Driftwood

Undoubtedly the settlers at Strandir saw large piles of timber when they first arrived on the coasts. During the first centuries driftwood is rarely mentioned in documents. But the values were obvious and the most powerful men would have realized the great value of the timber on the shores. Little was known until early in the 18th century when a comprehensive survey of all the farms in Iceland mentions driftwood as a commodity. 

As a result the people of Strandir were renowned for their craftsmanship making the handiwork a big part of the tenants income. We know of sailings across Húnaflói Bay and to the parliament at Þingvellir to sell their products, mostly small barrels, dishes, spoons and other things.

Old terms for different types of wood are not always clear and there was even an old belief that some of it grew on the bottom of the northern sea. Recent studies on dendrochronology tell us that most of the trunks come from the big rivers in eastern Siberia, get stuck in the polar ice and drift out between Greenland and Spitzbergen. The poles are mainly pine, spruce and larch but some pieces come from Northern Canada.

Magnús Rafnsson historian

Birds and flora

 Text under construction...

Owels, Blue grass, Chanterelle and Orchid...

Our valley

Bjarnarfjörður is a green and sparsely populated valley 25 km north of Hólmavík. The valley was settled by heathens in the late 9thcentury with many place names associated with heathenism, such as Hörsey, Hörfinnsey and Hörsvík. The mighty sorcerer Svanur from Svanshóli inhabited this area and is depicted in the most famous Icelandic saga NJÁLA. The valley is an optimal place for hikers who like solitude and those who enjoy peaceful highlands, rivers and waterfalls.

Bjarnarnes and Búðarvogur: When walking along the coast out to Bjarnarnes peninsula, you can´t help but being awestruck by the power of the sea and the sense of serenity that comes from being in the midst of untouched nature. The settler, Bjarni, made his home on the Bjarnarnes peninsula. Both the fjord and the peninsula were named after him. A pile of stones (Þorkellshaugur) marks a grave of two sheep herders who argued over the ownership of Bjarnarnes, ending in a fight with both perishing. The ruins of an old fishing center can still been seen by the creek, Búðarvogur.

Fossagangan
: Those who like longer walks and enjoy the tranquillity of the highlands should hike the Waterfall Trail (Fossagangan). The starting point of the hike is marked along the east side of Hallárdalsgjlúfur where the magnificent waterfall, Goðafoss, can be seen pouring into the canyon below. Walk into Hallardalur valley from the north side all the way to the top and discover an amazing view over the mountains, Balafjöllin. Continue north to the valley Asparvíkurdalur with its spectacular waterfalls. There’s no need to bring a water bottle on this hike because the water in Iceland’s pristine rivers and streams is clean and safe to drink. In Iceland, the rule of thumb is that if it is moving water, you can drink it.

Svansgjáin
: Svanur, the mighty sorcerer, once lived on a farm in Svanshól. He was the son of the first settler of Bjarnafjörður. The Icelandic Sagas describe how Svanur used sorcery to conjure up fog in order to prevent a group of men from crossing Bjarnarfjörður to kill a man that Svanur was hiding by making them get lost in the fog. When Svanur went out fishing from Kaldbaksvík, north of Bjarnarfjörður, it is said that he used a shortcut by walking through a rift, ending up on other side of the mountain in Kaldbaksvík where he rowed out to sea. In this canyon there is a square stone called Stakkasteinn where he laid his clothes to dry after returning from the sea.

Vörður á Bjarnarfjarðarhálsi
: Visitors sometimes think that the cairns seen in the highlands of Iceland are heathen burials. Instead, these heaps of stones served as ancient road maps and can still be seen in many places, such as the once on Bjarnarfjarðarháls.

Bjarnarfjarðará
: A perfect place for bird watching and experiencing the tranquility of an evening stroll along the river, Bjarnarfjarðará. Harlequin ducks, red throated divers and other waterfowl can be seen by the river.

Svörtu klettar
: Above Hotel Laugarhóll there are black cliffs called svörtu klettar. Water seeps out of the rock and hence called black cliffs because they are wet and consistently black in color. Witness the power of nature and how the water forms and constructs the landscape.

 

The staff

Vigdís Esradóttir and Einar Unnsteinsson are the hotel managers in Laugarhóll. The house was originally built as a grammar school and Dísa and Einar used to be teachers there and therefore well acquainted with the area. They are both educated as teachers but besides teaching Einar has been working in the film industry as a set-builder and art-director and Dísa is a former director of Salurinn, the first concert hall in Iceland. In 2009 they moved back to Bjarnarfjörður where they have built a home close to the hotel, partly out of driftwood (local wood of the area), and intend to spend the latter half of their lives in this peaceful valley. Einar and his brother in law, Esra, are the chefs at the restaurant, with their unconditional love for food. In additon to those three there are seven other empoyees who take pride in making the visitors comfortable and feeling at home.