Exploring the Faroe Islands

Trip Start Sep 11, 2010
Trip End Sep 11, 2011

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Flag of Faroe Islands  , Vágar,
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday 30 August 2011. An early breakfast as pick-up for the tour was at 0800hrs. It transpired that there were four taking the tour so a car and driver had been arranged for the day trip to the north islands. The other couple were staying at a nearby hotel and after we had collected them our driver, Ossur, announced in his heavily accented broken English that we would be taking the mountain route on the outward journey and the lower on the return. Although it was overcast, the sun was trying to break through and it wasn't too long before prolonged patches of sunshine and blue skies accompanied the drive.

The scenery was stunning; the islands are of volcanic basalt (no active hotspots remain), with towering cliffs and 'stepped’ waterfalls falling from their dizzy heights. Sheep of various breeds and colours abound, interspersed with some cattle and horses. Most of the slopes are covered in grass and some heather; peat is common and was used extensively for heating and cooking. Many of the peaks were shrouded in low cloud.

As the road wound up above the Kaldback Fjord, we stopped at a vista point to get great views of the Island of Nolsoy to the south east – allegedly the island has the world’s largest colony of Storm Petrels. As we continued, there were views of Koltur Island to the south west, dominated by the steep mountain Kolturshamar rising to 477m. Then off to Kollafjordur, one the larger villages, surround by majestic Skaelingsfjall Mountain (used to be considered the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands but this honour now belongs to Slaettaratindur soaring to 882m situated on Eysturoy). Through Hosvik and Vid-Air to Hvalvik, where we stopped to take photos of the 1828 black and white church with its grass roof. This is the oldest of the Faroese wooden churches and is exceptionally well-preserved.

The next stop was a little further along the road at a whale-processing site. Since the Government has curtailed the culling of whales, the equipment and huge drums sit rusting by the side of the sloped jetty where a whale would have been winched up from the fjord to be ‘processed’. The area is now used as a fire brigade training centre! On the road again, and after crossing the small bridge that connects Streymoy to the Island of Esturoy (sometimes called the only bridge over the North Atlantic), we made our way south to Nes with its four large turbines sitting on the wind-blown ridge. From here there were great views to the southern island of Sandoy in the background behind Torshavn. The grazing sheep didn’t seem at all perturbed by the continual whoosh of the blades from the turbines, but they were not too keen on our trying to get closer for a photo or two!

Pushing on, the town of Toftir was our next stopping point to visit a woollen shop; soft and beautifully knitted garments, shawls, scarves, hats and gloves, as well as skeins and balls of locally-produced wool for purchase - a knitter’s paradise! A ‘canteen-style’ restaurant situated above an office complex and overlooking the little harbour, provided the setting for our tasty fish lunch.

On the road again, we headed for Leirvik, where recent excavations at Toftanes have revealed the remnants of a 1000 year-old Viking farm; it is reported that the inhabitants of the area were wiped out by the Black Plague.  To access the Island of Bordoy, there is a 5.6km tunnel 150m under the Leirvikfjordur dividing the islands; on exiting the tunnel, there were stunning views across to the southern ends of the Islands of Kunoy and Kalsoy. At Klaksvik we visited the magnificent Christianskirkjan with its free-standing bell tower set to one side. A Church guide kindly provided a short history: the Church was designed by the Danish architect Peter Koch, around a fresco originally painted on the wall of a cathedral in Viborg, Denmark in 1901 by Professor Joakim Skovgaard. As the existence of the fresco was threatened by dampness, it was ‘withdrawn’ and transferred onto canvas in 1910 by some Italian experts. The Church is the first in Scandinavia to be built in the Old Norse style – it also has an original eight-oar boat, the last to be built for the parish, hanging from the rafters. It also has particular poignancy since it was the only boat to return from a fateful fishing trip on the day before Christmas Eve in 1913 when a particularly violent storm struck the area. Another significant feature is the 4,000 year-old baptismal granite font standing on a Faeroese basalt foot, made in Torshavn. The font was originally a heathen sacrificial bowl and was a gift from the National Museum.

A dash back to the car as the rain was quite heavy as we exited the Church, Ossur drove to a vantage point for views of central Kunoy (the highest of all the islands by average height), and then we were off to Aranfjordur and onto Nordepil to drive across the causeway linking Bordoy and Vidoy Islands. Turning north at Hvannasund, we headed to Vidareidi, the most northerly village of the Faroe Islands. It is set between the perfectly pyramidal Malissfjal (750m) and the soaring amphitheatre Villingadalsfjodal (841m); the little village church dating from 1892 is set on the cliff with a stunning view across to the northern ends of the Islands of Bordoy and Kunoy, and of Kalsoy to the west. Ossur knew the pastor and although the door to her little black, turf-roofed house was open, there was no-one at home – a view inside the church would not be possible. A short drive around across to the eastern side of the island provided views of the Islands of Fugloy (the bird island) and Svinoy.

It was time to make tracks back to Torshavn. We broke the journey at Klaksvik to visit the Northern Museum (founded in 1968) which is situated in an old merchant house built in 1838, as a branch to the Danish monopoly trade in Torshavn. The monopoly was abolished in 1856 but the house stands untouched. There are two rooms housing exhibits: the first room has all sorts of tools (including an unusual cat skin inflated to form a fishing line float), everyday items and photos; the second, called The Chemistry, was used as a draper’s store dating from 1919, which in 1932 became a chemistry and was in use until 1961. The room has stayed intact including all the bottles and chemistry tools and the 17 small delightful paintings decorating the rafters depicting views of the building and its surroundings.

The remainder of the drive back to Torshavn passed quickly and it was soon time to say thanks and goodbye to Ossur, and to wish David and Diane bon voyage for their journey back to the UK and then onto New Zealand where they now reside. It had been a very interesting day exploring the Faroe Islands and we had only just seen a small fraction of what has been called "the world’s most appealing islands".  Another place to add to the ‘revisit’ list!

(We needed to consult the Tourist Guide and various pamphlets to aide our memories and provide the details for this blog entry!!)
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J&D on

Everything looks so crisp and clean and the light seems so atmospheric,what a wonderful place.Shame about the lack of a decent phone signal,a minor inconvenience really.
Lots of love

Angie on

I'm still trying to come to terms with your six hour flight, let alone realise that your adventure is drawing to the end. what are your fans going to look forward to without your blogs!!! I am in awe of your accomplishments. Love & hugs

Chris & Pete on

Beautiful and unspoilt, lovely photos. It's hard to believe you are almost at the end but what a journey!! Take care love C&Px

Steve Hunter on

Well done you two -nearly home.
I hope you don't bump in to anyone you knew from the old Highland days as the abuse levels will rise dramatically!
Was hoping to escort you back from shetlands but unlike your reliable machine our C.182 is u/s at the moment .
I've only just discovered your blog so have much to catch up on.
Congrats on your great inspiring trip

Steve Hunter

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