Faroe Is­lands a sight to be­hold

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

IF a cer­tain drinks com­pany did ‘first im­pres­sions’, then the view as we slipped out of the clouds for our first sight­ing of the Faroe Is­lands, would be right up there.

It just wasn’t what I was ex­pect­ing, a full smack in the face cinema-scope panorama of rocky is­lands, jagged moun­tain ridges, gleam­ing fjords and the over­rid­ing sense that this was a spe­cial place, and only two hours from Stansted Air­port with the Faroe’s At­lantic Air­ways.

The run­way on the is­land of Va­gar was orig­i­nally con­structed by the Bri­tish Army dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, when it was thought that the Ger­man forces would an­nex the is­lands af­ter they in­vaded Nor­way and Den­mark.

As I write there’s still a sense of ret­ro­spec­tive guilt that I had not vis­ited be­fore, but all be­ing well, a re­turn visit or two is on the cards for sure, and maybe with a cou­ple of on­ward jour­neys to Ice­land and Green­land.

As a lit­tle vi­gnette for your imag­i­na­tion, go for The Land That Time For­got, and in­clude 17 tun­nels up to four miles long through the vol­canic basalt rock, two of them sub-sea, link­ing many of the 18 is­lands which make up this fair land.

Throw in a fath­om­less fjord at ev­ery turn, grass-roofed houses and the fa­bled 24 hours of day­light in the sum­mer and you’re al­most there, a spe­cial place in­deed.

The oys­ter­catcher is the na­tional bird, and with more than 700 miles of coast­line, in­clud­ing the tallest sea cliffs in Europe, it is no sur­prise that th­ese or­ange-billed beau­ties have plenty of com­pany, in­clud­ing ful­mars, guille­mots, puffins, gan­nets, Manx shear­wa­ter, storm pe­trel and black-legged kit­ti­wake.

Mam­mals are thin on the ground, with only brown rat, house mouse and moun­tain hare, but once you are in the wa­ter, any­thing can turn up, from pilot whales to fin whales and from orca to hooded seals, and oc­ca­sion­ally wal­rus from the High Arc­tic.

With moor­land, in many ways sim­i­lar to the Peak District, com­plete with bog cot­ton and heather, the usual sus­pects dom­i­nate, such as snipe, pur­ple sand­piper, whim­brel and golden plover, but we were de­lighted to spot a green­shank, a va­grant to the is­lands, with its un­mis­tak­able green legs.

Both the moor­land tops and val­ley sides were pa­trolled by the ev­er­p­re­sent ravens, this year’s young be­ing par­tic­u­larly vo­cal with their al­most com­i­cal at­tempt at an adult ‘kronk’, and fail­ing mis­er­ably.

The flash­ing mer­lin, or smyril, is the only breed­ing bird of prey on the is­lands, and al­though we did not see one, we were lucky again with the sight­ing of an­other va­grant, a hen har­rier be­ing mobbed by our friend the raven.

Truth is, I am guess­ing at that one, be­cause the sin­gle track road I was driv­ing on had a four foot drop ei­ther side, not good five miles up a re­mote val­ley, and I was con­cen­trat­ing on stay­ing on the as­phalt, how­ever with a brief glimpse of rel­a­tive size, shape and white tail bar, it was a good bet.

In three days we man­aged six is­lands, through ap­prox­i­mately 10 tun­nels. The rest are reached by ferry or he­li­copter.

In the cap­i­tal of Tor­shavn came the clos­est thing to city life on the Faroes, and re­mem­ber there are less than 50,000 peo­ple across the is­lands, but even here it is im­pos­si­ble to feel crowded.

More on the Faroe Is­lands next week, but in the mean­time please check out www. faroeis­lands.com and www.green­gate.fo.

My tourist board con­tact pro­duced a fan­tas­tic itin­er­ary to en­able us to get the most out of our trip.

If any reader would like a copy please email.

●● Sean was over­whelmed by the views of the Faroe Is­lands

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glossop

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