Strong Island was built on celebrating our home city of Portsmouth and the surrounding south coast, but we all love to travel and broaden our horizons. Set Sail is a new feature where we look to share our own travel experiences in the UK and abroad. The first of such features comes from a friend of Strong Island and photographer Rebeka Ashton. Rebeka, her boyfriend and a few friends went to the Faroe Islands, not a common destination for British tourists. What they discovered there was absolutely stunning.
After two taxis, two planes and missioning through two different airports with endless bags (including all the camera gear and Jamie’s windsurfing kit), we finally arrived in the Faroe Islands.
The islands are built up of inaccessible highlands and surrounded by the unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean. Most of the epic views and spectacular waterfalls are off the beaten track and require hiking, rock climbing or possibly even stand up paddle boarding to get a good look. There are stunning landscapes and quirky towns to explore and just simply driving along the chiselled cliff edges is worth the trip alone. The feeling of serenity you get from just being in this faraway corner of a remote island is utterly incredible and the pure un-interrupted silence is something I hadn’t experienced before.
The Faroe Islands are a sparsely populated group of 18 separate islands surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean. The terrain here is rugged and rocky with cliffs along much of the coastline. A rabbit warren of tunnels go on for miles through mountains and under the sea and the single file, unlit tunnels aren’t for the faint-hearted! One of the longest tunnels is 4 miles in length, going deep under the seabed between Eysturoy and Borðoy and at the lowest parts, the temperature can drop considerably making the uneasy feel even more uncomfortable.
Travelling to the Faroe Islands is pretty easy from the UK. You can either drive up to Edinburgh and fly directly or get a short flight to Copenhagen and connect from there. We chose opted to fly with Atlantic Airways. The Islands are pretty remote but, thanks to its airport, it’s fully functional with numerous accommodation options and several car hire companies but we hired a Toyota ProAce from Reyni who are based in Tórshavn. There is an innocence and freedom about the Faroe Islands, where the dogs run freely and the doors are left unlocked. The crime rate is so low that each Airbnb we stayed in would leave the key in the door, all windows wide open and without a care in the world!
Travelling to the Faroe Islands is pretty easy from the UK. You can either drive up to Edinburgh and fly directly or get a short flight to Copenhagen and connect from there.
The population currently stands at just over 50,000 and the villages are sporadic. You can spend a whole day exploring the beautiful landscapes without seeing a single person!
The population currently stands at just over 50,000 and the villages are sporadic. You can spend a whole day exploring the beautiful landscapes without seeing a single person! The number plates are formed of two letters and three numbers relating to the local village that the driver resides in and the telephone numbers are only 6 digits long. We also noticed that the graveyards have a maximum of 20-30 gravestones in each, even in the most populated areas so I guess the Faroe Islanders have discovered the secret of long life.
The landscapes are epic and leave little to the imagination with incredible rolling hills, mountains and spectacular views in every direction. The air is clean, the water is clear and the litter is non-existent!
On arrival, my suggestion would be to stay close to Tórshavn and explore the city. Despite being a quarter of the size of your average city, it holds a good selection of bars and restaurants and can really come alive on a weekend. If you are looking for a quieter stay, the local villages are very beautiful with their unique, multi-coloured timber houses and quaint churches.
Just outside of the airport on Vàgar Island, things get more interesting. A short drive from the airport the land opens up to a large lake leading to the sea with huge rock formations and even a waterfall. This place is a photographer’s dream and we spent many hours exploring and photographing the breath-taking landscape.
On arrival, my suggestion would be to stay close to Tórshavn and explore the city. Despite being a quarter of the size of your average city, it holds a good selection of bars and restaurants and can really come alive on a weekend.
The boat to Kalsoy was an experience! The winds picked up and we managed to make the crossing to Kalsoy in some of the worst conditions with each of the vehicles on full suspension and the sea crashing over the top of the boat. Once we reached the shore, a single road snaked its way through mountains and along cliff edges to the main landmark the seal woman of Mikladalur.
Legend has it that seals were believed to be former humans who voluntarily sought death in the ocean. Once a year, on Twelfth Night, they were allowed to come on to the land, strip off their skins and amuse themselves as human beings, dancing and enjoying themselves. On this occasion, sadly we didn’t see any naked sea ladies but it still makes for a good story!
Whilst walking down to the shore the landscape became increasingly hypnotic as the coastline was dark and rugged highlighting the choppy conditions as the sea meets the land. The scenery was brought to life not just by the sheep with their oversized horns and plentiful bird life but by the unexpected views around each corner.
The scenery was brought to life not just by the sheep with their oversized horns and plentiful bird life but by the unexpected views around each corner.
Hikers can explore waterfalls and mirror-like lakes in the hills all day here with guided tours and help from the local tourism board. We decided to go it alone and came across the stunning waterfall below, called Fossa.
Outside of Tórshavn in a small village called Tjornuvík, the sights are even more compelling, vast, wind-whipped black-sand beaches stretch along the coast with large cliff edges and shards of rock framing the sea.
Hikers can explore waterfalls and mirror-like lakes in the hills all day here with guided tours and help from the local tourism board. We decided to go it alone and came across the stunning waterfall below, called Fossa. Jamie managed to get a better view with the drone, giving a good perspective of the size. This place isn’t far from Tjornuvík and is definitely worth a visit.
So day 5 was an absolute zinger! We started off by heading towards Hvalvík to get some hiking in and take a look at a few destinations we had spotted the day before. We stopped by an epic shelf-like mountain and flew the drone to get a peek at what was out of view.
We then went on to Slættaratindur to start the real adventure for the day. We started to ascend the rugged walkway to the top of what can only be described as a sharp peak amongst the clouds. Slættaratindur is the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands, at an elevation of 880 metres. It is located in the northern part of Eysturoy, between the villages of Eiði and Gjógv. Each step took full concentration here as we were now at a great height with no spare hands due to carrying tripods, camera bags and all the clothing we originally put on at the bottom of the mountain.
When we reached the top (45 minutes later) we were greeted with the most spectacular view I have ever seen! For the first time this week, the sun finally made its glorious appearance.
Whilst taking it all in and preparing for the next photo to be taken, I heard Jamie calling my name…… I turned around to see Jamie down on one knee! With a ring! We were standing in one of the most beautiful places in the world and my number one asked me to marry him. Life seriously couldn’t get any better!
I felt terribly sad to be leaving this amazing place! I can honestly say that I had one of the best weeks of my life, exploring the landscapes of the Faroe Islands with Jamie. I have been to some fantastic places in my time but I can truly say that this place is up there with the best! Incredible place, fantastic people and amazing memories!
The only plus side of leaving is (apart from getting home to our dog) the flight out of the Faroe islands gives a bird’s eye view of the incredible display of islands and is a lovely image to keep you wanting more!
The only plus side of leaving is, the flight out of the Faroe islands gives a bird’s eye view of the incredible display of islands and is a lovely image to keep you wanting more.