FAROE & ICELAND
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Why there - and in our
Iceland, with its
incredible scenery, had long been somewhere we wanted to visit.
Faroe, though intriguing, was somewhere we had never thought
of going to, perhaps because we didn't know much about the islands
and didn't really have a clue on how to get to them. Much of
our experience had been self-catering in the UK, often in quite
out of the way spots, where we had the ability to load the car
with what we wanted to take (we're not a family of light packers)
and doing a lot of walking with its requirements of boots, waterproofs
and packs meant we did need the space.
Things began to change when
we first went to Shetland, which in itself is quite a trek involving
an overnight on the way to Aberdeen then a night on the ferry,
where the existence of a ferry from UK to Faroe and Iceland came
to our attention. Initial thoughts were perhaps to extend a trip
to Shetland with a car-less week in Faroe but that gradually
changed into a week in Faroe and two weeks in Iceland with car.
Ferry Service (UPDATE - Smyril
no longer operate to UK or Norway)
The Faroese Smyril Line operates a complicated (and frequently
changed) timetable between Denmark, UK, Norway, Faroe and Iceland.
UK is not served throughout the year, but in the shoulder season
Lerwick (Shetland) is included. In high season the timetable
now runs to a two week cycle and UK calls are at Lerwick or Scrabster
(near Thurso in mainland Scotland). However some of the summer
calls at Scrabster and Lerwick are not associated with direct
sailings to/from Faroe and Iceland.
The net effect of this is
that in high season there are two direct sailings a fortnight
between UK and Faroe, one of which continues to/starts from Iceland.
This means that to use Smyril for a high season trip from UK
to Iceland without stopover in Faroe you will sail from Scrabster
but retun to Lerwick. In the short spring and autumn shoulder
periods the pattern is much simpler and gives a weekly Lerwick
- Faroe - Iceland service in both directions.
Norröna is a
36,000 GRT vessel built in 2003 with capacity for nearly 1,500
passengers and 800 cars. It has facilities associated with a
small cruise liner, such as swimming pool and leisure centre
as well as the usual bars, eateries and shop. There is good outside
viewing space, much of it under cover. We had an outside cabin
which was large, though functional and did have a fridge. Like
many people we took our own food rather than pay shipboard prices.
This also avoided the problems of dining in rough seas - the
ship seems reasonably stable but don't forget this is the middle
of the North Atlantic.
However we did not warm to
the ship, which was busy and lacked adequate segregation of smoking
and non-smoking areas. Staff, though not unpleasant, were not
as well informed and pleasant as we would have liked. Our outward
sailings were busy on both legs and vehicle loading was disorganised
(even chaotic at Lerwick). Embarkation on the return, on a much
quieter sailing was better organised. One particular annoyance
was that the sailing time from Faroe to Iceland had been put
back by five hours to allow through passengers the chance to
take a tour of Faroe. We had not been told this and turned up
for check in at a deserted terminal and so wasted much of our
last day in Faroe.
We made all bookings
for ferry sailings (including NorthLink between Shetland and
Aberdeen) and accommodation in Faroe and Iceland through Smyril's
Shetland office. Staff there were helpful and it worked well.
Unfortunately that office has now closed so bookings will need
to be made with Smyril directly if not using a travel agent.
When planning the trip we thought the Smyril ferry prices to
be high, however we got a special deal by early booking for the
shoulder season which was very reasonable (in fact the fare for
Shetland - Faroe - Iceland - Shetland was not much more than
for Aberdeen -Shetland - Aberdeen).
The season in Iceland
is short and busy being mid-June to late August with brief shoulders
at each end. Insects can be a problem later in the season, rainfall
increases in July (and also in Faroe). However some 2WD roads
in Iceland may not open until well into June. Day length is good
from May. We decided to go at the end of May to Faroe then on
to Iceland to return at the start of high season (which had the
advantage of giving us two extra days in Iceland). Shortly before
we went there was very late snowfall in both Faroe and Iceland.
Faroe was miserable on the day we arrived but the weather soon
improved considerably. We would probably do the same again.
NorthLink ferry services are nightly between
Aberdeen and Lerwick and take around twelve hours. We have found
the service good and pleasant. However it can be liable to cancellation
due to weather conditions and we did not want to risk missing
the boat to Faroe. We decided to spend two nights in Shetland
to give us some leeway and, as we would alraedy have had two
days on the road, we rented accommodation to give us access to
a washing machine. We used Self Catering Shetland who we have used several
times, allow bookings by the day and are recommended.
A number of worthwhile
web sites are shown on the external links pages for Faroe and Iceland.