Travel Jottings

My wanderings are urban as well as rural, and several have taken me overseas around Europe and to North America. All have needed at least some planning: knowing what to see and where to stay remain ever present needs. That and remaining ever open to new possibilities have contributed to what you find here. Everything builds up over time, and I hope that the horizons continue expanding to mean that I can continue to share new things with you here.

Faroe Islands: An Atlantic Outpost?

Faroe Islands

It might be caused by visits to Iceland, Norway and Sweden, 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 north-west 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 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 have 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 despite 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 set in the middle of the Gulf Stream, and that means that any snow does not stay for long during the wintertime. Another upshot is that the 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 metres above sea level, so I suppose that there is a greater chance of shelter from the prevailing wind with the 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 the Danish Geodata Agency. 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 the website, so an online translator 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 what is necessary. Mainly, flights to the island are from Denmark or Norway, but 2015 sees Monday and Friday flights from Edinburgh for summer. 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 carry cars 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.