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Organic talent and homegrown skills from the Faroe Islands

22nd July 2014 Print

From the ‘Game of Thrones’ to puffin pie, see how the Faroese environment has shaped the talent of locals.

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The Faroe Islands - 18 tiny windswept dots, 300km north of Scotland in the North Atlantic, with a population of just 48,000 (and 70,000 sheep) – have nurtured a spectrum of uniquely-skilled locals, some with a global influence. See below for just some of the Faroese people who have been inspired by the nature and tradition surrounding them in their daily lives.

Eivor – a vocalist, instrumentalist and songwriter, whose track 'So Close To Being Free', was remixed and used in one of the trailers for Season Four of Game of Thrones. The extraordinary beauty of the Faroe Islands – the volcanic rock, green valleys, fjords, waterfalls and streams - and its unique culture have always been Eivor’s inspiration and she is fiercely proud of her roots.

Gudrun & Gudrun - designers of high-end knitwear using untreated wool from Faroese sheep. The two Gudruns designed Sara Lund’s jumper, much admired in TV series The Killing, and have recently begun to sell some of their range through Wolf & Badgers' boutique on Dover Street, London. Gudrun Ludvig says that she is inspired by the silence and scenery of the Faroe Islands. Contrary to what she thought when she co-founded Gudrun & Gudrun, she doesn’t need to be immersed in the international fashion world, she only needs the tranquillity of the isles to stay true to the essence of Gudrun & Gudrun.?

Jon Tyril – creator of the growing G! music festival (now in its twelfth year). Jon’s new project is the ‘anti-festival’, Hoyma, a series of intimate concerts performed in locals’ living rooms without any sound or lighting equipment, and is reminiscent of the ancient Faroese tradition of friends and families gathering in each other’s houses for story-telling and singing. Jon says: “…my drive to make something small and authentic became stronger and stronger. I wanted to get back to basics. To cut away the distance between the audience and the performer, and to establish as powerful a connection as possible between the two.”

Olympic swimmer, Pal Joensen - born on the Faroe Islands’ southernmost island of Suduroy, Pal Joensen began to emerge as a top-class 800-metre and 1,500-metre swimmer in 2007 at the World Aquatics Championships in Melbourne. During the early part of his career, Pal trained near his home in a tiny 12.5-metre pool before upgrading to a 25-metre pool with four lanes in another town. He competed in the London 2012 Olympics (on the Danish team) - unfortunately, with disappointing results, but Daily Telegraph journalist, Rod Gilmour, was so gripped by his story that he travelled to the Faroes - see - and is now writing a book about Pal scheduled for publication in April 2015.

Swimming grandmother – be inspired by Maria, born in 1924, who has swum in the fjords near to her home every single day for 50 years. This video best tells her story: 

Helicopter pilot – due to the islands' location in the restless Atlantic and often fickle weather conditions, inter-island travel by boat in the Faroes can be tricky one minute and impossible the next. Helicopter rides are the equivalent of a local bus service and are amongst the cheapest in the world, thanks to government subsidies. Take a thrilling trip over the rugged archipelago where, on terra firma, you are never more than 4km from the ocean. When it comes to helicopter rides, be aware that locals take priority over tourists, who can usually only book a one-way ride, returning by boat (if the weather changes for the worse, then you may have to wait, but a local is likely to welcome you into his or her home until the weather improves).

Grass roof cutter – traditional grass roofs from the Viking ages are common in the Faroes. Houses, government buildings, public venues and hotels embrace the grass roof, for its insulating and aesthetic qualities. Who cuts the grass? Sheep, well accustomed to the precipitous slopes across the islands, are sometimes helped on to a roof to trim the turf - a slightly surreal sight! - or human grass-roof cutters can be employed. The municipality employs its own grass cutter to keep the government building roofs well-manicured.

Supper with the locals – eat out at the home of farmers Anna and Oli Rubeksen in the village of Velbastadur, about ten minutes from Torshavn. The couple has recently started offering a wholesome menu, full of local produce, in a floor-to-ceiling windowed dining area, with jaw-dropping panoramic views of a scenic fjord and the green islets of Koltur and Hestur. This is an experience to be celebrated, with space to seat up to 30 people.

Gutti the chef – having just returned from a stint in Denmark, Faroese Chef Gutti is back on home ground with his own TV programme, celebrating the islands’ gastronomic delights. He enthusiastically introduces viewers to different islands that specialise in certain produce, and is happy to meet tourists (with enough notice). Gutti is very skilled at making puffin pie (puffin stuffed with cake) and is a member of the New Nordic Food project at the Nordic Council.

Book a trip to the Faroes with a specialist tour operator: Best Served Holiday, Inntravel, Island Holidays, King Angling Holidays, North-West Frontiers, Regent Holidays, Responsible Travel, Sunvil Discovery and The Travelling Naturalist.

For further information on these unusual islands, see