Early summer, when the rest of the northern hemisphere is enjoying sunshine and warmth we had the hair-brain idea to go and explore the Faroe Islands. This little collection of islands lie between Norway and Iceland, 160 miles north of Orkney. A very empty Atlantic Airways flight resulted in the drinks trolley being parked between the 9 passengers with instructions to ‘help yourselves’. Don’t mind if I do!
Fog and Mist
As we stepped off the plane the remote nature of the islands hit us square on. Fog and swirling mist combined with lush green fields and swollen waterfalls along the roadside and made us realise that these really are remote islands. With such a choice of waterfalls we almost became waterfall snobs. We were only interested if they were particular large and impressive. The drive from the airport was wild and an instant attack on the sense. It was hard to believe that a few hours earlier we had been in sunshine in Aberdeen.
The mist and fog visited throughout our stay. I can truly say this is the only place on the planet where I have sat in a car on a hill, with the wind howling so hard that we were scared to drive. At the same time we were able to sit and watch the puddles blowing up the hill past the car.
Tunnels and Roads
More terror followed with the trail of tunnels across the islands. I really am not a good left hand driver. Add to this the combination of single track tunnels with no lights and passing places and it is a real recipe for panic. Oh and did I mention the lorries coming head on through the tunnels. Close my eyes and hope was the only option at times. I also managed to close my eyes a few times on narrow roads with passing places. Big lorries and even bigger sheer drops, I really am a road wimp.
Vestmanna Bird Cliffs
While the weather was clear we did manage a boat trip out around the bird cliffs near Vestmanna. Puffins and guillemots were everywhere and despite the rough weather the birds were amazing through the fog. The noise filled the sky and it felt like we were the visitors on their patch. Apparently guillemot and puffin don’t taste too bad either, although the after effects of a bird feast is not great for others in the vicinity of the eater! I really couldn’t bring myself to join in the feast and stuck to goat, a far better farmed option. We were reassured that the birds were Faroese birds and not Icelandic. However no-one could tell us how they differentiated between the two amongst the thousands nesting on these cliffs. I don’t want to get into an ethical debate about the Faroese practices of hunting, we made our decisions and immersed ourselves in the culture as far as our principles allowed.
Tórshavn and Kirkjubøur
The capital of Tórshavn is relaxed and calm. Located on Streymoy one of the larger islands and easy to walk around. The modern city is similar to anywhere else in Europe but the quieter older part of Tinganes has an air of the past. The turf roofed wooden buildings merge with the surrounding water. Some are over 500 years old and the Parliament building is the centre of this area.
Tórshavn is located in the centre of the islands so makes a great spot to start exploring the surrounding islands. Further south on Streymoy is Kirkjubøur. With the picturesque St Olav’s Church and ruins of St Magnus Cathedral this remote village is full of history.
Faroe Island Planning
We stayed at Hotel Føroyar in Tórshavn, a brilliant base for the weekend and booked flights, hire car and hotel through Discover the World which worked perfectly. We adventured there in early summer and the long evenings meant that exploring was easy, but the weather was chilly and did I mention foggy?! The weather is so unpredictable that it is a gamble whenever you go. Just be prepared for anything the weather decides to throw at you. The people are lovely although some places we visited had very little English spoken. However we got the message across well and never had any nasty surprises whilst eating out.
All images were taken using film and scanned. This trip was intentionally taken with just a film camera and the conditions proved tough without the luxury of digital. These islands are a photographic dream. It has the unusual combination of stunning landscapes and lots of great wildlife encounters. Be prepared to adapt a plan minute by minute. The weather changes rapidly and so having options each day is essential. The islands are easy to explore and there are unexpected surprises around every corner. Take your time, stop often and work around the light.