Visit the Faroe Islands – If you’re starting to think of unusual holiday destinations then I’ve maybe got a gem. In May I went on a press trip to the Faroes, a tiny cluster of islands in the North Atlantic.
How to Get There – Visit the Faroe Islands
The Faroes sound remote but you can hop on a direct flight from Edinburgh and be there in just over an hour. Before you know it you’ve landed in this breathtaking landscape that I’ve been describing as awesome with a dose of epic thrown in.
The Appeal – Visit the Faroe Islands
The Faroes are ideal for those who love the great outdoors, hiking, wildlife, good food and adventure. It’s also known for knitwear as the jumper worn in The Killing by Sarah Lund is Faroese – the knitwear shops offer up some gorgeous wools and dresses as well as cosy sweaters. If you’re passionate about the scenery of Scotland then you’ll instantly find affinity with the Faroes – the sweeping valleys, the rugged hillsides, the picturesque coastal villages.
Things to Do – Visit the Faroe Islands
Vestmanna Boat Trip
Head to Vestmanna on the west coast of Streymoy to set sail with www.puffin.fo cruises. Take in dramatic ock formations, sea stacks, caves, birdlife and the most precarious grazing lambs. The skilled skipper navigates narrow channels and caves to bring visitors epic sights.
Vestmanna’s Saga Museum
This museum packs no punches about Faroese history, from the early Irish settlers to violent pirates and Vikings. From decapitations, hangings, raids, violence and drownings, it conveys history with acutely lifelike waxworks.
Stroll Around the Government Buildings ‘Tinganes’ of the Faroes
On the waterfront, these iconic red buildings bedecked with green grass roofs are unusual and photogenic.
Hiking Út á Lónna
Park at the small town of Saksun at the north of Streymoy and walk (strictly when the tide is out or going out) to meet the Atlantic. The route is 3km each way, and takes roughly an hour.
Head down a gravel path, follow the water to a beach and its dramatic waterfall straight out to sea. Hugely dramatic.
Experience the ruins of St Magnus Cathedral, as well as the famous farmhouse Rokstovan, one of the world’s oldest inhabited timber houses which is open for the public to explore.
The houses in Kirkjubøur are clad in the signature black tar, with vivid red doors and window frames and the iconic insulated grass roofs.
Situated on the land of a 17th-generation farmer, sheep and Highland cows graze on the grassland, but step inside the main farmhouse to discover everyday life from days gone by. Flotation aids created from animal guts, harpoons for whaling and ropes for catching wild birds on clifftops festoon the walls.
Hike from Tórshavn to Kirkjubøur
Hike along the cliffs linking the town of Tórshavn with Kirkjubøur. At 7km long it takes approximately two hours. Walkers are rewarded with excellent views of the neighbouring islands of Sandoy, Hestur, Koltur and Vágar before descending into Kirkjubøur.
Visit the National Art Gallery & Forest in Tórshavn
With a permanent collection of renowned Faroese artists visitors get an insight into Samuel Joensen-Mikines who put Faroese art on the map, Ingálvur av Reyni who gained an international reputation, and the impressionism of Ruth Smith. Immediately adjacent to the gallery is the National Forest peppered throughout with striking sculptures by Hans Pauli Olsen.
His work is found across the Faroe islands, his most distinctive perhaps being the Seal Woman or Selkie statue at Mikladalur on Kalsoy – a folklore familiar to many Scottish islanders.
Food – Visit the Faroe Islands
The food is excellent. The Faroese have quite a simple larder but they’re imaginative with it. On the whole, only hardy animals and plants flourish, for example rather than savouring delicate strawberries we were sipping on rhubarb cordial. Rhubarb style Kir Royale was another favourite of mine.
Lots of glorious slow cooked meat was served in ‘Aarstova’, a wonderful seafood restaurant called ‘Barbara’ dished up beautiful horse mussels and cod, and excellent “Heimablídni” or home-dining was provided in the dining room of a local farmer. Home dining would work work exceptionally well for families, the couple we visited were warm and friendly, and they even had kittens.
Oh, and do try ræst – that was a new one to me. Ræst is a very specific flavour and method of preserving food. Foreigners react to ræst in the Faroes in a similar way to how they react to haggis in Scotland – lots of questions and uncertainties over something we consider quite commonplace. But you’ve got to try everything once.
For fine diners, KOKS restaurant in Kirkjubóur has a Michelin star. And for dining al fresco try Frída’s sea views at Klaksvik, or coffee by the quayside at Tórshavn’s Kaffihúsi.
Where to Stay
In Torshavn I’d recommend Hotel Hafnia, complete with colourful puffin murals decorating the walls.
Out in the wilds of things, discover a charming eco-friendly guesthouse on the second largest of the Faroe Islands, Eysturoy – the Gjaargardur Guesthouse in Gjogv.
I can almost guarantee you’ll return bright eyed and almost literally blown away by the Faroes.