The Glass guide to The Faroe Islands

HOLDING their own against gales, rain and the frigid North Atlantic seas, this small, rocky archipelago of volcanic islands offers a unique experience for those intrepid enough to venture this far north. Though officially a Danish dependency, this is a proudly self-governing nation with a strong sense of identity, sharing more in common with its closer neighbours Iceland, Norway and Greenland. This land of cliffs and coastlines that rises vertically out of the sea and landscapes that evoke saga-inspiring drama is Viking country, having been inhabited by the Norse since the first century AD. Two days here promises to be truly exhilarating.

Any visit to Faroe should begin with a wander around its pretty seaside capital of Tórshavn on Streymoy Island, a 40-minute drive from the airport (renting a car is strongly advised for getting the most out of the islands in a limited time). Wander through narrow streets lined by traditional Faroese wooden homes topped by turf-covered roofs, down to the Tinganes district near the harbour, which is lined by colourful Scandinavian-style buildings. Visit Steinprent, which doubles as an art gallery downstairs and a lithography workshop upstairs, and buy yourself an original piece of local art as well as chatting with the incredibly friendly and enthusiastic owner. Continue your shopping spree with a piece of Faroese design from Öström next door, specialising in high-end Faroese sheep-fleece clothing and accessories.

Faroes island KOKS photo 4 by Claes Bech Poulsen The Faroes island. Photograph: Claes Bech Poulsen

Retail therapy over, grab a packed lunch of sushi or an open Danish sandwich from Eta, don your camera and boots and hit the countryside. A moderate two-and a-half-hour round-trip hike around Sørvágsvatn Lake on Vágar Island is a great introduction to Faroes landscapes. As a result of the islands’ tumultuous geological past, the lake lies above sea level, giving the impression that it is suspended above the sea when viewed from nearby cliffs, earning it the nickname the Hanging Lake.

Also on Vágar is the mighty Mulafossur Waterfall near the picturesque hamlet of Gásadalur. Back on Streymoy, continue your road trip through epic, almost magical sheep-dotted landscape and visit arguably the most picture-perfect church at Saksun, with its old cemetery perched overlooking the nearby lake, and a much more ancient cathedral ruin at the seaside hamlet of Kirkjubøur.

story picture 2 Faroes island KOKS photo by Claes Bech PoulsenFaroes Island. Photograph: Claes Bech Poulsen

On your second day, head down to Tórshavn’s Vestaravág Harbour for a kayak tour of the harbour and surrounding coastline with North Atlantic Xperience (NAX). If the mighty Faroese winds and unpredictable weather make this treacherous work, then a fantastic alternative is a horseback ride around the surrounding hills with the Berg Hestar Riding School near the Føroyar Hotel, an activity for all levels.

Having worked up an appetite, head out to Gjógv and have a ploughman’s lunch Faroese-style at the Gjáargarður Guesthouse before wandering around the nearby impressive gorge. Finally, to finish off your island tour, drive to Mikladalur on Kalsoy Island (ferry crossing required, so check times and plan ahead) to visit the famous Seal Woman statue and learn all about its interesting, if dark, folkloric history.

Story picture Faroes islandStory picture Faroes island KOKS photo by Claes Bech Poulsen KOKS Restaurant. Photograph: Beinta á Torkilsheyggi

Like the rest of its Nordic neighbours, Faroe has its fair share of outstanding cuisine, from the painstakingly traditional to the haute variety. It would be a sin to leave this fishing nation not having indulged in some of its coveted seafood. Head to Barbara Fish House in Tórshavn for a hearty fish stew, a variety of mussels or their cooked-to-perfection monkfish or ocean perch.

Story picture Faroes island KOKS photo by Claes Bech Poulsen KOKS Restaurant. Photograph: Beinta á Torkilsheyggi

Also in the capital is Raest, a restaurant that has won accolades for their return to the most traditional of Faroese cuisine, including dishes usually served at special occasions such as weddings and christenings. The word raest means fermented in Faroese and that is exactly what is up for grabs at this restaurant housed in a 400-year old building, where the chefs serve the food and explain each dish in detail. Expect fare such as fermented cod and lamb, whale blubber and blood sausage. All go well with their own house-made craft beer.

story pic crispy cod bladderCrispy cod bladder served at  KOKS Restaurant. Photograph: Claes Bech Poulsen

No trip to Faroe is complete without a visit to the temple to New Nordic cuisine, KOKS, a short drive from Tórshavn in the village of Kirkjubøur. In typically stark surroundings and with a cracking view of the nearby moody sea, you are treated to a seemingly never-ending stream of courses, all made from ingredients that have been locally sourced, grown or foraged. If you have never eaten skerpikjøt (air-dried mutton), garnatálg (a haggis-style offal dish) or, indeed, grass, then this is the place to do so in style. An in-house sommelier ensures that each of the over 15 courses is accompanied by the perfect wine. This is Faroese dining at its very best. And in recognition of this, KOKS has just been awarded a Michelin star

Story picture crispy celeriac served with fermented celeriac powder and a mushroom emulsion.Crispy celeriac served with fermented celeriac powder and a mushroom emulsion on
the menu at KOKS. Photograph: Claes Bech Poulsen

The Føroyar Hotel is the perfect launching pad from which to explore the islands. Built in a chic industrial style, and eco-friendly with turfed roofs that make it all but blend into the landscape (even fooling the sheep that graze on its grounds), the simple rooms and restaurant offer panoramic views of Tórshavn and its harbour down below and Nólsoy Island beyond. This is the perfect place to relax and warm up after an invigorating day out around the islands.

by Aaron Trinidade

Find more information on the Faroe Islands here.

Daily flights to the Faroe Islands (London to Vágar, via Copenhagen) operate year-round, wth seasonal twice-weekly direct flights (Edinburgh to Vágar) operatie from March to December on  Atlantic Airlines

To stay at Hotel Føroyar visit here