Arguably best known for their dramatic appearance in the BBC shipping forecast, the Faroe Islands are still one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. True, tourist numbers are increasing year on year, but the islands are still off the beaten tourist trail and the Faroese are keen to avoid the full-on invasion of tourists which has left their neighbours in Iceland reeling.

Wild, wet and windy, these 18 volcanic islands, far out in the North Atlantic, are a different world – a realm of austere beauty where crystal-clear mountain streams cascade down verdant hillsides dotted with turfroofed homes, their timber walls painted a mêlée of reds, yellows and blues; a world where sea cliffs, teeming with birdlife, plummet precipitously into the churning Atlantic below; a world where the sea is all-powerful, giving and taking away.

This geographically isolated land of towering layer-cake mountains and deep rounded valleys, sparkling fell-top tarns and shorelines gnawed into countless craggy inlets is of such elemental wonder that first-time visitors soon become ardent devotees, returning time and again to the Faroes, one of Europe’s last places.

Agreed, the weather can be unreliable, even downright inclement at times – but the good
news is that conditions in the middle of the Atlantic change fast, so you’ll never have long to wait for a glimpse of the sun. There’s sound logic behind the Faroese saying: ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!’

The quality of the light in the northern sky, which attracts countless artists to the islands, and the purity of the air are perhaps two of the most difficult things about the Faroes to qualify on paper – visit, though, and you’ll soon appreciate this most alluring side of island life.
Thanks to regular air links to several European countries and a well-appointed ferry plying the waters of the North Atlantic, it has never been easier to reach the Faroe Islands.

Whether you’re looking to hike across tussocky moorland landscapes to imposing lighthouses perched on rocky promontories, watch seabirds in their natural habitat atop vertical cliff faces or simply island-hop around the Faroes exploring traditional villages and hamlets as you go, you’re sure to find an itinerary to please. This is a country where gliding across narrow sounds and fjords by mail boat or skimming scree-topped pyramidal peaks by helicopter are just two of the options for getting around.

Travel in the Faroes is not only well integrated, but also incredibly good value. Given the rigours of the climate, quality of life is important
to the Faroese; consequently, the islands’ infrastructure is well developed, accommodation is warm and snug and eating out throws up an array of options – everything from pan-fried puffin breast to whale meat could be on the menu alongside more conventional dishes.

As a Scandinavian specialist, I have not only travelled widely across the Nordic countries but have also lived and worked in the region. I speak several Scandinavian languages and have, over the years, developed an extensive network of friends and colleagues throughout the Nordic area.

Based on this experience, it is with great pride that I recommend a trip to the Faroe Islands; this is still one of the few places in Europe where life moves at an enviably sedate pace and where the forces of
nature and vagaries of the climate mean everything to the people who live here. A visit to the Faroes is a marvellously rewarding experience. All 18 islands are waiting to welcome you. Open your eyes and enjoy.

James Proctor

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