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.
Alrekstad (later Årstad) is the birthplace of Bergen. The estate was an estate for Harald Hårfagre and several of his descendants: Eirik Blodøks, Håkon den gode og Olav Tryggvason. These first kings moved with their courts and guardsmen from estate to estate. From these estates the king ruled the country.
When bishop J.Neumann was on a visitation in Hardanger in 1825 he also visited Torsnes, the seat of the Galtung family. They were then in the process of pulling down the old dwelling house on the farm. As the committed observer of ancient monuments and antiquarian buildings that he was, bishop Neumann has provided us with interesting details:
Sæheim (Seim) at Lygrefjord is mentioned as one of the royal farms of Harald Hårfagre. Several of the first Norwegian national kings had their seat here, and the farm became Crown Property up to the 1400s. According to the sagas, Håkon den gode is buried on the farm.
Håøy lies centrally in one of the main shipping lanes going into Bergen --- with Håyøsund on the south side facing Meland, and Hagelsundet facing Lindåslandet. Names like Nordfarskista and Nordfarsskorane explain things. The strategic position was important in Viking times and it has been important in our days too. The beacon on Håøy can have been built in the establishment of the coastal administration in Håkon the Good’s time, about 950 AD. The defence structure of which we say remains on Håøy Summit held a critical position during Norwegian neutrality during the First World War. The defence structure was taken down in 1957.
In front of Fitjar Church there is a memorial stone, sculpted by Anne Grimdalen and erected in 1961, for the thousand-year memorial of one of the most dramatic events in Norway’s history, the Battle of Fitjar. This was the place where Norway’s king, Håkon the Good, suffered his fatal injury in the fight with Eirik’s sons, probably in the year 961.
Ullensvang church, situated beside the vicarage, in idyllic surroundings on the headland just inside Lofthus municipality, is mentioned for the first time in written sources in 1309. At that time the present Gothic stone church must have been new. Judging by the style in the western portal and the eastern chancel windows, the church must have been built around 1300 or just before, probably by builders from Bergen influenced by the English Gothic style.