Faroe and Iceland - Facts and Information
Getting to Faroe and Iceland
Some notes on our experience
Getting to Faroe and Iceland with our own car was slow, but gave us a lot of freedom once there.


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Why there - and in our own car?
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.

The ship
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.

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

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