turf farm


Herjólfsbærinn (Herjólfur´s farmhouse), Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland.

via Jack and Petra Clayton on Flickr

Description provided on Flickr:

“The farmhouse in Herjólfsdalur is a prototype of what might have been the oldest human habitation signs in Iceland.

The remains of the farm was discovered in 1924, when the first director of the National Museum was doing excavation work in Herjólfsdalur valley. He discovered 3 ruins; one long-house and two smaller houses. It seems like it was the long-house of Herjólfur Bárðarson, the first settler of Vestmannaeyjar islands. So the old remains might date back to the early 9th century.”

Segment of the Grœnlendinga saga, Chp. 2:


  1. Description from Flickr (see link above)
  2. Old Norse and English text from Grœnlendinga saga in Jesse Byock’s Viking Language 1: Learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas, Lesson 1, pg. 46.

They have the most fantastic little turf roof houses and barns in Iceland. I got out of my car to explore this one and, after getting into it from around back, popped out of what remains of the front door to surprise a dutch couple who had wandered up while I was exploring inside. 

They told me that while most farmers have to watch their cows during the birthing the farmers who owned this never did as the elves that lived in the rock overhanging the barn would protect and help the cows and, because of their elven helpers, the farmers never lost a calf. They left the first milk after the calving, which is a special, thick milk, out for the elves to thank them for their help. This custom went on until the 20th century. 

Julian Opie (British, b. 1958), Now that I was no longer lost I felt more relaxed. I stopped to look at old wooden farms with turf roofs and churches made of wood so ancient that it had turned black and had a surface more like stone than wood. I felt pleased with myself for sticking with the project and finding my way across the wilderness. I looked forward to a meal in Oslo and perhaps a better hotel. It would be strange to talk and spend time with people again. I did not know the gallerists I was going to meet and it would be hard to make the shift back to being socially appropriate., 2004. Dye on nylon on wooden stretcher, 71 x 118 in.


Sorcerer’s Cottage, The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft.

For centuries Icelanders lived in Turf-cottages similar to this. The head magistrates and priests might probably had lived better, but most had little in common with them other than building material. The aim of this turf-cottage is to show visitors the living conditions of poor tenants, who where the majority of people in Iceland as elsewhere.  It was probably a difficult live in harsh and unforgiving environment.



Núpsstaður is the easternmost farm in Skaftárhreppur district and lies east of Lómagnúpur. At Núpsstaður there are remarkable old buildings that are believed to be typical for farms in Iceland in past centuries. The most noteworthy of these is the chapel. It is one of few remaining turf churches in the country. It is believed that the chapel is mostly from a church that was built around 1650, but a church was abandoned there in 1765. It was re-consecrated in 1961. 

Just east of the farm is a 600m high and precipitous mountain, Lomagnupur. According to ancient mythology, it is occupied by one of the four main protective spirits of Iceland. The giant with the iron stick. Who is on the Icelandic coins along with the remaining three other figures in Iceland’s coat of arms.

The surrounding Núpsstaður amazingly beautiful and the area reaches from the ocean and black sands and all the way to Vatnajökull. Núpsstaður lies right by the Skaftafell National Park and volcanic eruptions, glaciers and lakes have shaped the environment there, in addition to shaping diverse formations.
The distance from Reykjavík is about 370 km.