My son and I have recently returned from an amazing and memorable 3-day holiday in Iceland exploring Reykjavik, The Golden Circle (a wonderful guide with ‘Grayline Tours’) and The Blue Lagoon… an adventure full of geysers, hot springs, tectonic plates and famous fissures, the original Viking parliament, a beautiful waterfall at Gullfoss, bubbling mud pools, silky milky-blue mineral rich waters, elves and trolls, moss covered lava fields and much more..!
I was also on the lookout, a little bit! for sheep on our travels, as always hope to find some strands attached to bushes and branches but we only saw a few sheep, roaming wild in the far distance beneath the mountains, eating moss and herbs…and apart from a few Icelandic birch there are very few trees to catch wool on….
The Icelandic sheep is an ancient North European breed, slightly smaller than modern varieties, whose double-layered coat is uniquely suited to cold and wet conditions. The inner layer, or thel, is insulating, superlight and very airy, while the outer layer, or tog, is long, strong and water repellent. Carded together, these two layers make lopi, versatile wool used to knit lopapeysa, the distinctive traditional Icelandic sweater of concentric rings. I'd love one of these but they are hugely expensive and my knitting skills are not exactly up to the 'lopapeysa'!
‘At summer’s apex, the number of sheep in Iceland outnumbers the human population three to one, at approximately 500,000. Allowed to roam wild in the summer, they are ubiquitous on the island’s barren, rocky landscape, sometimes scaling giant mountains in search of edible moss and herbs, where they can only be seen as tiny white, black and brown specks thousands of feet in the air.’
Excerpt taken from: ‘Why Farmers and Knitters Are Fixated on Icelandic Sheep’