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Halsnøy Monastery is situated in the midst of the lush fjord country in Sunnhordland, on one of the old spits, or “necks”, that has given name to the island. Gently sloping fields lead down to the sea on both sides, in the south towards the Kloster Fjord, to the north towards the sheltered Klostervågen.
The stately Kvinnherad Church with its characteristic profile set out against the mighty Malmangernuten in the background, gives you a rare feeling of being present in a historic landscape as you come around Nes and face the well-kept houses at the Skåla farm. The church at Skåla is one of four “fjordungskirker” (one of four main district churches) and this farm was the centre of this coastal administration district.
Both Lure Fjord and Lindåsosane to the inside give good living conditions for rare marine organisms: jellyfish, shellfish and fish. These include animals that migrated in after last the Ice Age, when the sea level was higher. Eventually, as the land rose, some of these populations became isolated.
When the debate about building a pontoon bridge over Salhus Fjord was raging, some were afraid that the bridge would disrupt the ecology of the fjord system inside. The worst predictions did not prove true, but it is easy to see that there was a change: the Puffins have gotten a new food platter after the Nordhordaland bridge was built. Its favourite meal, mussels, thrive on the pontoons that are the foundation for the bridge.
Around Mjøsvågen here is still a compact marine use area. Some of the buildings are common boathouses, but most of them also house small enterprises and workshops. This is where the farmers from Øvsthus, Mjøs, Hole and other farms have supplemented their meagre incomes as smiths, brass moulders, clog makers, chest builders and decorative painters.
Some decades ago, Veafjord and the currents in toward the bigger rivers were the most likely places to see harbour seals in Hordaland. In the summer flocks lay on the beach and waited for the salmon to trickle in. Sometimes they also followed the fish a little way up the river.
Moster is mentioned as a church site already in the time of Olav Tryggvason. According to the sagas the king is supposed to have laid the foundations for the first church at Moster when he came there in 995. That building would have been a stave church - the church standing there today – a stone church with a nave and narrower, straight chancel – was probably founded around 1100. In 1874 a new church was built at Moster. Then the old church was bought by The Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments, which is still the owner.
The stone church at Støle may have been built around 1160 probably as a private chapel for the mighty Stødle clan. It is likely that it was Erling Skakke, the king’s representative and father of king Magnus Erlingsson, who built the church.