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Jun

25 2017

Sitting inside a cosy old pub on an archipelago somewhere in the North Atlantic, I’m beginning to realise that we’ve just arrived in one of the most bizarre places left on the planet. Outside the window a row of brightly coloured Viking-style huts line the street, with their distinctive grass–clad roofs catching the last rays of the day. Inside the pub, locals chatter excitedly in their strong Nordic accents and the scent of free-flowing all-malt lager fills the air. If it wasn’t for our brand new road bikes lying seemingly abandoned on the opposite side of the road you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a scene from a recent Vikings episode.

Anywhere else in the world and a couple of unlocked bikes on the side of the road would be gone within a matter of minutes but the dishevelled looking character behind the bar assures us that crime doesn’t exist in this part of the world. “You can even leave your keys in the car here in the Faroes”, he tells us, struggling to hide the pride in his voice. “But if you’re still worried, you can take them down the road to the hotel”. Having just made the 51-kilometre trip from the airport hauling a kayak, kite board and film gear on our bikes, our bodies have decided that they’re not moving any further until they’ve been properly nourished – and the foreign smells coming from the kitchen are too good to refuse.

Created by volcanic eruptions some 55 million years ago, the Faroe Islands are an archipelago of 18 spectacularly crafted igneous rocks that rise high above the ocean somewhere between Scotland and Iceland in the North Atlantic. Originally settled by the Vikings in the 9th century, there are now roughly 50,000 of their descendants living on the islands along with 100,000 sheep and one of the most diverse bird populations in the world. Due to its geographical isolation and relatively small population, the Faroe Islands are arguably one of the most unspoiled landscapes left in the world. For me, it is undoubtedly the most moodily beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on.

  

Riding into the capital city, Torshavn, on what was apparently one of the more unremarkable roads, it was impossible not to become completely overwhelmed by the huge moss-green landscapes that surrounded us. Emerging from the sea of low-lying mist that seems to perpetually engulf the Faroes, a series of dramatic treeless precipices soared towards the sky and filled us with excitement for the next 14 days that we were going to spend exploring them. 

  

  

  

  

  

Deep ocean tunnels connect some of the 18 islands that make up the Faroes but many of them can only be reached by ferry or helicopter, making a cycling trip around the islands a logistical nightmare. To solve this problem we decided to bring along a kayak and kite-board that we could use to make the crossings between the islands where and when it suited us – weather dependent of course. Up until the 20th century, the Faroese people could only move around on foot and in small wooden rowboats so it seemed entirely appropriate that we too, would be exploring these mystical islands using only human power. 

  

It didn’t take long for the strange mix of sporting equipment lying in front of the pub to attract the attention of the locals. Before finishing our meals, we were joined by a couple of local fisherman, curious to know what we were up to. We told them of our plan to bike, kayak and kite board around as many of the islands as possible in the next 14 days and asked them if there was anything we should be worried about. The bewildered look on their faces said it all. 

I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where the people have such a deep and reverential connection with nature than here in the Faroes. Living so far away from the rest of the world, the Faroese people have learned to fend for themselves in some of the most wild and unpredictable environments known to man. They appreciate nature and what it has given them but above all, they respect it’s power. Before parting ways with our new friends, we promise that we’ll pay close attention to the weather forecasts and that we won’t tempt fate by going out when the conditions aren’t favourable.  

  

Apart from the precarious road tunnels that connect the islands and the notoriously unpredictable weather patterns that plague the North Atlantic, the Faroe Islands are actually a near perfect cycling destination. Picturesque paved roads cover the majority of the islands, snaking through rugged mountain ranges and joining up the hundreds of tiny fishing villages that occupy the coastline. And as we quickly discovered, you can basically ride everywhere in the Faroe’s with a network of gravel tracks and sheep trails providing access to anywhere that the road doesn’t take you. There aren’t many places left in the world as wild and as remote as the Faroe Islands and as it turns out, the bike is the perfect tool for exploring them. 

  

The Main Islands

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Climbing out of the tiny village of Norðradalur on the island of Streymoy, one of the steepest but most beautiful roads in the Faroes (1.9km at 11.2%).

  

A bird's-eye view

  

Taking a moment to appreciate the view after the brutal climb up Mount Sornfelli (3.5km at 9%), just outside of Torshavn on the island of Streymoy. What you can’t see in this photo are the 60km/hr gale-force winds that are making it difficult to stand up straight! 

  

This is what happens when you go off the beathen path in the Faroes. Somewhere on the island of Vidoy.

  

One of the many switchbacks on the road out of Oyndarfjørður. The best thing about riding in the Faroe Islands is that you can ride on roads like this for hours without seeing a single car.

  

Another shot of the climb out of Oyndarfjørður.  

  

A typical moody landscape in the Faroe Islands. This is what it looks like 95% of the time in the Faroes.

  

We should have probably turned around at this point. This particular day we crashed twice, got lost, broke a chain, broke a drone and to top it all off, we spent the final 20km getting sent backwards by a 40-knot headwind!

  

Dwarfed by nature on the descent into Hellurnar on the island of Eysturoy.

  

After about an hour of walking our bikes we stumbled across this amazing piece of single track on the edge of the island. Thanks to the thousands of sheep that scale these slopes, there are tracks like this everywhere in the Faroes.

  

Riding through the beautiful hillside village of Saksun on the island of Streymoy.

  

The traditional church at Saksun

  

Just because the road ends, it doesn’t mean that you need to stop riding. Here we are at Sørvágsvatn Lake on the southern tip of the island of Vagur.

  

The Crossings

  

  

  

We begin our first crossing of the trip from Gjogv, on the northern tip of Eysturoy, to Kalsoy – one of the most remote islands in the Faroes with less than 100 permanent inhabitants and ferry access only.

  

Midway through the 12-kilometre crossing I’m really starting to regret not doing more kayaking before the trip. Riding bikes is a piece of cake compared to this!

  

At the Beach in Bøur preparing for our second and most dangerous crossing.

  

 Our second crossing of the trip from Vagur out to the island of Mykines. This photo makes it look easy but I can assure you that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

  

Bikiting (verb) – the action of kiteboarding with a bicycle on one’s back. After hours of patiently waiting for the wind to pick up, Dave begins his arduous 11-kilometre crossing.

  

Mykines

  

The struggle was all worth it. Say hello to the island of Mykines – home to 14 permanent residents and about 100,000 sea birds.

  

There aren’t any roads on Mykines. Just sheep, puffins and beautiful single track like this.

  

Making the most of the sunny weather on Mykines. Out of our 14 days in the Faroes, this was the only day where it didn’t rain at all during the day.

  

It's difficult to provide a map for the entire trip since we were going back and forth between Torshavn and the surrounding islands but here's one our favourite little road loops from the main island of Streymoy. If you're ever in the Faroes then this is the perfect place to start. If you've got more time to explore, the island of Esturoy is where you'll find some of the most spectacular roads and landscapes.

FAROE ISLANDS

Start / Finish
Torshavn
Distance
60km

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  • Detlef Jumpertz

    Outstanding video and photos – truly inspiring. Are the roads in good condition? I’m thinking of heading across in 2018.

    • Jason Stirling

      Thanks Detlef. The roads are actually in amazing condition for the most part – probably better than most other places we’ve visited to be honest. It’s the weather you’ve got to be worried about! Just make sure you take your rain jacket and plan out your rides 🙂

  • Agin George Kurian

    superb !!! like to know more about the equipments both out door and digital.