Is the Faroe Islands – in the North Atlantic, halfway between Scotland and Iceland – a country? Actually no, because it’s a dependency of Denmark, which looks after its defence, currency, policing and foreign affairs. And only has about five trees.
But actually yes, because it otherwise self-governs, has its own football team, and has the highest proportion of Nobel Prize Winners in the world, thanks to its one winner and tiny population of 52,000. All of whom know each other.
Hence I decided it qualifies as an End to End Country on my list. Particularly as (a) my chum Gary kindly offered to bring me along with him and his son George on a quick trip they were making for other reasons and (b) it’s only 40 miles from Kirkjubøur in the south to Eiði in the north on the main island, which is the nearest you’ll get to an End to End.
G, G and I stayed in Tórshavn last night. It’s a mildly bustling port with a Danish look and feel, particularly in terms of supermarket prices. We’d had a splendidly convivial evening in a little craft-beer bar by the harbourside, but today was down to business. We hired bikes locally: Felt FR6 road bikes, carbon frame and gears that were just as good as those on my bike at home, in other words skippy and imprecise.
Really, we should have started down at Kirkjubøur, a couple of miles south. But we’d missed our bus and didn’t have time to cycle there and back, and it was chucking it down with rain, so we decided to start off from here. Hah, I make the rules!
It was a long bleak climb up and over the rainy mountains. I was deliriously happy but Gary and George, who are fitter than me but not regular cyclists, were a little less so. To be fair I never heard them utter a word of complaint, but also to be fair, that was probably because I was a long way upwind.
Anyway, after a couple of hours of cold, wet, grey, windy, lonely slog, we stopped off at the only building for miles around. It was a Faroes phenomenon, the petrol-station-cafe-grocery-shop-bakery. The plastic dining tables were full of other dripping cycle-tourers, at least a dozen. They were nursing coffees from the machine and tucking into their own packed lunches which the shop was happy for us to eat there. I tried to take pictures but my camera lens fogged with condensation. We swopped stories and dried out a little before heading back out into the deluge.
The Faroes is a collection of bare volcanic islands gashed by fjords, linked by tunnels, causeways and ferries. There are no trees outside of Tórshavn, and people drive for miles to go there to see them and marvel. There’s plenty of grass though, much of it growing on roofs. It provides insulation, protection from the rain, and photo opportunities for sodden cycle tourists.
We stopped at another petrol station-bakery-cafe-shop and Gary and George discovered to their delight that a bus ran from here to our accommodation in Klaksvik, and that it took bikes.
So I left them thawing out over a coffee while I carried on a few more miles to Eiði, the Faroes equivalent of John o’Groats. If you’re wondering how to pronounce Faroese, it’s like Danish in that there are 436 different vowel sounds but all consonants are silent, though not quite as simple for the non-fluent. Eiði is pronounced something like ‘ey-ee-yee-y’, though possibly not in that order.
I admired the bleak magnificence of the rocky coast, buoyed up by having completed yet another End to End, even if this one only took about five hours. But it wasn’t raining now and I was happy.
I rejoined Gary and George at the petrol station and we took the bus to our splendid Airbnb at Klaksvik, a perky harbour town, but then everywhere in the Faroes is either a perky harbour town or a perky harbour village.
I did some more cycling over the next two days, marvelling at some of those tunnels and causeways, and resisting the temptation to have a Danish-style coffee and cake in a cosy little roadside cafe thanks to there not being any.
We had a fine time and I’m delighted to have had the chance to cycle this quirky, friendly corner of the world. We had three days of blustery winds, heavy rain, chilly temperatures and grey skies, but of course it’s not always like that. After all, we were there at the height of summer. Outside of that time it’s a lot worse.