Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

Faroe Islands: An Atlantic Outpost?

Faroe Islands

It might caused by visits to Sweden on business but I seem to have developed a soft spot for Nordic destinations and the Faroe Islands would be another of these, especially with magazine inserts highlighting their attractions having caught my eye. Though these lie to the northwest of Scotland and the U.K. operated there during World War 2 while Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany, there is very little connection between the islands and the U.K. That may be down to the rest of their history since they were settled by Vikings but, unlike the Shetland Islands, they stayed tied to Scandinavian mainland countries like Norway and Denmark. Even now, there is an association with the latter that is somewhat reminiscent of the relationship between the Isle of Man and the U.K. apart from the Faroe Islands getting two seats in the Danish parliament.

That separation of ways during the last World War appears to given Faroe Islanders a taste of independence and they secured Home Rule from the Danes in 1948. Apparently, they want to make themselves more independent than this so it is best not to think of the islands as being a Danish territory out in the north Atlantic; for one thing, their rejection of Danish laws includes their not being part of the European Union. Not only do they have their own national football team but they have their own currency too, the Faroese króna, though it is pegged to the Danish krone like the Isle of Man pound is linked to its British counterpart. The official language is Faroese in spite of the Danes suppressing this for a time (much like what happened to the Irish language in Ireland) and both Danish and English are spoken by many.

The geology is volcanic and the islands rise vertically above the Atlantic Ocean in many places and with steep cliffs too so there are plenty of seabirds for those wanting to watch wildlife. The climate is milder than might be expected at a latitude of 62° N but they are sat in the middle of the Gulf Stream and that means that any snow does not stay for long during the winter time. Another upshot that weather is very variable with rain on 280 days of the year and summer fog being a problem for air travel. It is all part of getting a mild maritime climate as I know well from growing up in rural Ireland and it explains the freshness of any greenery too.

What led to the title of this piece were recollections of wild weather from accounts of life on Shetland islands like Foula. Such tales do not appear in the case of the Faroe Islands but they are hillier with a high point of 882 m above sea level so I suppose that there is a greater chance of shelter from the prevailing wind with a crumpled countryside.

That countryside has its drama and there are paths through it so a spot of wandering on foot is a possibility as is cycling. Islands are linked by undersea tunnels as well as ferries and there are buses too for getting about.

Useful Visitor Information

There are not many guidebooks devoted to the Faroe Islands so various websites very much have their place when organising a visit. Other than these, it is down to a Bradt guide and maps from from the Danish Geodata Agency. The latter also have a website where maps can previewed too. It all serves to remind you that these islands are off the beaten path for so many.

All of these introduce the islands to prospective visitors and I need to warn you that there is plenty of reading in them. So, it is best not to rush through them but take in what's there to learn about the place. In some ways, it feels as if the islands have escaped the notice of guidebooks and that the tourism agency and others need to pick up the slack. Sometimes, this is not even in English as I found when I encountered Camping.fo so a website translater has its uses too.

This reminds me of all the Isle of Man Government does for tourism though that island also gains from its proximity to Britain and Ireland. One example is that you will find Cicerone walking guides for the Isle of Man but not for the Faroe Islands and a look on Amazon did no better than mainstream guidebooks from the likes of Lonely Planet, as good as they are for general excursions.

These are regional or island visitor websites and a number are tied to local tourism offices and say so very explicitly on their websites. From Scottish visitor information, I know the importance of the local touch so they have been added here to complement the national visitor website selection that precedes them.

Travel Options

Currently, this section sticks with getting to the Faroe Islands and away. In time, there might be details of bus and ferry services that let you travel about them and that involves a little more enquiry.

Atlantic Airways

Ultimately, you will not find the likes of Ryanair, Easyjet or Jet2 flying you to the Faroe Islands so it falls to this airline to do the needful. Mainly, flights to the island are from Denmark or Norway but 2015 sees Monday and Friday flights from Edinburgh for the summer season. The aircraft used are Airbus A319 ones so you are not talking about propeller planes here so there is an added sense of comfort.

Smyril Line

There are ferries between Denmark and the Faroe Islands all year round with extensions to Iceland during the summer months. The travel times are not short in that it takes around two days to get to the islands from Denmark and then another is needed to continue to Iceland. Nevertheless, there are times when slower travel by sea has its attractions and these are car ferry sailings too so that can add a little more freedom to a holiday break. Sadly, calls to Scrabster on the Scottish mainland or to Bergen no longer are on offer so visitors from Britain or Norway need to find other travel routes. If they were to return, the propositions would be interesting ones.