3 Days of fun at Kirkjuból and the Sheep Farming Museum at Strandir in the Westfjords Region

3 Days of fun at Kirkjuból and the Sheep Farming Museum at Strandir in the Westfjords Region

Wonderfully Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir By  Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir Verified Local Contact Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  Hidden away in a private backyard in Akureyri town, the capital city of North-Iceland, I found extraordinary colourful sculptures of fairytale figures. I got permission from the folk artist Hreinn Halldórsson to show them to you here in my travel-blog.  I didn't know about this wonderful fairytale garden, but while we were staying at Mývatn for a couple of days my husband had listened to the news, where the garden was featured. So while returning home the next day he wanted to surprise me and drove into a residential area in Akureyri and told me to look into all the gardens...  Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  Pippi Longstocking  I didn't know what I was looking for but was in awe when I spotted all the colourful statues in the garden, where the folk artist Hreinn has created a private gallery haven in his backyard at Oddeyrargata 17 street.  We had shown up unannounced, but Hreinn was in his garden working and invited us in and showed us around, and took the time to tell us about each and every statue. Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  The artist Hreinn with Gulli gosi  Here you will find statues from several fairy tales, f.ex. the Grimms' fairy tales and I saw Snow White and the 7 dwarves, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Ridinghood and several others. The Swedish Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking sat up in a tree with her monkey. And the mischievous Emil by the same author sat on the roof.  Then we saw figures from Icelandic fairytales, and the Icelandic Dimmalimm by Muggur sat by the pond. And Sigríður and Indriði from the Icelandic book Piltur og stúlka. Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  Sleeping Beauty and the prince are a new addition to the gallery  Hreinn "lets the statues out of his basement", as it were, in the Spring and bolts them down so they don't budge, and it can be quite a task to move them. But Hreinn, who has lived in Akureyri for 13 years now, has had these delightful statues on display both at the annual Hrafnagilshátíð festival and at Amtsbókasafnið - the Municipal Library close to his home, and more places.  Hreinn works at the reception of Hotel Kea in Akureyri, but creates his statues in his spare time, always adding more and more wooden statues to his private collection. Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf  There are more than 30 colourful statues now in his backyard counting the 5 new additions this year. They are the colourful Pippi and her monkey, Emil, the elf-lady Álfrún and Sleeping Beauty and the prince, and they for sure are a wonderful addition to the gallery.  Kids love visiting this colourful garden and Hreinn has invited around 250 kids from kindergartens for a visit. And more are asking to come for a visit. And as this is not an official gallery he allows them to touch the statues and sit on them. Once he was a bit uneasy though when 3 boys sat on the back of the big bad wolf in the Grimms' fairytale Little Red Riding Hood ;)  Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  Álfrún the elf-lady and the wishing stone  Hreinn told me that he welcomes visitors, who want to have a look at his work. Be on the lookout for the elf-lady Álfrún with her old doll carriage. In the carriage, you will find a  wishing stone. You can touch the wishing stone with your closed eyes and make a wish. Álfrún the elf-lady is a new addition to the collection.  I was so lucky that the sun was shining making the colours of these lovely statues even more vivid. If you look closely at the statues you will see all kinds of recycled material; candlesticks, kitchen utensils, rope, etc. Visitors have also come bearing gifts for Hreinn to use for his statues.  Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  Dimmalimm and Þórunn hyrna  Hreinn uses old Christmas ornaments, buttons, old toys and gets left-over wood from workshops to build his wonderful statues. And he is a regular customer at the handicraft shop in Akureyri.  In my first photo, you will see a Viking in the background. This is Helgi magri, the Settler of Eyjafjörður fjord, about whom you can read about in my travel-blog about Akureyri.  On the other side of the shed in my photo above, you will see his wife Þórunn hyrna, the settler-woman. They used to stand side by side but had an argument, so she walked away and was found by the house. She is now by the shed and Hreinn is hoping that they will reconcile soon ;)  Regína and Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  With Snow White and the 7 dwarfs  By the beautiful corrugated iron clad house you will find Snow White, the wicked stepmother, the prince and the 7 dwarfs, each with a special name, which Hreinn has given to them, all wonderfully colourful and cheerful.  I asked Hreinn if he sold any of his fairytale figures and he said no; he puts his heart and soul into his work and wants to keep them. I can relate to what he was saying.   Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  I have also put my heart and soul into the 280 travel-blogs about Iceland, which I have written over the past 7 years and regard them as a part of myself. And I hope that my passion for Iceland shines through :)  Hreinn told us the name of this statue below, but I cannot recall it; this boy holds a lantern to show Hreinn the way to his house when he returns back home.   Colourful Fairytale Figures in Akureyri in North-Iceland  What a lovely visit this was, thank you Hreinn, for creating such a wonderful garden, it sure brightens up the world :) You can visit Hreinn's page on Facebook for more photos.  And if you want to see the work of Hreinn's role model, the folk-artist Samúel Jónsson, then I have written about Arnarfjörður and the folk-artist in another travel-blog.  Akureyri town North-Iceland  Akureyri town  I have written another travel-blog about Akureyri if you want to find out more about the lovely capital of the north: Eyjafjörður Fjord - Akureyri, the Capital City of North-Iceland. There are so many things to see and do in this lovely town.  Akureyri is located up north, some 388 km from Reykjavík the capital city of Iceland. To reach this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive to Akureyri in one day.   Eyjafjörður, where Akureyri is located, is Iceland's longest fjord, with many attractions, so I have written some 7 travel-blogs on what there is to see and do here. Here is the first part with links to the other travel-blogs if you want to know more about this beautiful fjord.  Have a lovely time in Akureyri :)

I got the opportunity to stay at Kirkjuból at Strandir in the Westfjords Region of Iceland for two years in a row, when my husband was taking part for 3 days in the children's festival Náttúrubarnahátíð at Sauðfjársetur – the Sheep Farming Museum at Strandir.

All the time during this wonderful children‘s festival we stayed at the guesthouse Kirkjuból and got to know the family who lives there and runs both the festival and the Sheep Farming Museum.

Top photo: Sauðfjársetur - the Sheep farming museum

Jón and Dagrún at Sauðfjársetur at Strandir

Jón and Dagrún at Sauðfjársetur - the Sheep farming museum

And what a treat it was to get to know these people and get acquainted with the wonderful work they do. I had already stayed at Hólmavík (12 km away) while my husband was taking part in another children‘s festival at Hólmavík and explored the remote and sparsely populated Strandir.

In this travel-blog, I will tell you about the Sheep Farming Museum, the Kaffi Kind café, and Kirkjuból at Strandir, which I was visiting for the first time.

The museum is a non-profit organization run by the family, Jón Jónsson, his wife Ester Sigfúsdóttir, whos is the managing director of the museum, and their daughter Dagrún. Ester was so busy in the kitchen during the festival, that I, unfortunately, couldn't take a photo of her.

I spent some time with Jón and Dagrún, who are both ethnologists and very knowledgeable about Iceland, Icelandic folklore, and Sagas.

A cute lamb at Sauðfjársetur - the Sheep farming museum

A cute lamb at Sauðfjársetur - the Sheep farming museum

Ethnology is something I have wanted to study for a very long time at the University of Iceland but never got the opportunity to do so. To make up for it I read a lot of folklore and the Sagas, and include as much of it in my travel-blogs as I can as it enriches my travels in Iceland.

And I hope that by reading my travel-blogs it enriches your experience of Iceland as well :)

Sauðfjársetrið – the Sheep Farming MuseumSauðfjársetrið – the Sheep Farming Museum at Strandir

A sheep horn at the museum

Sauðfjársetrið – the Sheep Farming Museum was founded as a counterpart for the close-by Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery in Hólmavík.

Jón was also instrumental in founding that very popular museum up in Hólmavík. Seeing that a great part of the witch-craze in Iceland took place here at Strandir, then this area is a fitting place for such a museum. That museum attracts about 18,000 visitors annually, mainly foreign tourists.

The infamous necropants have made that museum well-known worldwide, and I have written another travel-blog with photos of the necropants: The Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery at Hólmavík in the Westfjords Region.The Sheep farming museum at Stranir

Sauðfjársetrið - the Sheep farming museum

Now let's have a look at what the lovely Sheep Farming Museum has got to offer.

At the museum, you will get to know all about the Icelandic sheep, but without them, Icelanders would not have been able to survive here through the centuries.

Around 6,000 people pay the Sheep Farming Museum a visit every year, of which there are 30% foreign visitors, Jón told me.

Icelandic sheep in Iceland

Icelandic sheep

The Icelandic sheep are to a degree descendants of the settlement sheep, which the Vikings brought with them to Iceland. In the summertime the Icelandic sheep roam free in the countryside; these stubborn little sheep are independent and lack the horde mentality.

The sheep are then rounded up in autumn, where each farmer finds his sheep.

The bottle lamb at the Sheep Farming Museum at Strandir

The bottle lamb at the Sheep Farming Museum

The exhibition at the Sheep Farming Museum is called Sheep in the story of Iceland. At the exhibition, you will see how every part of the sheep was used, the meat, the head, the tallow, and much more to keep us Icelanders alive.

And the wool kept Icelanders warm, so we owe our lives to the Icelandic sheep. Most Icelanders own lopapeysa, the warm Icelandic woolen sweater, which you can see me wearing in some of the photos in this travel-blog. 

The exhibition at the Sheep Farming Museum is in Icelandic, and foreign visitors will get good information in English and other languages and can be guided through the exhibition.

Two Jóns at the Sheep farming museum at Strandir

My Jón and Ester's Jón at the museum café :)

The Sheep Farming Museum is located in Sævangur, the former local community centre, where you can also get local treats at their coffee bar Kaffi Kind (the Sheep café), including Eftirlæti bóndans – the Farmer‘s favourite dish (rye bread with smoked lamb, "skonsa" with smoked salmon and cake). 

On the menu is also ice cream from the dairy farm Erpsstaðir in Dalir, which is a must-stop for Icelanders while driving up to Strandir.

The café is open at the same time as the museum - every day in the summer months from 10-18.A bottle fed lamb at Strandir

The bottle lamb at the Sheep Farming Museum

Children will love this museum as one of the attractions at the museum is the heimalningur – the bottle lamb, which is fed milk from a bottle and will follow you around like a dog.

This is the closest I have been to a sheep in my life, as I am born and bred in Reykjavík, where there are no sheep roaming around. And as sheep in the countryside get spooked very easily and run away, then I loved my visit to the Sheep Farming Museum as there I was followed around by this bottle lamb which bleated at me non-stop.

It even allowed me to pet it, so precious. But what it was after was the bottle, as visitors can get the change to bottle-feed the lamb.

Heimalningur húste - Icelandic herbal tea at the museum

Heimalningur húste - Icelandic herbal tea

You can get Heimalningur House tea blend at the museum coffee bar and at the handicraft store in the lobby. It is delicious, made from Icelandic handpicked herbs; birch, thyme, and Iceland Moss, all of which are well-known in Iceland for their medical use. I bought a box to bring back home.

I also found this T-shirt below at the souvenir shop with this unique text printed on it, which I am sure that no foreigner will understand. It reads Sauðfjárveikivarnir - lokið hliðinu which means Sheep Disease Prevention - Close the Gate in case you were wondering ;)

Always remember to close the gate behind you when encountering a gate in the Icelandic countryside, and especially if you see this sign on the gate.

Sauðfjárveikivarnir - lokið hliðinu - at t-shirt at the museum

A T-shirt for sale at the museum

I am pretty sure that if it weren't for the Icelandic sheep there would be no Icelanders as these tough little sheep have kept us alive through the centuries and played a big part in the survival and history of Iceland.

As I mention earlier then the sheep roam free in Iceland during the summer months. Take that into account when driving on the roads in the countryside.

Sheep on the road in Iceland

Sheep on the road - the one to the right stayed behind in the middle of the road and was ready to attack the car ;)

A sheep might be strolling on the road with her lambs, or jump unexpectedly on the road. Be extra careful when you see a lamb on one side and its mother on the other side as the lamb will invariably jump up on the road to join its mother.

The sheep will get spooked by the car and run in all directions, but the little lamb in my photo above, which I took on the Kjölur route, stayed behind and defied us ;)

The Exhibition about Enchanted Spots in StrandirRegína at the elf exhibition at the Sea farming museum at Strandir

I love the Exhibition about Enchanted Spots in Strandir at the museum :)

In one part of the Sauðfjársetur - Sheep Farming Museum, you will find a very interesting exhibition; the Exhibition about Enchanted Spots in Strandir with a guide in English and other languages.

As you, who read my travel-blog, know then I search for enchanted spots and elf-locations in Iceland to show to you. So this exhibition was right up my alley :)

As I told you earlier in this travel-blog, then both father and daughter are very knowledgeable ethnologists and Dagrún temporarily added the exhibition to the museum. But it is way too interesting to remove it and it will most likely become a part of the museum.

Don't miss it, it is so interesting reading about these enchanted spots in Strandir, of which there are quite a few.

The trolls in Drangavík in Kollafjörður who wanted to separate the Westfjords from the mainland of Iceland

The trolls in Drangavík in Kollafjörður who wanted to separate the Westfjords Region from the mainland of Iceland

Not far from the museum I visited one such location and got directions from the proprietors of the museum. It is a troll spot, where you can find 2 of the Westfjord trolls who wanted to separate the Westfjords Region from the mainland of Iceland.

My next travel-blog is about these Icelandic trolls:

The 3 Trolls who wanted to separate the Westfjords Region from the Mainland of Iceland - Icelandic Folklore

Regína in front of trolls in Iceland

In front of either the female troll or the male troll

I also visited Kastalinn - the Castle, an enchanted elf-location in the vicinity of the Westfjord trolls, which I found out about at this exhibition. I would not have known about it if I hadn't visited this exhibition and I was eager to visit it.

Kastalinn - the Castle is inhabited by the elves and it was forbidden to mow it like so many other elf spots all around Iceland, as the grass belongs to the elves. Children were allowed to play by it though, but racket and disrespect in such places are not allowed.
Regína by Kastalinn - the Castle, an elf-location in Iceland

Kastalinn - the CastleI didn't approach it but sat down on a rock and watched it and sent good vibes to the elves.

In 1914 a new owner of the farm Hlíð on this spot in Kollafjörður didn't listen to any warnings about Kastalinn being enchanted - and mowed it! 

He had such bad luck with his livestock the following winter (which is a well-known sign of the revenge of the elves) that he never moved it again and it has not been mowed since.

Bird-life by the Sheep-Farming Museum and KirkjubólSettlement chicken at Strandir

Settlement chicken at the Sheep farming museum

During your visit to the Sheep Farming Museum, you will notice some colourful chickens roaming around. They are landnámshænur - the settlement chicken, the descendants of the chicken which the Vikings brought with them to Iceland.

There are many other bird species in this area as the name Kollafjörður (the next fjord to Steingrímsfjörður) indicates; the Fjord of the Eider Duck. You will see a myriad of birds here by the sea, amongst them, teista - the black guillemot.

Black guillemot chicks at Strandir

Black guillemot chics on the beach

I must mention my main enemy amongst the Icelandic migratory birds, krían - the Arctic tern - which will attack fearlessly to keep you well away from their nest. It is a very irritating bird in my opinion and never leaves me alone.

It has also caused accidents on the road as when we were driving from the museum to Kollafjörður to see the trolls, a jeep with tourists approached us. Icelandic children protecting themselves from the Arctic tern at Strandir

So be aware of that bird!

The driver got distracted looking at a flock of Arctic terns and drove straight off the road at full speed! Luckily nobody got hurt and luckily it didn't crash into us or anything else!

This is how the Icelandic kids at the children's festival defended themselves from the attacks - with helmets - so that they could play outside by the museum.

New artwork at Orrustutangi at Strandir

Njörður at Orrustutangi spit

When we visited Sævangur in the summer of 2020 interesting artworks had been erected by the Sjávarslóð trail at Orrustutangi spit. Above is Njörður by the artist Arngrímur Sigurðsson.

I love such artwork, so kudos to the owners for making the spit much more interesting to visit :) 

Now let's pop over to Kirkjuból just across the road...

Guesthouse Kirkjuból at StrandirKirkjuból at Strandir lodging

Guesthouse Kirkjuból

The sheep farmers Jón and Ester run a guesthouse by their family farm at Kirkjuból, just opposite the bay from Sauðfjársetrið - the Sheep Farming Museum.

The guesthouse offers 5 rooms; 4 double rooms and a family room for 4 with a bunk bed for the kids. Two shared bathrooms and a living room with a breakfast area and a kitchen.

Kirkjuból at Strandir lodging

Guesthouse Kirkjuból

During my 3-day stay at Kirkjuból, I got the opportunity to talk to Jón, whom I had met at the Sheep Farming Museum, and who had also been our guide on a history walk on the first evening. I had a lot of free time as my husband was busy working at the children's festival, with all kinds of workshops and a magic show.

Apart from being a very knowledgeable ethnologist, Jón was the Cultural Affairs Office of the Westfjords for several years, so he knows his stuff for sure and it was such a delight talking to him. He was instrumental in making Strandir the welcoming tourist attraction it is today, for both foreigners and us locals.
Regína with Jón the proprietor of Kirkjuból at Strandir

With Jón at Kirkjuból

His name is Jón Jónsson, which is the most common name in Iceland, and his brother is also called Jón Jónsson but named after a different Jón :) But there is nothing common about Jón at Kirkjuból.

And he also turned out to be very knowledgeable about the polar bears visiting Iceland, so we had a good talk, as that subject is also of great interest to me.

I was recently told that the inhabitants of Strandir cannot be complemented directly, then they get very self-conscious ;) I made the "mistake" of complementing Jón, live and learn ;)

Kirkjuból at Strandir lodging

Our room at Kirkjuból

We stayed in a double room with a beautiful ocean view. It was mid-July when the days are long and the nights are bright, and I watched the midnight sun mirroring in the calm sea.

It was so beautiful and serene watching it from my bedroom window that it almost hurt having to go back to the city where I live.

Sunset at Kirkjuból Strandir

The view in 2020 from our room 

I had to go outside and sat by the sea for the longest time just taking in this beautiful sight and the sounds of nature.

And you might even see a whale in the sea which is just across the road! During the festival, we had an outside concert by the Sheep Farming Museum by one of our Icelandic singers and he competed with the whales blowing in the background :)

There were so many whales blowing that it must have been a whole family of whales!Beautiful sunset by Kirkjuból at Strandir

The view from my window at Kirkjuból in 2019 - Sauðfjársetrið Sheep Farming Museum is just across the bay 400 metres away

Find Kirkjuból on Facebook

Kirkjuból at Strandir

When we visited Drangsnes the following day we were told that the sea was crowded with humpback whales! A lot of people were outside watching them with a binocular. 

Whale watching in Iceland

A whale fluking

Whale watching is offered from Hólmavík by Láki Tours, and I wrote a travel-blog about their tour the first year they were trying out Hólmavík as a whale-watching spot.

They had meant to work from Ísafjörður but on the way, they saw so many whales in Steingrímsfjörður bay that they set up their whale-watching boat there.

Whale Watching from Hólmavík in the Westfjords Regíon with Láki Tours

Grímsey island in Steingrímsfjörður Strandir

Grímsey in Steingrímsfjörður as seen from Drangsnes

While visiting Grímsey island in Steingrímsfjörður from Drangsnes, you might also see whales on the short boat tour to the island. I have yet to visit that island, hopefully soon.

The boat leaves at 9:00 and 13:30 in the summer months from Drangsnes, but I have never been in Drangsnes at the right time.

Note that this is not the Arctic island Grímsey.Driftwood at Strandir Iceland

Grímsey island in Steingrímsfjörður fjord in the distance. In Strandir you will see a lot of driftwood covering the beaches

I had such a fantastic 3 days at Kirkjuból that I felt elated and relaxed when I got back home. I recommend visiting Strandir, it has got a different, slower pace of life than that of the capital city, Reykjavík, where I live.

Many of us, who live in the cities, are of the opinion that the people living in the Westfjords Region of Iceland are a tougher breed than the rest of us, and I for sure share that opinion of Strandamenn - the Inhabitants of Strandir :)

Guesthouse Kirkjuból is to the left and the farm Kirkjuból is to the right just across the bay from the museum

Guesthouse Kirkjuból is to the left and the farm Kirkjuból is to the right just across the bay from the museum

I have written many travel-blogs about Strandir over the years, apart from the Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft and Sorcery. I wanted to know more about what there is to see and do in this remote, sparsely populated area of the Westfjords Region of Iceland:

The remote Strandir in the Westfjords Region - Stillness & Sorcery

Hólmavík in the Westfjords Region - the Sorcery Town!

Hotel Laugarhóll at Strandir in the Westfjords Region - hot Pools and Sorcery in Abundance

The Mystical Sorcerer's Cottage in Bjarnarfjörður in the Westfjords Region - Kotbýli kuklarans

Sauðfjársetrið – the Sheep Farming Museum is located off road 60 some 6 km further along road 68.

And Kirkjuból is just opposite the road and bay from the Sheep Farming Museum. Hólmavík village is located some 12 km away.

To visit this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up to Strandir in 3-4 hours.A delightful cartoon sheep outside the Sheep Farming museum at Strandir

A delightful cartoon sheep outside the Sheep Farming museum

I have also written a travel-blog about my visit to The Study Centre on Leader-sheep in North-East Iceland - the Unique Breed of Icelandic Sheep which is another interesting museum or study centre on the unique breed forystufé or leader-sheep in the Eastfjords of Iceland.

Have a lovely time at Strandir :)

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