When I travel, I’m drawn to the wild and remote, places clinging to the edge of the world where cultures have been preserved and I can catch a glimpse of ‘the other’ – throw in some breathtaking scenery, and I’m hooked. A trip to the Faroe Islands ticks all these boxes and more. These 18 lumps of volcanic basalt between Iceland and Norway were settled by Viking farmers and fishers over 1,000 years ago. They are an alluring blend of traditional and modern, with new buildings often sporting old-fashioned turf rooves, yet remarkably good roads (given the tiny population) and the six main islands joined by a network of bridges, subsea tunnels and causeways. The scale of the scenery in this land of rock and water is hard to believe. There isn’t just one waterfall, but a long basalt rock face with many rivulets tumbling down it … when the wind is high, the waterfalls literally blow back up the cliff face, and when the sun is out they sparkle with rainbows. There isn’t a mere cliff face, there’s the highest, sheerest wall of cliff you’ve ever seen, plunging from a grass meadow vertically into the water – often with a waterfall cascading off it straight into the ocean and usually a few craggy sea stacks or tiny islands just off shore. Villages of grass-roofed brightly-painted wooden houses and whitewashed churches sit under towering snow-dusted peaks shaped like Incan pyramids … the sides of the fjords are etched with rows of deep clefts so symmetrical they look almost manmade. If you need further encouragement, Atlantic Airways flies from Edinburgh to Vágar in just over an hour, and from Copenhagen in two. So take a walk on the wild side on your next European trip and visit somewhere unlike anywhere else. Here are a few of the things I’ll never forget about this beautiful country.
Gjógv – Gjáargardur Guest House
Even the Faroese say Gjógv is one of the prettiest villages in the country. The simple guest house there offers basic meals and comfortable motel-style rooms (request an end one for the views) and is a great base for exploring the northern islands. There’s a road leading in from either side of the island, drive both for spectacular scenery.
Heimablídni – Home Hospitality
Locals throughout the islands offer home-cooked meals and conversation. Anna & Óli Rubeksen, in southwestern Streymoy, serve their farm’s produce in a dining room overlooking the outlying islands, while retired fishing captain, Jákup Hansen and his wife Lena host guided hikes in southern Eysturoy, followed by coffee and homemade cake in their beautiful garden.
Villages – Bøur, Tjørnuvík, Saksun
Villages of grass-roofed houses and simple whitewashed churches are easily accessible by driving or hiking through gorgeous scenery. One of the prettiest, Bøur, is a few minutes’ drive from the airport, while Tjørnuvík and Saksun, are joined by a three-hour walking trail. Photo opportunities abound and just soaking up the atmosphere is rejuvenating.
Restaurants Áarstova & Barbara
www.aarstova.fo & www.barbara.fo
In the cobbled streets of Tórshavn are two old wooden cottages with a warren of low-roofed rooms, dedicated to the Faroese staples of lamb and seafood. Áarstova features lamb, including excellent tartare and tender lamb shank, as well as an impressive wine list, while Barbara serves monkfish, horse mussels and other local seafood.
Tórshavn – Hotel Hafnia
The heart of Tórshavn, the world’s smallest capital city, is its historic waterfront. Hotel Hafnia offers basic but comfortable accommodation (and the best Danish pastries ever) just a few minutes’ walk from the harbour and handful of shops, including Faroese music store Tutl Records and modern knitwear specialists Gudrun & Gudrun (for more traditional styles visit Nordoya Heimavirki in Klaksvík).
For more information visit www.visitfaroeislands.com and outer islands tourism.
Pick up a car to get around in at the 62N counter at the airport.
See some of my favourite images from the Faroe Islands here.