Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Heritage hit-and-run: Bus driver crashes into turf wall at museum, flees scene

By Staff

  • Beutiful traditional turf farm Glaumbær dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries and is built according to the centuries old tradition. Photo/Skagafjörður heritage museum

  • Damage dwall The wall surrounding the farm is built with the same technique as the outer walls of Glaumbær. Photo/Skagafjörður heritage museum

  • Thick wall, built of stone and turf The collapsed wall shows the structure of traditional turf walls. Photo/Skagafjörður heritage museum

  • Not a pretty sight Turf walls become soggy and can become unstable in the spring, making them more susceptible to damage. Photo/Skagafjörður heritage museum

A turf wall which surrounds the old farmhouse at Glaumbær heritage museum in North Iceland was badly damaged by a clumsy coach driver who failed to check where he was driving. A large section of the wall collapsed when the driver crashed his vehicle into the wall before fleeing the scene.

Skagafjörður Heritage Museum operates Glaumbær Museum, a beautiful restored 19th century turf farm which is one of the most popular stops in Skagafjörður fjord. Glaumbær. The site has been occupied since the Age of the Settlements (900 AD). The present buildings vary in age; the most recent addition having been built in 1876-79, while the oldest – the kitchen, pantry, and central baðstofa (the main living quarters of turf houses) are believed to date back to the mid-18th century. The passages connecting the individual units are believed to be centuries older. 

The farm was occupied until 1947 when it was declared a protected site. 

A traditional turf wall has been constructed to separate the museum from the parking lot. The museum shared photos of the damage on its Facebook page, with a pinch of sarcasm, lamenting the fact that the driver failed to notify staff of the accident: 

"Bus drivers can be clumsy like other people, but most of them are honest people. The person who breached the wall at Glaumbær drove off without notifying anyone. Some people really know how to behave."

Locals as well as visitors were shocked by the irresponsible and disrespectful behavior of the driver.

NEVER climb on top of turf walls
The manager of the museum told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið that the breaching of the wall was no doubt an accident. She pointed out that the wall is soggy after the winter, which makes it more vulnerable: Turf walls are fragile, especially in spring and fall, and people should NEVER under ANY circumstances climb on turf walls or farms. The same goes for rock structures like sheep corrals. 

The museum has already contacted the tour company which operates the bus which crashed into the wall, requesting they pay for a part of the repair. "We'll need major repairs which will come with significant cost." The repairs will cost at least half a million króna (5,000 USD/4,100 EUR).

Traditional turf houses
Turf houses were built of turf, stone, and timber. Imported timber and driftwood were used for the interior frame of the buildings and paneling, while the thick walls are built of stone and of turf which is laid in a herringbone pattern. 

Turf farms consisted of a number of separate buildings which were connected by narrow passages. The Glaumbær farm had a total of 13 buildings, each of which were used for different purposes. The main living quarters were the baðstofa, a communal room for eating and sleeping, as well as gathering at night for reading or during celebrations. Food was stored and prepared in the pantry and kitchen. Other halls and rooms were used for storage of equipment or food or served as accommodation for members of the extended household, including elders and other members of the household. Major farmsteads like Glaumbær also had guest rooms and a smithy.

Related content

Editor's Picks