Mountain farm Lien Fjellgard clings to the mountainside, seven hundred metres above sea level as it has done since the middle ages. It almost looks like a museum up there with the sun darkened timber houses and grassy roofs.
Text: Edda Espeland / Translation: Linda Vikaune / Photo: Terje Gundersen
Lien Fjellgard lies above Svartdal in Seljord municipality and has spectacular views – a true Telemark farm which has been inhabited since 1340, and belonged to the same family since the early 1600s. Tor Lien, who runs the farm with his wife Mette, is the eleventh generation.
Tor and Mette are both teachers and grew up in the town of Tønsberg. Knowing Tor would inherit 26 houses in Telemark county, the question of what to do with them popped up early. They took over in 1974, moved to the farm four years later and started restoring the houses, which were painted red and had slate on the roof. Then they tentatively started running farm holidays, but soon discovered that the market for courses and conferences was bigger and just as interesting.
Today the mountain farm can cater for up to a hundred guests and house 50-65 in a total of 25 rooms. The rooms are in the original houses, which are all restored and where every room is unique and tells its own special story. Some have en suite bathrooms and some have to share, but staying the night in the stable, cookhouse or hayloft is an experience none the less. The hosts will customise the stay at Lien to suit each guest as there are many room sizes and options. The newest building, Kvilarstogo, is from 2000 and fits harmoniously into the terrain. There is also a huge terrace where guests can relax in the sauna or outdoor bath tub after an intense working day.
The farm only takes bookings from groups, but no matter if there are six or sixty in that group, they will have the whole place to themselves. The idea is that guests should feel at home, and Lien often hosts management and business meetings and welcomes groups who want to be on their own and spend the time working.
“In our experience people’s everyday lives are so busy that most of them enjoy coming here, slowing down and just relaxing,” says Mette.
At Lien they focus on good meals based on ingredients from the local area, they want their food to be plentiful, genuine and home grown. It is still a working farm, home to 70 sheep and 13 Scottish highland cattle living the good life and roaming around feeding on herbs and grass. The restaurant serves a lot of lamb and beef from their own farm, and also moose and reindeer hunted in their own grounds. The area also supplies mushrooms and berries, and Mette and Tor cure meat and fish themselves. There is a smoking oven in the yard which they use to ensure guests get freshly smoked trout for lunch or starters, and last year they got a new bread oven which can bake a pizza in 90 seconds or 20 loaves of bread in one go. In the yard between the beautiful houses there is room to set tables to fit 70 diners, who can enjoy the atmosphere and delicious scents and mountain flavours in a memorable meal.
When Mette and Tor tentatively started welcoming guests in the 1970s they never dreamt that so many would come to stay. New rooms are constantly being opened due to the high demand. They have installed under-floor heating to create a good and even temperature in all the rooms, and keep thinking ahead – running a mountain farm tends to throw up new challenges and tasks, and at the same time they have to preserve the farm for future generations.
The hosts have been awarded Olavsrosa, Norwegian Cultural Heritage’s seal of quality, for their restoration of the old farm.