Located in the mouth of Skagafjörður, equidistant between Reykir on the fjord’s west coast and the headland, Þórðarhöfði, on the eastern shore, the island of Drangey makes a great day-trip from Sauðárkrókur. Now a bird sanctuary where kittiwakes, puffins and guillemots can be seen in abundance, the steep-sided, flat-topped island, which resembles an arrow pointing north, is best visited on the three- or four-hour boat tours, operated by Drangey Tours, which leave from the harbour at Reykir. Offering an unbeatable combination of birdlife and history, the tour is easily one of the best on offer in northern Iceland – although it’s not for the faint-hearted, given the steep climb required once ashore and the dizzying drops as you ascend.
From the boat moorings, a narrow winding path streaks steeply up rocky cliffs to the grassy meadow at the summit of Drangey’s 180m-high plug of palagonite rock. The deep hollow in the turf here, where the bedrock shows through, was once the hideout of Grettir the Strong (or Grettir Ásmundarson), hero of Grettir’s Saga. The island’s northern summit is accessible only by climbing a rusty ladder, erected by local bird hunters, which overhangs an area of crumbling rock – definitely not one to attempt if you’re afraid of heights. Incidentally, for fresh water Grettir depended on a spring virtually hidden under a steep rock overhang on the island’s southern cliff. Even today, the only way to reach the source is to clamber hand over hand down a knotted rope, trying not to look down at the 500m sheer drop beneath.