The Faroes are just a short flight from the UK, yet they’re way off the standard traveller’s radar. Adrift in the frothing swells of the north Atlantic, this mysterious 18-piece jigsaw puzzle of islands is at once ancient and very modern. Multicoloured cottages and grass-roofed wooden churches add focus to the grandly stark, treeless moorlands. Timeless networks of cairn-marked footpaths crisscross craggy layer-cake mountains. But even the tiniest once-inaccessible hamlets are now linked by a remarkable series of road-tunnels. And even as you bob around the dramatic fjords on a 70-year-old wooden sloop, your mobile phone is never likely to lose its signal.
The Faroes are a paradise for fell-walkers and ornithologists who accept the pyrotechnically unpredictable climate. Designer-mown by shaggy sheep, fields are blissfully bouncy under-foot. Pastures gleam with the greener-than-green hue of divine billiard tables. Peeping puffins, dive-bombing skuas and wheeling fulmars glide over dizzying chasms. Wave-battered headlands end in plunging cliffs that are as breathtaking as the wild winds that threaten to blow unwary hikers off them. Streymoy is the biggest island of the group, and home to the capital Tórshavn, as well as dramatic scenery galore and the unmissable bird cliffs of Vestmanna. While the Southern Islands aren’t quite so dramatic in terms of landscape, islands like Suðuroy and Skúvoy are appealingly low on tourists and high on friendliness.
The proud, stoical Faroese character has been forged from Viking blood, Christian piety, Scandinavian openness and an awe for the humbling nature that’s all around. Few communities this small are so alive with art and the Faroes’ incredibly vibrant music scene is nothing short of astonishing. So even if the weather proves uncooperative, this self-assured little demi-nation is likely to surprise and delight even the most cynical traveller.