Today has been one of the highlights of our trip to date – arriving in the Faroe Islands. We set our alarm early, but in fact I was awake long before it rang. Shortly after 5am the first sight of land came into view, and I threw on some clothes and rushed out onto the deck. I arrived just in time to see the sun rising over the Faroe Islands – just magical!
The Faroe Islands sit in the North Atlantic, mid way between Norway and Iceland. Although part of Denmark, they have been self-governing since 1948, and have their own parliament. The population is only 48,704. And of these 42% live in the capital. They have their own language – Faroese, and 95% of their economy is based on fishing. They opted not to join the EU, unlike Denmark, in order to protect their fishing rights.
By 6am, we had docked at Torshavn, one of the world’s smallest capitals, and named after Thor, the God of War (literally Thor’s harbour). The ferry arrives right into the main harbour, immediately adjacent to the town. It is a really pretty town, with brightly coloured houses, many painted a maroon red, with vibrant green turfed roofs.
As soon as we were allowed off the boat, Howard and I left to have a wander around, and take some photographs. The weather in the Faroes is very variable, with rain at some point on 300 days of the year, so we were eager to see Torshavn whilst the weather was still fair. As it turned out, we were lucky, and we had a decent day weather wise – in fact, for the Faroes, we experienced a bit of a heatwave hitting 14 degrees. The average summer temperature is only 11 degrees, and 3 degrees in winter, so we were fortunate. We even saw some sunshine in the middle of the day.
After an hour on our own having a look around, we joined a guided tour organised from the boat. First we explored the Old Town on foot. It was set up the hillside from the harbour, and consisted largely of attractive turf-roofed buildings, most of the government buildings painted red, and private residences a mixture of colours. Our guide was born and bred in the Faroes, and told us stories of who lived in which houses, including her own – there didn’t seem to be anyone she didn’t know.
Next we hopped on a coach, and were given a tour around the rest of the town, and then taken to place called Kirkjubour. This little village is situated on the south-west coast, and is the historical centre of the Faroes. In the Middle Ages it was the Faroese Episcopal See, which made it the country’s spiritual and cultural hub. The scenery en-route was really beautiful, with green slopes running down to the sea. There were plenty of sheep with lambs, mainly black – particularly hardy breed that stays out all year due to a large amount of lanolin in their coats, which keeps them waterproof. Once at Kirkjubour, we looked around the pretty St. Olaf’s Church, with beautiful blue stained glass gates. Inside was simple, with white painted pews and a striking boat mural depicting the twelve apostles over the altar. The picture had been hung before it dried, leaving paint dripping down – unintended, but actually adding to the effect.
We then had a quick wander around the ruins of St. Magnus Cathedral, before being led into a wonderful old farmhouse, which now houses a museum, for coffee and cake. The couple who run the farm are unable to survive on the income from their sheep alone, and so have diversified into inviting tourists in to see a typical Faroese farmhouse. The long tressel table was made from a piece of driftwood salvaged from a shipwrecked boat that sailed out of Dundee – a small world!
Outing over, we returned to Torshavn, and had another look around until it was time to return to the boat. We stood on deck as the ferry sailed through the archipelago of the 18 Faroe Islands, weaving it’s way back to the ocean. The scenery was absolutely stunning, with sheer cliffs descending to the sea. The light by now had totally changed, and many of the cliffs were engulfed in mist, which made it all the more atmospheric. Howard and I looked in awe at the scene before us. I have never seen such breath-taking scenery, save perhaps for St. Kilda or the Fjordlands of New Zealand.
When eventually we left sight of land, I was both exhilarated and frozen in equal measures. We are now trying to warm up before our last supper on board this ferry.
Tomorrow Iceland awaits.