Day 7 |
May 31, 2011

Alongside in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

By Toby Musgrave, Botanist

Co-ordinates: 062°00’N – 006°45’W
Weather: Windy, Sunshine with partial cloud and occasional heavy showers in the afternoon.
Air temperature: +12°C

This morning we awoke, after a welcome lie-in, to calmer seas and sunshine. This was the prelude to a morning at sea en route to Tórshavn where we docked at 13.00. The hours of the morning were filled with not only the dramatic scenery of our approach to the Faroe Islands, but also two fascinating lectures focussing on the history of the true story of the Norse (The Vikings by Imogen Corrigan) and specifically the area that we were to visit on our afternoon bus tour (Fantastic Faroes by Victoria Salem).

After lunch, with the ship cleared into Denmark (of which the Faroes are a self-governing part) we disembarked and as we did so and right on cue, a most torrential rainstorm broke above us. But undaunted we set off to visit three significant sites on the island of Streymoy. The first was Tórshavn Museum, a most interesting experience (and thankfully, since the rain continued to come down in stair rods, sheltered) which focussed on the early settlement of the islands from Viking times through to the introduction of Christianity, and in particularly on the more recent fishing industry - an industry that still provides 95% of the islands’ income.

Then, as we re-bussed, the rain began to abate, the clouds rolled back and on our journey west across the island the sun came out to grace the now blue skies. This brought the dramatic and rocky landscape (there is not a tree to be seen outside the shelter of the town) to light and made the vistas across the narrow sound to the islands of Hestur and Koltur all the more beautiful. A winding single-track road took us to the village of Kirkjubør. Still inhabited, the highlights of this historic settlement were the large farmhouse, which, like so many homes on the island, is roofed with turf and which gave a vivid impression of how life was lived; St Magnus’ Cathedral, St Brendan’s Chapel and the delightful views up the steep scarp and out over the calm waters all bathed in welcome sunshine.

Back on the bus once more, we returned the short 6km (no where is far on these islands!) to Tórshavn and to a vantage point where we took photographs down over this most picturesque town. Then and upon request, an unscheduled stop for postcards and stamps before proceeding to the ruins of Fort Skansin which built in 1580 as a defense against pirates was in use as recently as the Second World War when it was the headquarters of the British Royal Navy Command.

We returned to the ship at 18.00 and since we were alongside overnight, many of the guests and the Expedition Team took the opportunity to walk the half-a-kilometer or so back into ‘downtown’ Tórshavn and to explore this delightful town that boasts many historic buildings and attractive gardens. And, I have to confess to being surprised to see tulips still in peak condition a day before the start of June!