Death Wish Dervla

A satnav with attitude

The Faery Mountain

I slept well. Unfortunately big sis didn’t, because she could hear the bats in the roof! I don’t mind bats, but understand that they freak lots of people out. I didn’t dare let on that according to Glenvarloch’s visitor’s book, the bats sometimes come out in to the house at night, and fly around!

With the sun shining, after breakfast Rich and I put our shorts on for a walk directly from the house up Beinn an t-Sidhein, which translates as ‘Faery Mountain’. After long drives, we try to have at least one or two car free days, for our minds as much as our bodies – neither of us like sitting down for long. The steep pull up quickly removed the cobwebs, and provided amazing views of Glenvarloch, Strathyre, and the nearest loch – Loch Lubnaig. It got a wee bit windy at the top, so much so that for his safety, Rich didn’t climb up to the peak itself, and as we started to descend, so did the rain. Fortunately the air temperature was still warm, so the rain provided some cooling refreshment as we retraced our steps back to the house for lunch.

After allowing time for lunch to settle, we drove a short distance to Loch Voil, in search of a wild swimming spot. Sure enough we found a small beach opposite space for two cars to park. The water was much warmer than expected and we ended up removing our diving gloves and socks. We kept the wetsuits on but it would definitely have been comfortable just in swimming cossies. The only trouble with wetsuits is that as they’re such a faff to get on and off, you don’t want to waste time taking them off once they’re on! We swam around for half an hour, enjoying the peace and quiet, before getting changed on the beach and making our way back to the village.

Loch Voil

Stunning Strathyre

To celebrate one of their ‘big’ birthdays, Rich and I took big sis and brother-in-law on holiday to Scotland early this Summer. Having ummed and ahhed about where to base ourselves to give them the opportunity to see as much as possible, we settled on Strathyre, in the Trossachs. One of the joys of driving in Scotland is the much quieter roads, at least away from the cities. Tis one of the few times that I genuinely enjoy being at the wheel. After stopping on the outskirts of Carlisle to do a big Tesco shop,  we arrived at Glenvarloch – our gorgeous holiday home for the week, late afternoon. We’d chosen this house as it provided plenty of space for everyone, including a big kitchen and separate seating areas – very necessary for those who need lots of quiet time!

After a quick stroll to explore the village and a small stretch of the Rob Roy Way trail which runs directly behind the house – yet another reason why we’d chosen it, we settled down to a delicious fish pie for dinner, cooked by sis. There are lots of little fishmongers, butchers and grocers in the area so eating well would not be a problem. This was my first visit to the Trossachs and already I was very pleasantly surprised, having expected it to be much busier and more touristy. In June it was perfect – not bad weather, and low season rates. I suspect that this won’t be our last visit.




The Reykjanes Peninsula

Breakfast was another communal event at Hrifunes Guesthouse. They’d even bought gluten free products especially for me, which meant that I didn’t have to eat the usual ham and cheese, not that I don’t like ham and cheese for breakfast, but a bit of variety doesn’t go amiss.

By 9.30am we’d packed up Aurora and were on the road, heading back to Keflavik. We stopped at the Bonus supermarket in Selfoss to buy Skyr for us, and chocolate for work colleagues, and then drove along the south coast of the Reykjanes Peninsula to the geothermal area of Krýsuvík. Going via Reykjavik is more direct of course, but then you have to contend with Reykjavik’s traffic, and miss some of the sights. We’d definitely take this much quieter route in future, both to and from the airport.

At Krýsuvík we visited the explosion crater, filled with teal coloured water because of minerals and heat loving algae living within, and after a picnic in the car we then drove the few hundred metres to Seltún. This is what’s described as a high temperature area in geological terms, meaning that it’s geothermal. There are of course lots of geothermal things to see and do in Iceland, it being sited on the Mid Atlantic Ridge n’all, but Seltún is close to the capital, and easily accessible. We followed the board walk around the steam vents, mud pools and geothermal springs, savouring the smell of sulphur, before making our way back to the Hasso office – it was time to say goodbye to Aurora.

Fortunately the handover was hassle free, and Aurora finally got a good wash – cars get very dirty in Iceland because of all the gravel and dirt tracks. We even got a lift back to our final B&B – the wonderfully quirky Guesthouse 1×6, run by a Swiss-Japanese couple who fell in love with Iceland a few years ago. The house was formerly owned by an artist, and each room is fitted out with weird and wonderful beds, carvings and paintings. To top it all off, there’s even a huge japanese style hotpot in the garden! Andreas and Yukiyo provide bathrobes, slippers and shower gel, adding to that special spa feel. We only stayed in for half an hour as we were starting to feel dizzy with hunger, so after quickly getting dressed we headed over to Kaffi Duus, as recommended by our hosts.

We’d not booked a table but fortunately arrived just before the evening rush – if you want to eat after 7pm I’d suggest you reserve a table in advance, especially if visiting in the Summer as it’s definitely seen as the place to eat in Keflavik, and the prices are good. You even get a 10% discount as Guesthouse 1×6 guests! We made up for the silly high prices of langoustine in Hofn by ordering a platter each, so then had to work of all that fishy goodness with a post-dinner stroll along the sea wall. It feels very much like Reykjavik in this part of town, and defintely provides a good alternative to staying in the city – there are plenty of buses, and accommodation is much cheaper. There are also tourist sights such as ‘Giganta’s Cave’ – the home of one of Iceland’s Hidden People. Fortunately Giganta likes children and visitors, although she does snore very loudly, even louder than Rich, which is saying something.

Heavenly Hrifunes

I promised you a post about the Icelandic guesthouse with free roaming bunnies, so here it is. Hrifunes is one of those B&B’s that you dream about finding. Remote, quirky, very friendly, with stunning rooms and food. We’d booked a room in the annexe as I’m a very light sleeper, and within seconds of arriving had decided that we needed to redecorate our bedroom back home to look like this one did. The room was called ‘Lakakiger’ – after a nearby row of volcanic craters, and was decorated in olde worlde Icelandic farmhouse style, complete with pebble floor shower.


Whilst carrying bags from the car to the room, I caught a glimpse of something fluffy, and turned around expecting to find a cat, only to be met by a very affectionate bunny rabbit. He obligingly stayed put whilst I petted him, before hopping off to get on with his bunny business. Over tea and biscuits in the main house, the B&B supervisor told us that they’d given up trying to get the bunnies back in to their cages at night, but that they always come back for food. Haukar – one of the owners of the B&B, is a well known photographer in Iceland, and his work adorns the walls. He and his wife Hadda also run very popular photography courses.


After strolling across the fields to admire the glacial river, we headed back to the main house for the set dinner. We’d read great things about the food here, and had booked months ago to ensure our place at the table! We couldn’t have asked for a better evening. The meal was entirely gluten and nut free, to cater for several guests’ allergies, mine included, but was absolutely delicious. The thai soup starter was followed by a selection of meat, fish and veg dishes, and then a chocolate crumb cream pudding. Everyone was left licking their spoons. The mix of diners was interesting too – including another Welsh woman; and one of the American guests was more than happy to share a small bottle of tequila she’d bought at the airport.

On leaving the main house, the French family squealed with delight when they saw the two bunny rabbits outside in the parking area, and sure enough the bunnies stuck around for strokes. This place is special enough as it is, but having fluffy creatures to hand definitely adds to the appeal. Rich and I weren’t quite ready for bed yet so headed up the empty road to get a sense of the dark skies and big spaces. We unanimously agreed that we didn’t want to go home, but that places like Hrifunes will keep us coming back to Iceland for the rest of our lives. It just has that special something.


Despite my initial reservations about having to share a bathroom and corridor with 6 other rooms, I slept very well in Glacier World’s comfy bed. Twas only on the way to breakfast that we realised that there were actually two loos, but as the door wasn’t marked, we’d thought one was a cupboard. That’ll encourage us to be more nosy in future.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much gluten free choice at breakfast beyond the usual ham, egg and sliced cheese, but the view of Hoffellsjökull made up for it. There were surprisingly more people than we’d expected to see at breakfast too, and the owner said later on that they were now getting as many visitors in the Spring as they do in the Summer. The prices are certainly much cheaper out of season, and most of Iceland (bar the interior) is still accessible.

After saying goodbye to the farm dog, a very gentle border collie, we set off West. Even in the space of the two weeks that we’d been in the East of Iceland, a lot of the snow on the peaks had melted, and big bergs had calved off Vatnajökull into Jökulsárlón – making it look much more impressive than it had on the way out, before the Spring thaw. The best views, in our opinion, are to be had on the other side of the main road where the bergs float out to sea. It’s easy to see why photographers from all over the world travel here to capture images of the beached bergs.

We’d planned on stopping off at the Vatnajökull Visitor Centre and walking up to Svartifoss, but the crowds put us off so instead we headed to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur to refuel, and sample the local swimming baths. Sure enough, we had the place to ourselves, despite the village being sited so close to Route 1, the baths having a whirlpool jet hotpot, and a view of the Systrafoss waterfall. After alternating between the hotpot and baby pool for an hour, Rich then drove the final stretch to Hrifunes Guesthouse, our stop for the night. As we loved the guesthouse so much, it’ll be the star feature of the next blog. But as a little tidbit, I will tell you now that they don’t have pet dogs or cats at Hrifunes, they have affectionate free roaming bunnies instead…


Glacier World

The Aurora Forecast had predicted a high likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights in the Bakkagerði area last night, so we kept the blinds open just in case. Unfortunately, no lights appeared. We’d seen a small aurora in Iceland during a visit one Winter a few years back, but nothing since. We’ll persevere though.

We left Borgarfjörður eystri straight after breakfast, and after a long day in the car – sometimes with quite difficult road conditions, we arrived at Glacier World – a B&B that literally lies at the foot of Hoffellsjökull – Hoffells Glacier. The guesthouse consists of several buildings, and we’d opted for a room in the old house, with a shared bathroom. The facilities are basic but the rooms are cosy, we can turn the radiator on and off (we both dislike hot rooms), and there are windows that open (we also dislike air conditioning). The main selling point however, is a direct view of the glacier.

After settling in, we very lazily drove the few hundred metres down the gravel track to the 5 hot pots maintained by the B&B. Two were already occupied, but we eventually found one that was just the right temperature. There are basic changing rooms and a shower, but this proved useless as the water sprayed horizontally rather than vertically in the strong wind. The hot pots are well worth stopping at though as they’re just off the ring road, and the setting is surreal.

Back to our room to get changed and drive in to Hofn for dinner, as the B&B restaurant is only open during high season. There is a microwave and kettle in the guesthouse communal area, but by now, it being towards the end of our trip, we were too tired to try and assemble a meal from leftovers. Hofn is very close though, and like we were, you might be fortunate enough to see some reindeer along the way.

Kaffi Hornið came highly recommended, and sure enough was almost full when we arrived. Whilst the guidebook describes it as unpretentious, and indeed it is, it still very much charges Reykjavik prices though, so we shied away from ordering langoustines and both ate lamb. It was admittedly delicious, but it’s ironic that fresh fish can be so hard to come by, and expensive when you do find it, in Iceland. At least that seems to be the case if you’re a tourist. I suspect the locals just catch what they want themselves, or know a fisherman.

Wanting to make the most of the time we had left in Iceland, before returning to the B&B, we followed the 4km track to the snout of the glacier, to enjoy the sunset. Sure enough we had it to ourselves, but couldn’t stay long as the wind was blowing a gale, and kept knocking Rich off balance, so we returned to our room to admire the view from inside.


The road to Breiðavík

The calm after the storm. After yesterday’s adventures, we were pleased that we’d saved what promised to be a great walk, until today. With the sun shining, we parked Aurora alongside the wooden bridge just outside Bakkagerði, and walked along the old road to Breiðavík. Sure enough, it made for a spectacular route.

We found the old emergency shelter at Fagriholl, and walked up to the lower slopes of Krossfjall where once again the track disappeared beneath snow and we had to don our yak trax to safely ascend and descend the hill. We were blessed with amazing views in all directions. This is arctic tundra country, and is popular with geese and other birds as the landscape is riddled with small lakes and streams. The heather must look wonderful when wearing its Autumn colours, so we’ve definitely plenty of reasons to return to the east.

After a very late lunch back at the apartment, we visited our on-demand spa one final time, before strolling down to the bottom of the jetty to admire the almost cloudless sky and majestic mountain view. We’ll miss this little oasis.



Rich got VERY excited on waking to the news that the snowstorm had closed the fell road out of Bakkagerði! As devotees of the recent Icelandic drama series, this felt like the real deal, so much so that Rich insisted on going online and finding the theme music by the wonderful Kaleo, and playing it on repeat. Fortunately we’re both big fans of the song and band.

As we could only drive west, we decided to stay low, and walk the track from Brot to Brúnavik. Unfortunately the fresh snow fall had obliterated the track just a few hundred metres in, so after admiring the view we drove back to the village to explore what’s known locally as the Elf Mountain – Alfaborg, although we’d taken to calling it the Fairy Hill. Apparently this is home not only to many of Iceland’s Hidden People, and Rich assures me that they’re best friends with the puffins, but to the Queen of the Elves herself, so it’s a very special place. There are murmurs that it even provided the inspiration for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Rich was adamant that the puffins would have come in to Hafnarhólmi to shelter from the storm, and indeed we saw only one puffin pop its head above the burrow even when we went back later in the evening – they’d obviously decided to make it a duvet day rather than go fishing.

Back to the apartment for a warming lunch, and whilst Rich napped I walked along the coastal road towards Merki, where I found an extremely hardy and affectionate cat. I then visited the mini-market, open Monday through Friday from 2-6pm, and found it surprisingly well stocked, but given that the village gets cut off, I suppose it has to be.

At 5.30pm Kristjana very kindly opened up the spa for us and left us in the hot tub, before the heat got too much for us. We’re both lovers of cold rather than hot places, solely because our bodies, thanks to various quirks, can’t cope with high temperatures, but there are so many cold places to explore, that we can’t complain.

The deserted inlets

After a leisurely breakfast, Rich drove Aurora and I up the 946 road from Bakkagerði, to the start of trail number 14 on the wonderfully named ‘Trails of the Deserted Inlets’ map. A few kilometres in we lost all signs of the footpath and marker posts to the snow, so retraced our steps and walked in the opposite direction up track 33. Fortunately a skidoo had used the trail recently, and we followed its tramlines until it started to snow heavily, and we thought it time to return to the village. I’m sure that every villager by now knew who we were and where we were, but we still didn’t fancy getting stuck out there in worsening weather.

Back in the apartment, by 4.30pm we couldn’t see the other side of the bay what with the storm clouds, so did what all Icelanders do when it’s snowing heavily, and jumped in the outdoor hot pot – idyllic at a balmy 38 degrees C. At least it was until the blooming thing decided to stop working. Still we bobbed around until the water started to get cool, told Katljana – the supervisor, that the hot tub was on the blink just in case they needed to empty it before it froze, and ran the 5 metres from the spa to our front door, wearing our swim suits and snow boots!


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