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In the distance we saw a tiny island so inaccessible from the sea that no-one has ever lived there. And yet there is no-one in the Faroes who cannot tell a tale or two about Lítla Dímun, or its big sister Stóra Dímun which, contrary to all prevailing logic, is still inhabited. No regular ferry service ever goes to either Dímun, so the single family that farms on the larger of the two islands is utterly dependent on the helicopter which on three days each week buzzes down from the skies to bring post and provisions to this lonely outpost of Faroese life.
“When I was a lad, there must have been more than a dozen folk on Stóra Dímun,” explains a Faroese man who, like us, is watching from the deck of the boat. “But they’ve gone. Just as they are leaving Mykines. And Fugloy too.” And then the man was silent, and the last Dímun was swallowed up in the mist.
Life beyond Tórshavn
If you want to get to the heart of what it means to be Faroese, you have to get out of Tórshavn. The capital is a pretty enough place, to be sure. Indeed, there is probably no other European capital that comes close to matching Tórshavn for its homespun village-like charm. Unpretentious and sleepy Tórshavn with its lovely jumble of black-tarred cottages on rocky Tinganes, the promontory that juts out into the harbour, is a wonderful introduction to the Faroes.
But the soul of these islands lies elsewhere. Ask the men working on the dockside in Tórshavn where they come from, and they will tell you they are from Funningur or Kirkja, from Saksun or Sumba, all wee slips of places where grass grows on the roofs of long-abandoned barns, where the church is more often locked than open, and where each winter the snow drifts deep.
“I’ve not been back to Kirkja for over twenty years,” admitted one man from the remote northern island of Fugloy, evidently oblivious to the fact that the remote bygd where he was born and lived the first fifteen years of his life is only half an hour from Tórshavn by helicopter.
Go to the Faroes. They are so easy to reach and it’s well worth it. At this time of year Smyril Line sails on Saturdays and Tuesdays from Hirtshals (Denmark) to Tórshavn. The crossing takes about 32 hours. Winter sailings are just once weekly and take up to 40 hours.
The Faroese airline Atlantic Airways flies year round from Copenhagen to Vágar (usually twice daily). This summer the airline is also offering twice-weekly flights from Bergen and London Gatwick to Vágar. The seasonal link from Norway operates until the end of August. The service from Britain runs till mid-September.
Once in the Faroes, make time to visit the smaller islands in the archipelago. The islands have well-integrated bus and ferry services that make it very easy to get around. For those in a rush, there is also the inter-island helicopter service run by Atlantic Airways.