Finding Inspiration in the Past
The Kolkuós land has a long history. Today this place hosts guest accommodations and a thriving herd of horses, but in years past, the area was used for many other activities.
The History of Kolkuós
Kolbeinsárós (now called Kolkuós) is an ancient trading center on the eastern side of the Skagafjörður region of Iceland. The place is first mentioned in The Book of Settlement (“Landnámabók”) in a story about sailing merchants who lost a mare named Fluga, who later became famous and marked the beginning of the history of equestrianism in Skagafjörður. Kolbeinsáros was the original name of the place, but in recent times the abbreviation “Kolkuós” has been used most often.
Kolbeinsáros was the main trading port of Skagfjörður during the settlement age. Kolbeinsáros is then mentioned from time to time as the main harbor and trading place of the Skagfjörður region before the Reformation. The sea route from the bishop's seat in Hólar was the closest to there, and the ships used by the seat in the Middle Ages used to go there. It is doubtful that ocean-going ships have ever sailed up into the estuary itself, because there is a rock in it that obstructs ship travel as the estuary is now shaped. Otherwise, the rocks on the river's edge is like a natural pier and has created natural harbor conditions in Kolkuós.
About 300 meters west of the shore in Kolkuós rises Elínarhólminn, a tall island, and from the point of the land to the island there is an underwater reef that still breaks the waves and may have stood out of the sea to some extent during the colonial era. These conditions provided optimal shelter from nor'easters.
A little before 1600, the town of Hofsós came into existence as a trading place, and Kolbeinsáros then disappeared from the history books for some time. The natural conditions probably changed so that the place was no longer being used as a seaport.
During its early use, there were warehouses there, and it is believed that some time before the Reformation, a log church or prayer house was built by merchants in Kolkuós, the only one of its kind in the country. In this way, Kolbeinsárós was the window to the relations between Hólastad and Norðlenders with foreign countries in the first centuries of the settlement of Iceland and connected them to foreign cultural currents.
There was a break in trade in Kolbeinsárós from around 1600 until 1881, when a licensed trading port was established there. Merchants started sailing to the port, and soon the merchants at Sauðárkrókur had plots of land measured out there, and built sales shops. Before 1900, four shop houses in Kolkuós were owned by merchants from Sauðárkrókur.
Permanent residence did not begin in Kolkuós until 1891, when Tómas Ísleiksson, a saddle maker, settled there with his wife, midwife Guðrúna Jóelsdóttir, and their children. They moved west to North America in 1903, as part of a large-scale emigration of Icelanders that lasted from 1870-1914. In 1901, Hartmann Ásgrímsson and Kristín Símonardóttir moved to Kolkuós and started a business there. Then began a period of great growth in Kolkuós. In 1903, a new shop was built there, which lasted until 1940. Also in 1903, the lower floor of a residential building was completed, and the upper floor finished a year later, in 1904. That building is still standing and was completely renovated in 2014, to be used as a guesthouse. Jón Björnsson, a carpenter and later a farmer in Ljótsstaðir, built these houses or was the chief carpenter. In 1913 Hartmann built a slaughterhouse and a year later a covered court for the slaughter of cattle, the first of its kind in Skagafjörður.
When the last permanent residents moved away from Kolkuós in 1984, the house (that is now the guesthouse) stood empty for many years and fell into ruins. It was not until renovations started in 2010 that life was brought back to this special place.