland was forested, mostly with birch. Oak was the preferred timber for building Norse halls in Scandinavia, but native birch had to serve as the primary framing material here where it is more remote. Iceland did have a large amount of turf that was suitable for construction. Some structures in Norway had turf roofs, so the early settlers were familiar with using it as a building material
The common Icelandic turf farm house would have a large foundation made of flat stones; upon this was built a wooden frame which would hold the load of the turf. The turf would then be fitted around the frame in blocks often with a second layer, in a herringbone style. The only external wood would be the doorway which would often be decorative. It would lead into the hall which would commonly have a great fire. The floor of a turf house could be covered with wood, stone or earth depending on the purpose of the building. They also contain grass on their roofs.
Most of our day was spent driving through farmland along the side of broad fjords. Each farm had a house and several large barns. It was interesting country although nothing special stood out as a major attraction. There wee some lovely river valleys with fast flowing streams.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at Hvammstangi,a little way north of the Ring Road.This little town is an important service centre for the surrounding area. It is a regional provider of education and it has been an important trading center since 1846. The town has a growing tourism based around a nearby seal colony. The fishing industry (providing mainly shrimp) is also very important to the town’s economy. The town also owns the largest textile factory in Iceland.
From our picnic table by the jetty, we watched as a semi trailer carrying fishing boat reversed on to the wharf and unloaded it with its crane right into the harbour.
There must have been a festival of some sort today, as when we left, we passed a young lady wearing a garland of flowers. She was being transported on a ‘cyclo’ style of bicycle with a large crowd behind her down the main street. She smiled and waved at everyone including us, so we smiled and waved in return.
Across the fjord, and at the place where we turned to head further west on a gravel road, was the tiny settlement of Borðeyri. This little hamlet was once a flourishing trading centre but it has has seen its population and level of service decline in the last couple of decades. Its oldest house is the Riis-house. It was home to a merchant by the name of; you guessed it, Riis, who lived here in the early 1900s. The red coloured guest house at the end of the road looks to be today’s major commercial establishment. The settlement looks quite cute but it has clearly seen better days.
From there, we drove 37 km along a gravel road, around the edge of the fjord to get to our overnight stop at Fellsströnd. The gravel road seemed very long and became more and more narrow as we continued along the edge of the fjord. The number of sheep on the road increased inversely to its width!
The lodge is is a conveted farmhouse that overlooks the Snæfellsnes Glacier and Breidafjördur Bay. It is in a very remote setting with its own Foss (waterfall) cascading down the ridge behind it. We are here for just one night before heading to one of our last places in Iceland tomorrow in the very remote Western Fjords.