Bjarg in Mifj÷rur
Bjarg in Mifj÷rur is the birthplace of the greatest outlaw in Icelandic history, Grettir ┴smundarson the strong. At Bjarg Grettir always had refuge with his mother ┴sdÝs, and despite how improbable it seems for an outlaw, his home was at Bjarg. Grettir was born sometime around the year 1000 and he did not become an old man. Many place names in the neighbourhood of Bjarg and indeed throughout the county bear the name of the outlaw e.g. Grettishaf, Greetistak and Grettish÷fi at Arnarvatn. Grettir dwelt at Grettish÷fi for several winters and was uncomfortable there because he was afraid of the dark. Grettir was killed on the island of Drangey in Skagafj÷rur and his killers brought the head of the champion to his mother ┴sdÝs who buried it under a stone in the field at Bjarg. A memorial was erected to ┴sdÝs at Bjarg in1974. The memorial displays relief from Grettirs saga made by Halldˇr PÚtursson.
Bˇla is a small farm where the poet Hjßlmar Jˇnsson, called Bˇlu Hjßlmar, lived between 1833-1843. Bˇla is now deserted but a memorial to Bˇlu Hjßlmar has been erected there in a small grove.
Above the farm Bˇla lies a canyon, Bˇlugil, with beautifully shaped palisades. The sagas tell that it is named after a bondwoman, witch or ogre, who was called Bˇla, who was both vicious and unmanageable. She lived in cave in the canyon and stole from the farmers in the neighbourhood. Her story ended when a shepherd drowned her in a pool in the Bˇluß river. In the canyon are many beautiful waterfalls and it is possible to walk in a circle around the edge of the canyon.
In Vesturhˇp is the church and historical site Breiabˇlstaur. The first laws of Iceland were written at Breiabˇlstaur. In earlier times a print shop was located here and the farm was considered exceptionally good, among the best benefice in the north of Iceland. The bar association of Iceland has erected a memorial by the farm. In recent years archaeological research has been carried out at the farm.
The Oratory at Gr÷f
The oratory is the oldest house of god in Iceland, from the latter part of the 17th century but the place is considered to have even older origins. The current church was deconsecrated in 1765 but after much repair, on behalf of its owner the National Museum, it was consecrated again in 1953. It is considered that Gumundur Gumundsson from BjarnastaahlÝ in Vesturdalur, the most renowned craftsman in Iceland in the 17th century constructed the church and decorated the carving in the Baroque style. This style is very rare in churches in Iceland, but it is very noticeable on the altar and on the wings of the church. Mrs. Ragnheiur Jˇnsdˇttir, whose picture is on the Icelandic 5,000 Kr. Banknote, and her husband Bishop GÝsli Ůˇrlßksson asked Gumundur to build the church. Gr÷f was at that time the sanctuary for the widows of bishops. The building is amongst the smallest houses of god in Icelandic Christendom and it shows how poor the small churches were but also how skilful the church builders were. The church is located just south of Hofsˇs.
n olden times the island was the main food source for the people in Skagafj÷rur and was known as the milch cow of Skagafj÷rur. Grettirs saga says that the outlaws Grettir and Illugi, sons of ┴smundur, dwelled on the Island for 3 years between 1028-1031. The swim by Grettir from Drangey (Drangeyjarsund) is famous. Many folk tales are connected to the Island. Travel to Drangey - see sightseeing and adventure tours.
A church is located at Efri N˙pur and in its cemetery lays at rest the Poetess. Tourists often visit her grave, but Rˇsa is known for her love poems, which she wrote to her lover Natan Ketilsson who was murdered at Illugastair at Vatnsnes.
Flugumřri is an ancient manor in Bl÷nduhlÝ, there the chieftan of ┴sbirningar lived during the age of the Sturlings. Gizur Ůorvaldsson, who later became the only Icelandic Earl, also lived there. In 1253 the enemies of Gizur tried to kill him by burning down his house during wedding feast of his son. Gizur escaped harm by hiding in a barrel of skyr (sour yoghurt) but all of his sons and his wife died.
ForsŠludalur is a farm inside Vatnsdalur, which is the closest to the highlands of the east. According to the book Landnßma Frimundur the man whom Frimundarv÷tn (Lakes of Frimundur) are called after, lived at ForsŠludalur. Frimundarß runs through several waterfalls on its way from Auk˙luheii down to Vatnsdalsß just by the farm ForsŠludalur. It was at ForsŠludalur that Grettir wrestled with Glßmur.
GlaumbŠr is a farm in Seyluhreppur (rural district) and there is the GlaumbŠr Museum with exhibitions in a turf house mostly from the 18th century, although the houses are of different ages. In GlaumbŠr you can see how people lived on a large estate in Iceland through the ages. A timber house from ┴s in Hegranes (┴sh˙s) is also at GlaumbŠ. It was built in the years 1883 - 1886 as a women's school. Now it holds a reception desk and a CafÚ. The house was one of the largest timber houses in Skagafj÷rur, it is very elaborate and important in every way. During the 11th century Snorri Ůorfinsson lived at GlaumbŠr. He was the son of Ůorfinnur Karlsefni and GurÝur Ůorbjarnardˇttir, and is said to be the first European to be born in North America. Snorri is reputed to have been buried at GlaumbŠr. Phone 453 6173
Glˇafeykir is a steep mountain by Flugumřmri - 990 meters over see level. After the bishop Jˇn Arason was killed a Danish battleship came into Eyjafj÷rur in 1515. When this news came to Hˇlar, Helga Sigurardˇttur a follower/mistress of Bishop Jˇn escaped up into the hillsides of Glˇafeykir. She hid in a tent and was brought food and other necessities.
Grafarˇs was a trading centre from 1835 - 1915. The Danish merchant C.M. Nisson began his trading there after he was routed by the arrogation of the merchant in Hofsˇs. It was the British Henderson trading 1861-1868, which transformed trading patterns for the better, and the people of Skagafj÷rur praised the lord for sending them Henderson. In Grafarˇs there are many ruins of trading-, residential- and outbuildings.
At the end of Reykjastr÷nd is the deserted farm Reykir and it is just below it that Grettir ┴smundsson came ashore after his swim from Drangey. There is a hot pool, which the sagas tell Grettir bathed in after his swim. The pool has now been built up and it is possible to bathe in the same manner as when Grettir came to shore. At Reykir you will also find sea cottage, which is being renovated, and from there in earlier times people rowed out to the fishing grounds.
North of the field at Stˇru-Giljß, a few metres from Route 1 (the main highway) is a large stone. The stone is known as Gullsteinn (Golden stone) and it is told that farmer Korßn, the father of Ůorvaldur VÝf÷rli, believed in the stone. Korßn did not want to be baptised by his son because he thought the protective spirit of the stone would become angry. Bishop Frirekur then went to the stone and sang over it until it exploded. A few metres from the stone is a memorial was raised in 1981 to remember that 1000 years had passed since the missionary work of Ůorvaldur VÝf÷rli and Bishop Frirekur.
Haugsnes is low peninsula south of Flugumřri. At Haugsnes the most destructive battle in Icelandic history took place in April 1246. There the Sturlungar fought the ┴sbirningar. About 110 men fell and amongst them were Brandur Kolbeinsson chieftain of the ┴sbirningar and this was the end of their power. After the battle a large cross was erected on the site, which is believed to have stood there until the 16th century.
East of Hegranes the ancient assembly of the Skagfiringar, Hegranes■ing, is to be found. This place was an assembly site from 930- 1262 but longer for the three chieftainships in Skagafj÷rur. Quarterly assemblies were held there as common assemblies for the north of Iceland. There are still some remains to be seen from these times.
Hegranes■ing is often mentioned in the Icelandic sagas and other sources. A distinguished account is from 1305 when an agent of the Norwegian king who heralded new laws was ganged up on. Another account is out of Grettissaga when Grettir ┴smundsson returned from Drangey and wrestled at the assembly just before the year 1030. He was given a pardon, before people recognised him, and he left without being molested.
Hof Ý Vatnsdal
Hof is a farm in east Vatnsdalur. Here lived Old Ingimundur Ůorsteinsson who settled the whole of Vatnsdalur from Helgavatn and Urarvatn. Ingimundur was among the settlers of Iceland who did not flee out of Norway. Ingimundur was a friend and a supporter of the Norwegian king Harlaldur Hßrfagri. One night at a mid winter ceremony a prophetess predicted to Ingimundur that he would settle in a land called Iceland and there he would become a respected man and his family would grow greatly. Ingimundur is considered to have settled in Vatnsdalur around the year 900. He was the chieftan of the VatnsdŠlir while he was alive. In the field at Hof is a knoll Gohˇll that is believed to be the place where Ingimundur's temple stood. There is also a beautiful grove at this site, which includes Icelandic aspen trees planted in 1927.
Hofsˇs is one of the oldest trading centers in Iceland. In the hollow (as it is called) you will find many older houses, which have been renovated recently and give the town an interesting and distinguished look. The old log house (Bßlkah˙s), which dates from the time of the trading monopoly, is found in the hollow. It is one of the oldest houses in the country, erected in 1777. The house is protected and owned by the National Museum of Iceland. It has recently been renovated and can now be seen close to its original state. It holds exhibitions connected to the history of Drangey. The old cooperative building has found a new function and now accommodates the so-called Vesturfarasafn (The Icelandic Emigration centre),- which is dedicated to the westward migration of the Icelandic people. This movement reached its highest point at the turn of the 19th century.
In addition several new buildings have now been erected there which fit well with the old style of the town and accommodate various exhibitions, which are connected to the lives of Icelandic people in the New World. At StaarbjargvÝk just below Hofsˇs unique basalt column formation can be found.
Hˇlar Ý Hjaltadal
Hˇlar is one of two Episcopal seats in Iceland and one of the primary historical places in Iceland. The Bishopric was created in 1106 and the first bishop was Jˇn Ígmundsson. For seven centuries Hˇlar was a bishopric and thereto a school has been operated there for centuries. During these times Hˇlar really was the capital of northern part of Iceland. The bishopric came to an end in 1801 however it was revived in 1985 and now the auxiliary bishop sits there. The most well known bishops were Jˇn Arason the last catholic bishop and Gubrandur Ůorlßksson who printed Gubrands bible. Jˇn Arason bought the first printing press to Iceland. The most well known bishops were Jˇn Arason the last catholic bishop and Gubrandur Ůorlßksson (Gumundur the Good) who printed Gubrands bible. Jˇn Arason bought the first printing press to Iceland.
The current church at Hˇlar is the fifth cathedral in a row and was erected in 1763 and is built of red sandstone from Hˇlabrya a mountain that overlooks the site. It is the oldest stone church in Iceland and has now to some extent been reconstructed to its earlier form. The church and its relics are very remarkable and it is possible to take guided tours of the church every day between 9 am and 6 pm.
The school at Hˇlar was revived in 1882 and the agriculture school was founded as an endeavour to counteract the westward migration of the Icelandic people. Now the school teaches equine and tourism studies at University level as well as fish farming. Tourism services operate at Hˇlar from May to the end of August. A variety of recreational activities are available both at Hˇlar and in its neighbourhood. For example a pamphlet has been prepared for tourist to follow a historical trail through the interesting places at Hˇlar. Phone 453 6333, 453 6300.
Illugastair is mostly known as the scene of the tragedy prior to the last execution in Iceland but also for its extensive Eider duck laying area, one of the largest in the country. The ruins of the workshop of Natan Ketilsson still stand there among the other sites that played large role in the dramatic events, which occurred in Illugastair early in the 18th century.
The mound of Mannskaahˇll/ Vatn lies at the southern end of H÷favatn and there a large battle was held in 1431. It is said that 80 Englishmen fell and were buried in two mounds alongside the road, which are called RŠningjadysjar. Later it came to light that these were natural mounds over which rocks had been thrown because people believed that they were burial cairns. The bones, which are now believed to be from the actual cairn, were found south of the H÷faß river
Mßlmey is an island on the east side of Skagafj÷rur. Even thought it is long and low it still rises as high as 125 m above sea level. The island was inhabited until 1950. Folk tale says that no one may live there longer than 20 years. If this rule were broken the housewife would disappear and never be seen again. The first lighthouse in Iceland was built in a church on the island. Journey to see Mßlmey - see sightseeing and adventure tours.
MiklibŠr is a presbytery in Bl÷nduhlÝ. Many people know the famous ghost story about MiklabŠjar-Sˇlveig and Reverend Oddur GÝslason. Reverend Oddur disappeared and was never seen again and the ghost was blamed.
Neri - ┴s Ý Hjaltadal
Neri - ┴s in Hjaltadalur is an important archaeological site. Archaeologists have calculated that this is the site of the oldest church in the Iceland, built about 1000 years ago, in the year 984. In the Christianity saga and according to Ůorvaldur VÝf÷rli it is said that Ůorvaldur Spak B÷varsson converted to Christianity and built a church at Neri-┴s 16 winters before the adoption of Christianity in Iceland.
Awareness of this site has been there for a long time as an old sheepcote, which stood on this site was called the oratory. There is also a graveyard at the site and graves with human bones have been found. The timber from the church is carbonised and therefore has been well preserved. It is believed that a workshop has stood between the sheepcote and the church in which some kind of iron manufacturing took place thereby, leaving the timber carbonised.
Reynistaur is an ancient manor and farm in Staarhreppur (rural district). Here there was a cloister from 1295 - 1552. Many chieftains lived in Reynistaur and the most renowned is probably Gizur Ůorvaldsson who lived here as an earl from 1261-1268. Many know the famous account of the Reynistair brothers Einar and Bjarni Halldˇrsson who were killed at the highlands in Kj÷lur in 1780. After this many people believed Kj÷lur was haunted.
Spßnskan÷f is situated in Skagastr÷nd just to the north of the estuary of Laxß in Refasveit. There can be found a very steep drop to the beach, about 40-50 meters. There is a lot of bird life is in the cliffs and reefs out from the shore. It is worthwhile to do this route. The Sagas tell that at this spot Spanish pirates came to land and headed for the vicarage at H÷skuldsstair. The priest gathered his men and stallions, had brushwood tied to the stallions and set on fire. Then the stallions were pushed towards the pirates and some of them died on the field and others fell into the cliffs. The name derives from this encounter.
Skatastair in Austurdalur is on the west bank of the J÷kulsß River. Here there is cable car over the river, the only one in Skagafj÷rur. The cable car is well used by travellers, who want to try passing the powerful river this way.
Skeljungssteinn (stone) is on Skeljungsh÷fi (cape), which lies towards the estuary of Norurß River, just by the road to the mouth of the Norurßrdalur valley. The stone features in the Saga about GrÝmur Skeljungsbani (Skeljungs killer). Skeljungur was a sheperd on the farm Silfrastair when alive but came back after his death as a ghost and became the worst ogress, but GrÝmur the farmer's son at Silfrastair overpowered him. GrÝmur cut with his spear two holes through the stone at home in Silfrastair and tied the ghost there while he went for fire. When he came back the ghost was dragging the stone up the hill, but with difficulty, so GrÝmur caught him at Skeljugsh÷fi and burnt him until Skeljungur was nothing but ashes.
Stˇru - Akrar
AT Stˇru-Akrar can be found the remains of the farm Sk˙li Magn˙sson, the landballif, build in the 18th century. The assembly house and the house of Sk˙li. Sk˙li can be found there. Sk˙li was a Sheriff in Skagafj÷rur from 1711 - 1794. There was a ferry at Akrar over HÚrasv÷tn and a tow ferry operated there until 1927.
Tyrfingsstair is just to the north of Merkigil, by Kjßlkavegur (turn from rout 1. at the mouth of Norurßrdalur). There you will find turf houses, which are mostly well preserved and the farm is especially remarkable because it has remained untouched and includes the outhouses. You can see how the outhouses were distributed through the fields in earlier times. The farm is situated in a beautiful environment and other settlements are hardly to be seen from there, so a trip there is like going back in time. The farm was inhabited until 1969.
Vallalaug is in field east of Ytra - Vallholt. This was in earlier times an assembly place, which is often mentioned in the sagas both in ancient and later centuries. There took place the assembly of three rural districts, Seyluhreppur, Lřtingsstaahreppur, og Akrahreppur. The Sheriff of Skagafj÷rur, Sk˙li Magn˙sson, was the last to hold a meeting here. In Sturlunga it is said that the father and son Sighvatur Sturluson and Sturla met there just prior to the battle of Írlygsstair. At that time the lakes - HÚrasv÷tn - reached to the west of Skiphˇl and Vallholtshˇl.
Ůingeyrar was known as one of the largest farms and church sites in H˙na■ing. From Ůingeyrar church is one of the widest and most beautiful views in the county. No farm in the county was as large as Ůingeyrar and rich men and chieftains lived there throughout the ages. Ůingeyrar lies close to Mihˇp and from there lies a reef almost to the other side of the lake. It is likely that these are the estuary /eyrar from which the name Ůingeyrar is derived.
Ůingeyrarkirkja - the church at Ůingeyrar gives it a grand look and it is now the only visible reminder of the ancient dignity of the place. The congressman ┴sgeir Einarsson had the church built. Prior to this there was an old turf church the site. ┴sgeir decided to build the church with stone, but suitable material was not available in the vicinity so in the winter 1864 - 1865 ┴sgeir had stone moved from Nesbj÷rg to the church site. The stone was taken by sled over the ice-covered lake Hˇp, an 8 km long journey. A Stonemason by the name of Sverrir Runˇlfsson built the church walls. Each stone in the walls was put in stowage or tied down and also glued with chalk, therefore the stones have not moved to this day. ┴sgeir and Sverrir arranged most of the plans for the church and its building took 13 years.
On The 9th of September 1877 the Reverend EirÝkur Briem from Steinnes consecrated the church. Objects from the old church were moved to the new one. The church has many valuable objects. The oldest of these is an altarpiece made of alabaster probably from the 13th century. The pulpit is probably of Dutch origin and from the year 1696. The pulpit was a gift from Lßrus Gottr˙p lawyer, who resided at Ůingeyrar monastery from 1683 - 1721. He also gave a bounteous silver baptismal font with the date 1663 and the date 1697. The church also owns a silver chalice and an alter linen with the date 1763.
Between the church and the old church site is an oval shaped garden called L÷grÚtta. It is 25 meters in diameter from the east to west and 20 meters from north to south. It is a protected site and is believed to be the ancient assembly place (■ing) for the H˙navatn region.
In the Saga of Jˇn the saint Bishop of Hˇlar is told times when famine constricted people and the weather was so cold that the earth was frozen long into the summer. The Bishop went to the spring assembly at Ůingeyrar and with the approval of all the assembly he vowed to build a church and farm at Ůingeyrar. The same week the ice melted and vegetation began to flourish so it was possible to leave the animals out to browse. This is supposed to have happened early in the 11th century. The decision was made to build a monastery at Ůingeyrar probably on the advise of Bishop Jˇn. The monastery was founded in 1133 and was the first in Iceland. It followed the monastic order of Benedicts of Nurcia but the church was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. The monks vowed to dwell for life in the monastery and upheld its customs and obey the orders of their superior. They could not marry nor own anything - big or small.
The time of the foundation of the monastery is the beginning of the age of literature in Iceland and the literary pursuits were great in Ůingeyrar monastery. The Abbot Karl Jˇnsson recorded the Saga of King Sverrir. The monks Gunnlaugur Leifsson and Oddur Snorrason wrote the Saga of King Ëlafur Tryggvason and also the holy Saga of King Ëlafur Haraldsson. The Abbot ┴rngrÝmur Brandson wrote the Saga of Bishop Gumundur the Good, which is thereby the oldest portrayal of Iceland. It is probable that the Sagas of H˙navetningar were written in Ůingeyrar that is: HeiarvÝga Saga, VatnsdŠla, Hallfrear Saga, Kˇrmßks Saga, Bandamanna Saga and Grettis Saga (Yearbook of the Travel Association of Iceland 1964, p. 182).
The monastery stood from 1133 until the reformation - for about 400 years and by then it owned most of the farms in the region. With the coming of the new religion Ůingeyrar monastery was closed. The King appropriated its properties and his agents controlled them. Most men who resided in cloisters became prosperous and wealthy men. No one who sat in Ůingeyar did so with the extent of generousity of Lßrus Gottr˙p. In 1638 he attained the monastery due to a feud and had power over half the county. He was tough to deal with and had disputes with chieftains but he fought for rights of the Icelandic people before the King and helped achieving many useful things. He was a wealthy man and he resided with honour at the ancient manor.
Westernmost in Vatnsdalshˇlar and north of route 1 (the main highway) are a number of unique small hills and at one specific place stand three adjoining ones- ŮrÝstapar. It is here that the last execution in Iceland was held. On the 12th of January in 1830 Fririk Sigursson and Agnes Magn˙sdˇttir were beheaded for the murder of Natan Ketilsson and PÚtur Jˇnsson from Illugastair in West H˙navatn County. The execution block and axe have been preserved by the National Museum of Iceland. A memorial stone has been erected at the execution site.
Írlygsstair is in Bl÷nduhlÝ, and has never been inhabited. In August 1238 one of the biggest battles in Iceland occurred here, when the three most powerful tribes met in battle to decide the lordship of the country. On the one hand were Sturlungar, on the other were the ┴sbirningar and the HaukdŠlir. The latter won the battle as they had superior numbers. About 60 men fell out of the nearly 3000 who fought. Sill you can trace remains of an embankment that one of the tribes used for shelter. In 1988 a memorial was raised on the site of the battle, which describes the battle. Írlygsstair is now signposted on the main road.
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