Faroe and Iceland - Facts and Information
Geography of Faroe
Faroe - a self-governing archipelago in the middle of the northern North Atlantic
A volcanic plateau carved by ice and water to become a paradoxical mixture of flatness and steepness.


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Where is Faroe?
Many people have only a hazy idea of the location of the Faroe Islands, thinking perhaps they may belong to one of the Scottish island groups. In UK people probably associate the name with gale warnings for shipping on the radio. The reality is that Faroe, lying at about 62°N, is some 200 miles NNW of Scotland and halfway between Norway and Iceland.

Topography and climate
The 18 islands which make up the country were formed by the eruption of lava. These flat flows created an essentially horizontal landscape which, because there were a series of such eruptions, is often stepped. During the Ice Age the area was covered by ice which created a series of valleys, with corries and arêtes forming significant mountains. Later flooding by the sea has drowned many of these features leaving a series of seemingly unrelated valley sides and cliffs, many of them impressive. Strata dip slightly to the south-east with the result that the most impressive scenery is in the north and west.

The islands' setting in the middle of the North Atlantic means they experience cool summers and mild winters. Weather is very variable with frequent and rapid changes from fine weather to cloudy, foggy, wet and - especially - windy conditions. Windy weather can often disrupt inter-island ferry services, although the construction of significant under-sea tunnels has improved this to some exent.

The climate of Faroe is perhaps best summed up by the local saying "if you don't like the weather just wait fifteen minutes". One useful tip we picked up is that Faroe's weather is very local and on a bad day it can be worth while heading for the far side of the hill from where you are.

The geology and climate of the islands, together with the grazing of the ubiquitous Faroese sheep, mean that there are virtually no trees in Faroe. However, despite the shortage of timber, most traditional buildings are made of wood, most of it originally driftwood from North American forests.

At present the population is about 48,000. Of these 19,000 live in Tórshavn and 5,500 in Klaksvík, Faroe's second largest town, on the island of Bordoy. However there are extensive settlements on Eysturoy on the shore of Skálafjørdur. Outside the main towns settlement is essentially in villages strung along the coasts or where shelter made safe harbours possible. There are a few isolated farms.

There are significant numbers of ethnic Faroese living in Denmark and the continued, though recently reduced, exodus of younger people is the cause of concern.

Faroe is a prosperous community with people enjoying a good standard of living and modern services. However the economy is almost entirely dependent on catching, farming and processing fish and recent setbacks in the trade for farmed fish have caused concern. Steps are being taken to diversify. As a maritime nation Faroe has a thriving shipping and ship maintenance industry. Tourism is increasing and a number of cruise ships now call at Faroe.

Agriculture is mainly centred on sheep-farming, and the islands are self-sufficient in dairy products.

More information
A number of worthwhile web sites are shown on the external links page for Faroe.

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