Pink oyster mushrooms peek over the edge of a basket at the entrance of Vellir. The mushrooms have been grown as an experiment on the organic farm. Their unusual appearance at the outset of our day trip around north Iceland’s Tröllaskagi peninsula lures us into the store’s embrace.
Bursting berries & herbs
Southwest of Dalvík in the valley of Svarfaðardalur, Vellir attracts locals and tourists alike. It is an organic farm bursting with berries, veggies, and herbs, with a rustic country store featuring gourmet foods prepared on-site, including smoked Icelandic cheeses and fermented foods. Open throughout the summer months, they’ve turned selling produce directly from the farmer to the customer into an artform.
Along with Vellir’s owner, Bjarni Óskarsson, we walk through greenhouses stuffed with strawberry and raspberry plants. He then leads us to the jewel of the farm: an old cow shed reclaimed as a banquet hall. A long table forms the centrepiece of the hall, with natural light streaming in through a floor-to-ceiling window along the eastern wall. The hall holds antique farm and cooking equipment of all kinds, a veritable museum of ways now past in Icelandic history.
We return to the store and buy all the oyster mushrooms. Locals crowd every corner of the shop as its purveyors prepare ice cream and cheese tasting boards at lightning speed. Talk of the shop is the annual Great Fish Day festival, so we head to its host town Dalvík next.
Great Fish Day
Vellir’s mushrooms have sparked an unanticipated culinary focus on our day trip. Tröllaskagi, itself, is a mountainous region named for the trolls rumoured to live there. But it is the local emphasis on farming, fishing, and drinking that makes our journey one to remember.
In Dalvík, the café and bar Gislí, Eiríkur, Helgi is a must-stop. And this day, it feels as though every resident of the town agrees. Like Vellir’s country store, the café is full to bursting with hungry, happy people. To accommodate the volume of visitors, the café’s lunch buffet offers fish and vegetable soups with fresh-baked bread. We tuck into a window seat to watch locals amass on the village for Great Fish Day.
The three-day festival is the cultural event of Dalvíkurbyggð’s summer season. Held every second Saturday of August, fish soup is offered free at the harbour as a means for the community to meet the local fisherpeople. Its draw far surpasses locals, though, as in past years it has seen upwards of 200,000 attendees. Our destiny is not fishy for this trip, however, so we continue north to Tröllaskagi’s northernmost town of Siglufjörður.
Baldvin Júlíusson greets us at Segull 67, the family-owned craft brewery of Siglufjörður. The brewery has opened for a private tour of the facility, and we are fortunate to sample the many craft beers on offer. Segull’s brewery opens with a spacious bar, with seating for visitors primarily in a glassed-in room overlooking the brewing facility.
“Segull” is the Icelandic word for compass. “The compass needle points north,” Baldvin explains, “right to this brewery.”
Segull 67 produces several beers, ranging from its Sigló IPA to the pineapple-conjuring Sólstingur. Baldvin pours us tastes of Segull 67’s selection. We are charmed by his care with both beer and driving advice, and leave Siglufjörður in high spirits.
Baldvin’s words ring in our ears as we set out for the drive west and southwest around the rest of Tröllaskagi. “Be careful. Even locals take great care when driving this area,” he said.
Barren and rainy, the rural road provides vistas galore. We take care as we drive, though the largest threat to our journey is the sudden appearance of horses on the road. Residents around Hofsós are preparing for the autumn réttir, the annual event when sheep are rounded up from their summer grazing, and lambs born in the spring are slaughtered for winter meat.
Before the sheep can be herded, the horses used for round-up are gathered and moved between fields. During an hour’s drive, we spot several different groups herding their horses in full gallop near the roadside. It’s a Saturday, but farming work doesn’t pause for weekends.
The view from here
Our journey concludes at Hofsós, the westernmost village of Tröllaskagi. Hofsós is a fishing village of just 200 inhabitants, providing supplies to area farmers. It is home to one of Iceland’s favourite swimming spots, where visitors soak in geothermal water while overlooking the North Atlantic.
Ocean views from Hofsós’ newest eatery are equally as spectacular. Berg Bistro is a renovated post office, and they have converted the old vault into the bathroom. Their coffee proves an optimal way for us to digest all of the experiences we have accrued and new friends we have made throughout the day.
We take in the views over the North Atlantic as evening creeps close. A rainbow frames the horse round-up to the east. The unexpected reigns supreme.
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