David Cantrell's Photographs

Faroe Islands, 2004-07


This summer, I spent ten days in the Faroe Islands with my little sister. These are the results.

The Faroes are a group of small islands in the north Atlantic, about half way between Shetland and Iceland. They are an autonomous part of Denmark, with their own flag and language.


We flew from Essex International on Thursday. The airport is an Abomination. It claims to be a London airport. Yeah right, we might as well have London Manchester, or London Charles de Gaulle airport. We flew with Atlantic Airways to Vagar airport, the only airport in the Faroes because it's the only bit of flat land in the country. Spent the night at the Youth Hostel "Giljanesi" in the nearby village of Miðvagur, whence I took these:

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Looking west from the hostelLooking east from the hostelLooking east with a shorter exposure


The next morning we had to get a bus back past the airport to the village of Sorvagur, to catch a ferry out to the island of Mykines. We waited opposite where the bus had dropped us the previous night, but the bus didn't stop. Apparently we were meant to wait a couple of hundred yards down the road but how were we to know that? Arse-hat! Thankfully - for we *really* needed to catch that ferry! - we managed to hitch a lift. The ferry was a tiny boat, and I'm glad we had booked, as a couple of people had to be turned away because it was full. The crossing took about an hour, and was quite rough. Several passengers obviously hadn't learnt the basic lesson of keeping your eyes on the horizon cos it doesn't move, and so lost their breakfast overboard. Haha.

Mykines harbour from the path above
The harbour on Mykines is pretty exposed and the water was rough even inside, with the boat pitching up and down several feet as people jumped out and luggage was unloaded. There's a kittiwake colony on the cliff to one side, a steep bank with a path leading up to the harbour buildings (a couple of sheds) on the other. There's a winch to get heavy cargo up from the harbour to them.

We'd arrived with plenty of time left in the day, so after finding our guest house and dumping our bags, we had a quick look around the village (very small!) then set off west to walk towards the light-house on the tip of Mykines Holmur, an islet which is connected to the rest of Mykines with a footbridge. The Faroese are incorrectly proud of having "the only bridge over the Atlantic" connecting two of the other islands - the Outer Hebrides and the Out Skerries in Shetland also have these and I expect there's some in Leftpondia too - but AFAIK this is the only footbridge over the Atlantic. On our way, we walked through a puffin colony. Several times during our stay on Mykines, we would see people going to or from the puffin colony with large nets, so they could catch puffins for the pot!

The whole of the village, from the hillside to the westTurf-roofed houses in the villageLooking along the west coast
PuffinsMore puffins, and here is a detail - see the silly creatures just standing there with fish in their mouths doing nothing!

In the evening after a nice substantial meal, we walked east out of the village, and I took these pictures of the sunset. This was at about 10pm!

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The next day was all spent on Mykines, and we walked north out of the village, up the valley. The outlines of mediæval field systems were clearly visible, the furrows up the side of the valley and some horizontal terracing. There were also the remains of tiny stone buildings, which I imagine were once shepherds' huts. God forbid that such tiny things had ever been anything more!

On the way there was an excellent view back towards Mykines Holmur. as we neared the north coast, we strayed into the territory of a pair of Great Skuas, who were most displeased by our presence and kept flying at us until we'd moved far enough away from their nest. They're huge birds, and when you've got a four foot width of bird flying straight for you, it can be quite frightening! Eventually, we were rewarded with some great views down from the top of the cliffs.

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Mykines Holmur from the northsome of those ruined hutsNorth coast cliffs

On our return, I had to take some pictures of the village church for my mother! Then after eating, I took a picture looking up from the harbour towards the puffin colony. From the huge number of birds flying above the walkers' heads, you can see why it is thought that Mykines was St. Brendan's "Paradise of Birds".

Turf-roofed village churchInside the churchAltar painting
the Paradise of Birds?


On the Sunday morning, we caught the ferry back to the "mainland", and then a couple of busses and another ferry took us to the island of Borðoy and Klaksvik, the Faroes' second largest town, with about 5,000 people. Monday morning saw us catching a ferry which was also the mail boat and was a converted fishing boat to go to the village of Husar on Kalsoy. It smelt like a fishing boat too! Once at Husar, we walked up to the saddle between two hilltops above the village, where I fell asleep for the afternoon and got horribly sunburnt.

Klaksvik from KalsoyHusar village church

All of the hillsides were covered in wild flowers, throughout the islands, and here's a few we saw on this day. Ruth took these three pics.

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Bog Asfodel[purple flower]Orchid

Our second day in Klaksvik we were intending to visit another island and walk to the abandoned village of Skarð, but we woke up too late to catch the bus. Oops. So instead we walked up the hills to the west of the town. There was a rough road going up to an artificial tarn in the saddle. I have no idea why someone would want to build such a thing. It was too small to be a reservoir for the town, and, despite there being a couple of lifebelts on poles by the water, it was too far from the town to be a swimming pool - and in any case, there was a pool in the town itself!

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Looking west towards Leirvik[another purple flower]Artificial tarn above Klaksvik

On our third and final day in Klaksvik, we did get up in time, and got the bus to Hvannasund and from there a ferry to Fugloy, via Svinoy. This was another fishy mailboat. Svinoy looked like it had some great walking country, and it was tempting to get off there, but we carried on to Fugloy. Apart from the small area of land by the harbour, Svinoy looked to be all vertical cliffs!

Hvannasund from the ferrySvinoy

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Fence-line above Hattervik, Fugloy


Then we headed back to the capital, Torshavn. It's the world's smallest capital city, with a population of just 15,000, and you can walk from end to end and from front to back in well under an hour. It centres around the harbour. There's a tiny rocky peninsula sticking out into the harbour, which was the site of the original settlement and which still has the old stone buildings with turf roofs. We arrived shortly after noon, and it turned out to be the national holiday. So we ensconced ourselves in a convenient pub - convenient because it was near the bus station and next to the harbour - which turned out to be the only decent pub in town. How nice! Spent the rest of the day watching people parade about in their national dress, and drinking surprisingly good (although bloody expensive) beer. On Friday, the first of our two full days in Torshavn, we caught a bus to the other side of the island, to the old religious centre of Kirkjubøur. There's the ruins of an unfinished cathedral here, a small parish church and a few houses - barely a village really.

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Tinganes, the old centre of Torshavnpart of Torshavn harbour, packed with pleasure-craft and small fishing boatsThe pub!

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St Olav's church, Kirkjubøur, with impressive stained-glass gateChurch interiorAltar painting

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Looking across sound from Kirkjubøur to Sandoy

That evening we had dinner at the Hotel Hafnia in the centre of Torshavn. We just had to try some of the local specialities. I have put a review here, which I originally posted to the london.food mailing list.

On our last full day in the Faroes we decided to look around Torshavn's museums. Unfortunately, they have crazy opening hours. They only open for an hour or two in the afternoon, and seemingly all at the same time! We managed to fit in the national art gallery (lots of modern work, some interesting, some shit) which is at the top of the city park, with several sculptures around it outside. The park, incidentally, is the only place you'll find any large number of trees. There are no trees growing wild in the Faroes, and the few other trees are found in peoples' private gardens. We also went to the Natural History museum. It's very small, but very well laid out. Many more well-known museums could take lessons from the curator! Of particular interest was a display about whaling in the Faroes. There's a skeleton of a pilot whale hanging from the ceiling. So you can get an idea of the scale, Ruth, standing underneath, is 5'8" tall.

Whale skeleton in Natural History museumNolsoy, seen from the Youth Hostel on the hillside above Torshavn