Tuesday, 9 September 2014


WIth just one more day in Reykjavik before flying home, we wanted to see some of Iceland. Snaefellsnes - a 200km drive from Reykjavik - fits the bill nicely. The scenery on the way is typically volcanic. There are similar landforms in places like Skye and Mull but these volcanic rocks, although the youngest in Scotland, are millions of years old. In Iceland, they are still being born.

Trap country:

Snaefellsnes is the 60 mile long peninsula of Snaefell, a glacier-capped volcano that inspired Jules Verne (it was his entrance point to the centre of the earth). There's a Snaefell on Man (from which the six kingdoms of Man, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and Heaven can be seen). The one on Man is 620m high and has a funicular railway station and cafe at the top. The one in Iceland is over twice as high, is capped by a glacier, and is considered by those who consider these things to be one of the seven major energy centres of the earth. Thanks to the clear Arctic light it can be clearly seen from Reykjavik despite being 80  miles distant.

Distant Snaefell:

We set off early, picking up a couple of young American hitchhikers who had been sleeping in caves near the road. It was a beautiful day. The sun felt dangerously bright, and the air very dry, but the temperatures stayed in the mid teens and despite expecting sunburn, none happened. Eventually we arrived in Stykkishólmur and stretched our legs. The Americans had just missed a ferry to the Westfjords, a particularly remote and scenic part of Iceland. We had a look around the harbour.


Brightly-painted wood and corrugated iron houses bring a cheerful note to a grand and empty landscape.

Stykkishólmur harbour:

Continuing west we passed Berserkerjarun. The sagas describe a road through this lava field as an 'impossible task' set by a farmer to two berserkers as the price for his daughter's hand in marriage to one of them. To his consternation, they successfully cut a road through the flows, and returned to claim their prize. However whilst they were relaxed and unarmed in a sauna, the farmer and his neighbour burst in and killed them. As any Boer could tell you, 'the farmer has a plan'.

Northern Snaefellsnes:

The sauna is a peculiarly Scandanavian institution, but in Iceland it is possible to bathe in hot spring water all year round. We saw smoke near a road and wandered over to it, to come across a steaming vent hole, water running out of it into the sea. These must have made life in an Icelandic winter slightly more bearable to those who lived nearby.

And then we saw it. One of Iceland's most photogenic hills. The 463m high Kirkjufell.

Kirkjufell rises next to the village of Grundarfjörður which has a beautiful red-roofed church and a saga museum. We ate lunch and the local school came out, the children gathered small groups, talking unhurriedly. I've never seen such a quiet group of school kids. Is there something about the place that breeds, if not reverence, then stillness? I should point out that none of these photos have been photoshopped in any way. It really is this uncannily bright and clear in the high north sunshine.

Grundarfjörður main street:

Kirkjufell provides amazing photo opportunities, especially around a roadside waterfall. We met a young Norwegian who was taking photos on an impressive camera. He had spent a few days camping in the village and a local had told him about the northern lights that had been on display lately. "In summer?" I was surprised. As had he been, but he showed us the incredible evidence on his camera's display. Unfortunately I have lost his business card, so you will have to make do with my own photos.


As we travelled along the peninsula towards Olafsvik, the scenery just got better and better but... that is a post for another time...

South Snaefellsnes, return journey:

"Autumn is on its way," said the woman in the cafe in Borgarnes on our way back. I scoffed but on our return to Scotland, the leaves were already turning and falling, the brambles ripe. It was still August. An early end to summer - but what a way to end it, with a short trip to Iceland.


Ian Johnston said...

Absolutely loved these posts Robert, Iceland has been on the "love to go" list for some time.... Kirkjufjell bears a passing resemblance to Suliven in a couple of your images, and also seems to have the same chameleon quality, different from every angle. Thanks for posting !

Kind regards

blueskyscotland said...

You only get light like that in the far north. Great set of photographs. I've noticed that for the past couple of years here. Spring is earlier now but so is Autumn by almost a month.

Chris said...

Great photos - sounds like a good trip.

Robert Craig said...

Thanks for the comments. Nice to know someone is reading! Been busy recently but more news soon...