It’s approaching midnight when we turn down Route 633 towards Heydalur. The rough dirt road traces the coastline of Mjóifjörður past paddling ducks with processions of ducklings, and swans glide smoothly past rocks that look like basking seals in the midsummer twilight.
At the crook of the fjord a large building comes into view, flanked by summer houses and barns. Having phoned ahead to report some car trouble and our late arrival, we’re welcomed by Gísli, a member of the family who owns and runs the place. Gísli hands over a key with a smile, and says the bathing area is open 24/7 should we fancy a dip. It’s music to our ears, and we drop off our bags in our smart summerhouse and head out to soak the road away.
Through the poolhouse door lies an unexpected paradise. The roof is transparent, and the space is lit by the dim midnight sun; birds chirp and fly between the branches and fronds of manifold trees, bushes, flowers and shrubs, thriving and blooming in the warm air. The pool itself is through a corridor of plants; a splash of bright blue in the verdant space. A hot pot sits under some low-hanging branches, steaming invitingly. As we sink into the water, it’s like a vision in a dream.
The next morning we meet Gísli’s mother, Stella, who runs the place alongside him. After leading a friendly and raucous staff meeting from the head of a long table, she sends the staff to go about their business, and comes over for a chat.
“We bought it in the year 2000,” she says. “My husband and my two sons were looking for a place where they could fish and grow trees in 1997. My son found this, but we were afraid it was too far from Reykjavík. My husband called a friend who lives on the island of Æðey, and he said we shouldn’t hesitate. There were other people interested, so they signed… and then we came to the Westfjords to see what we had bought.”
The bold blind purchase couldn’t have turned out better. “It was a farm back then,” says Stella. “This room was a barn, and the bedrooms were part of a cow house. Later on, we built another ten rooms, and added the new summerhouses two years ago.” The pool building was converted from a sheep house. “We moved the sheep out, turned it into a greenhouse, and planted a lot of special plants,” Stella continues. “There were three deep holes. We filled up two of them, and the third one is now the pool.”
Today, Heydalur has 19 rooms, three well-appointed cabins and a campsite. Working on an eco-friendly basis, the majority of the food that’s served is local, with eggs and vegetables from the farm and trout from the lake. Geothermal water, found through repeated drilling, fills the pool and heats the buildings. Horse riding and kayaking are offered as summer activities.
But there’s still more to be done. As we finish our conversation, we notice a telescope of quite a considerable size sitting in a corner. “Ah, yes,” says Stella. “We do walks to see the northern lights in the winter. I want to build a small house around this, but we haven’t got around to it yet.” She smiles, with a gleam in her eye. “We’re always doing something. We still have several future dreams.”
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