The islands consist very much of a series of spectacular landscapes containing mountains, steep slopes, cascading waterfalls, fiords – and no trees. Sheep graze everywhere on the lower slopes and present, as we were warned and duly found out, the most serious hazard to motorists. Otherwise, driving is a sheer joy on a modern road system with little traffic on well-maintained roads which, confronted by a mountain, go through it, and by a fiord, go under it. Usage of kilometres of tunnel is electronically logged and billed later. Most of the landscape is uninhabited; villages, hamlets and farms, characteristically widely spaced, hug the valley bottoms, favourable shore-lines and road-sides. White-walled, green turf-roofed churches punctuate the landscape.
Here is a small selection of meaningful views:
above: Sheep ruminating characteristically on a steep slope down to the sea
below: Saksun (built 1858), a typical small church (typically locked) in an awesome landscape of heavily eroded mountain-side and waterfall
above: the now abandoned ‘old’ farm of Duvugardar, not far upslope of Saksun church, is maintained as an open air museum/heritage attraction (though it was closed when we visited, like the similar traditional farm maintained by the National Museum near Torshavn). Its modern successor lies alongside (carefully excluded from my photograph!). The old farm is anonymously famous as the location of the brilliant TV advertisement in which a shepherd shears not a sheep but his dog because he didn’t go to Specsavers.
ADDITION: a reader advises that while the Specsaver advert was certainly shot in the Saksun area, it may not have been at this ‘heritage’ farm. I will check further.
Buildings ancient and modern: first, ancient:
On an archipelago where practically everything was built of wood, two of the oldest buildings survive at Kirkjubour because they are of stone. In the foreground right are the ruins of St Magnus Cathedral, otherwise known as Muren, completed c1340 and partly dismantled when the diocese was abolished c1560. It was the centre of an episcopal palace immediately beyond it in this view, of which only fragments survive. The King’s farmhouse, supposedly 11th century and the oldest inhabited timber house in Europe, was built on probable palatial foundations after it was allegedly floated in bits across from Norway and re-assembled here.
In the background, centre, perched immediately above the sea, is St Olav’s church, built in the early 12th century and still in use (but locked, despite the best guidebook assuring us that it ‘is never locked’!). It has been extensively rebuilt, and is clearly under threat from the sea.
And to complete this brief note, in contrast to the old, we visited Nordragota on Eysturoy to look at a very modern building designed by Henning Larsen to house the local council offices. Nothing unusual about that except that these offices lie within a footbridge over a river a short distance from its mouth into the sea:
I have two more posts about the Faroes to put up idc.