FAROE & ICELAND
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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
A number of worthwhile
web sites are shown on the external links page for Faroe.