Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

Did you know that there is a big rock on the southern part of the Westfjords of Iceland where the elves gather together in their market town?  Where they sell and buy and elf ships bring elf goods to Iceland? Yes, there are many strange things in my country which I regard to be totally normal, as I grew up in Iceland believing in the elves (or the Hidden People as they are often called).

This rock, Bjartmarssteinn, is located east of Reykhólar, the lovely village where I stayed for 3 days and on which I have dedicated my 3 last travel-blogs. On my last day of my 9-day-stay in the Westfjords, I visited the Market Town of the Elves - the centre of elf business in Reykjanes in the Westfjords.

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

Bjartmarssteinn is a 55-metre tall volcanic plug. You can see the most extraordinary basalt columns in different forms and colour here, made from both basalt and rhyolite. 

This big, almost round basalt rock stands farthest out on Borgarland peninsula, between Króksfjörður and Berufjörður fjords.

By Bjartmarssteinn some people in the Westfjords have seen elf ships sailing towards this rock in midwinter. I have also read other accounts where people in this area have seen elf ships in autumn and in spring and that seems to have been a more common season for the ships to come in.

Psychic people in this area have told of crowds of elves gathering by Bjartmarssteinn at the time the ships came in. They said that so many elves gathered by Bjartmarssteinn that the crowds gathering on Flatey island or Stykkishólmur town for the same purpose, paled in comparison to the number of the elves in their market town. These two villages were the largest ones by Breiðafjörður bay.

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

Just imagine how many elves live in this part of the Westfjords - and how many they are in the whole of Iceland - mostly living in harmony with us Icelanders and hidden from most of us.

Some people saw the elves going to their marketplace from all around the region, carrying a lot of goods back. Many psychic people saw the elves going to Bjartmarssteinn and said that they even had an entourage or elves and many horses carrying the wool, proving to us that some of the elves were big farmers.

There is a farm on Borgarland peninsula, called Borg farm. On that farm was a shepherd called Friðrik. He often heard singing coming from the rock and other rocks in this area - particularly on New Year's Eve

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

I found an audio account by a local, Karl Árnason, (in Icelandic) recorded in 1970 on Bjartmannssteinn, as he calls the rock, being the elf store in this area. Before Christmas time elf boats could be seen sailing to the store with their goods. This account shows that some of the elves were Christian.

This rock is called by several names.  I have heard Bjartmarssteinn, Bjartmanns-
steinn, Pjattarsteinn 
and even Pjattmarssteinn.

In another audio account by the local, Karl Árnason, he tells us where the name for Bjartmannssteinnoriginated from. The farmer Grímur and his 3 sons drowned in Berufjörður fjord. One of them was Bjartmann and Bjartmannssteinngot his name. The other names are Grímshólmi islet and Brandseyri spit, named after the farmer Grímur and his son Brandur.

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

I don't know why the rock is sometimes called Bjartmannsteinnand sometimes Bjartmarssteinn. But seeing that the names are so similar, then this must be the same name.  Bjartmar is also a man's name in Iceland.

In an audio account by another local, Ólína M. Magnúsdóttir, (in Icelandic), recorded in 1963, she tells us that the name Pjattarsteinnwas what the rock had been called, but then people had started calling it Bjartmarssteinn. I listened to more audio accounts and in one of them, a woman said that she had heard the name Pjattarsteinn in some folklore, but that the rock had been called Bjartmarssteinn.

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

I haven't been able to find an account on Bjartmarssteinnin Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason, which I refer to when I am telling you elf stories from Iceland, but I found a short account in a book called Þjóðsögur og munnmæli - Legend and folklore by Jón Þorkelsson:

"There was a man by the name of Jón Jónsson, nicknamed "kelli mín". He lived in Reykhólar. Once he sailed on a ship in front of Pjattasteinn. He and those who were with him said that they had seen a window on the rock, and they had clearly seen a man inside sitting at a table writing. Jón "kelli mín" was an honest man who told the truth.  Written in Gráskinna Gísla Konráðssonar, who wrote this story in 1850 by Una Loftsdóttir "kerling" from Bær in Króksfjörður".

This man might have been the Sheriff of the Elves as it is believed that he has his offices in Bjartmarssteinnrock.

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

When we visit this rock we are on elf-turf and there might be many elves here. We must show great respect and ask for permission to visit their market town. Elves don't like a racket, so let's talk in a soft voice while visiting.

Also a word of warning - some elves sometimes try to lure people into the rocks with them - don't follow them into an open door in the rock - it might be difficult to get back out of the rock! 

Woe to those who try to haggle with the elves! The elves have their own business rules and haggling is considered to be very rude.

It is best to be at Bjartmarssteinn on low ebb as then it is possible to walk around the whole rock.  Just watch out for the tide coming in. I was a bit nervous about the tide as I didn't want to be stuck sitting on the marketplace of the elves if I were to be caught by surprise by the tide.

There are some extraordinary basalt formations to be seen on all sites of the rock, but on the west side of it they are simply amazing and remind me of the ceiling in our National Theatre

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

To be able to walk the whole way around Bjartmarssteinn we had to walk on top of some basalt columns, I hope the elves didn't mind. When I arrived at Bjartmarsstein I asked the elves for permission to visit their market town and also asked them to show me some sign of their trading on this spot.

I thanked them for allowing me to visit their area and then walked around Bjartmarssteinn saying "wow" in several places as the basalt columns here are so amazing!

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

The hike to Bjartmarssteinn takes an hour or so, one way.  Be prepared to get attacked by the Arctic tern at the beginning of the hike, so it is good to bring a stick with you. We walked on the shore, which in some parts was very rocky and difficult to walk on.

In other parts it was sandy and I found some beautiful rocks with crystals.

You will need good hiking shoes for this hike as the shore is rocky in some parts, and especially while walking around Bjartmarssteinn. As I mentioned earlier then we had to step on some basalt columns for a while to be able to get to the other side.

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

I gave up walking on the shore in one part and followed a narrow sheep path on the hill. You will find these sheep paths almost everywhere in the countryside of Iceland. That path led me through birch trees where no path was in sight, so I had to fight my way through the birch. Fortunately, the birch trees on this peninsula are not that tall. 

I usually follow these sheep paths as although they are very narrow it is easy to follow a trail like that.

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

While driving to the end of the gravel road in Borgarland peninsula you will see many strangely shaped volcanic plugs. And the very distinct Mt. Vaðalfjöll above this area are columnar basalt plugs.

To reach Bjartmarssteinnrock from road 60, which is the main road on the south part of the Westfjords, turn on road 607 (a gravel road).  Follow that road on the east side of Borgarlandpeninsula until you pass the farm Borgand drive to the end of the road. From there you will be able to reach Bjartmarssteinnrock by following the shore. 

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore

To visit the Westfjords of Iceland you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive to Bjartmarssteinn in one day.  

Also check out the self-drive tours:  Summer 8 Day Self Drive Tour | Westfjords & Snæfellsnes Peninsula and 14 Day Self Drive Tour - Circle of Iceland & the Westfjords.

Have a lovely time visiting the Marketplace of the Elves :)

Bjartmarssteinn Rock in the Westfjords of Iceland - the Market Town of the Elves - an Icelandic Folklore
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