The beach at Hesteyri, Hornstrandir, Iceland
It was one of those Icelandic summer days we had been warned of…..a milky sky of low cloud that would remain with us all day. Not the weather we had hope for on our highspeed boat trip from Isafjordur. A boat, or a very, very long hike in is the only way to get to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and the deserted village of Hesteyri and area located on the north west coat of Iceland.
In the 19th century this was once a Whaling Station and because of its remoteness a community was built up around it. In 1915 Whaling ceased and the village turned to Herring Fishing and Farming for its income. As was the way, fishing declined and left only a meagre farming existence which came to an end in 40’s. The village itself was deserted by 1956.
As a Nature Reserve, Hornstrandir is just perfect. Summer visitors only and now well and truly overgrown during the short summer with wild flowers and scrub.
What is left behind is a handful of houses (now used as summer getaways) and a few remains of Hesteyri village…the most obvious to be found is the graveyard and a short stubby Bell Tower housing the Bell from the Church. As to the Church.. well that was dismantled and taken to Sudavik in the 50’s
Despite its remoteness, or perhaps even because of its remote location, Hesteyri and Hornstrandir still attract a good number of summer visitors. There are Boat Trips from Isafjordur and a Wildlife Guide to help you make the most of your visit. Those undertaking the trek have a long way to walk across wild countryside surround by mountains where the snow never vanished. But at least at one of the remaining houses, The Doctors House, they can top up a few basic supplies and enjoy some simple refreshments in a unique location…… a location now so quiet but once so busy.
Despite the grey cap of milky cloud remaining with us all day it could not detract from the remote beauty and the feeling that you were treading in the footsteps of what must have been a very hardy community where surviving would have been tough at the best.
(C) David Oakes 2018