Faroe Islands a sight to behold
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