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A 500 year legal battle over Dyrhóley peninsula in South Iceland comes to an end ... probably

By Staff

  • Dyrhólaey peninsula For more than five hundred years the nearby landowners have argued over who owns the peninsula. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson.

The Supreme Court has handed down it's ruling in a legal battle which stretches back to the mid-1400s, settling the question of who owns the picturesque Dyrhólaey peninsula in South Iceland.

A picturesque property dispute
Dyrhólaey peninsula by the village of Vík in South Iceland is a popular tourist destination. The contrasts between the sheer cliffs, the beautiful stone arch and the Reynisdrangar sea stacks and the black sands and foaming sea give the area an otherworldly feel. But while modern tourists are captivated by the visual beauty local landowners have been feuding for half a millennium over who owns the peninsula and where the property boundaries lie.

Dyrhólaey peninsula, along with nearby lands was originally owned by a single farm, Dyrhólaey. The ancient Dyrhólaey farm was later split up in two, an eastern and a western part, which were later divided further. The earliest ruling on the ownership of the peninsula took place in the mid-1400s when a court assembled by the Bishop of Skálholt ruled that the monastery of Þykkvabær and the owners of the lands belonging to the Eastern Dyrhólaey farm.

Over the centuries, landowners argued over who had rights to the peninsula, and in 1735 a court assembled by the Sheriff of West Skaftafellssýsla county then ruled that the farm of Vesturhús had grazing rights in the peninsula, thus recognizing their rights to the peninsula. However, in 1890 the owners of farms belonging to West- and East-Dyrhólaey had agreed to borders which established that the peninsula was within the boundary of the East-Dyrhólaey.

Apparently you can't wait 120 years to dispute documents 
The local newssite Vísir reports that the district Court of South Iceland had ruled that on the basis of their centuries old grazing rights and irregularities in the 1890 documents outlining the border between the lands, the owners of West Dyrhólaey owned roughly 20% of the peninsula. Now the Supreme Court of Iceland has reversed this ruling, arguing that the owners of West Dyrhólaey had forfeited any direct claim to the peninsula by waiting for nearly 120 years to dispute the 1890 agreement.

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