Using Tórshavn as your base, you’re within easy striking distance of all the main attractions of Streymoy. Why not start your explorations in the Faroese capital’s old town, Undir Ryggi – an atmospheric and highly photogenic jumble of creaking wooden houses, all with characteristic turf roofs, jostling for position beside the narrow neck of land, Tinganes, that reaches out into the main harbour. It was hereabout that the islands’ first Viking settlers established their first parliament as the Faroese name indicates – the parliament (ting) headland (nes). From this vantage point, there are also fantastic views of all the comings and goings in the harbour.
Stroll now out past the ferry terminal to reach Skansin fort, which dates from the late 1500s. Plundered by the French 100 years later and subsequently used by Britain’s Royal Navy during World War II, the fort has certainly had a chequered past and affords arresting views out across the choppy seas to the island of Nólsoy.
Arguably the best views of the Faroese capital, though, are to be had from Kongaminni, the King’s Monument, up off Hoyvíksvegur. Built in 1882 to commemorate the visit of the Danish king to the islands, this basalt obelisk enjoys sweeping vistas out across Tórshavn and the surrounding hillsides of Streymoy and is undoubtedly the place to come for those all-important Facebook selfies!
Viðarlundin park, on the northern outskirts of the town centre, is a rarity in the Faroes and certainly the only area of real woodland on the whole of Streymoy. Take a walk along the well-laid out paths and you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some of the birds that are rarely seen elsewhere in the islands – blackbirds, redwings and collared doves all call this much sought-after area of trees home.
Elsewhere on Streymoy, check out the former whaling station at Við Áir, on the main road north out of Tórshavn, just south of the village of Hvalvík. It was built by the Norwegians in 1905 and is the one remaining in the Faroes – indeed, it‘s one of only three such stations still standing anywhere in the world – the others are in South Georgia and Australia. It operated solidly for 30 years, then intermittently, closing for good in 1984.
In Kvívík there’s a chance to learn more about the Viking heritage of the Faroes. Well preserved remains of a Viking longhouse and byre (cowshed) can still be seen in the village close to the church. The knee-high stone walls date from the tenth or eleventh century are quite impressive in size – the longhouse measures 21m in length, for example. The byre is the only one ever found in the Faroes. Several implements from the period were also discovered on site and are now kept by the National Museum in Tórshavn.
One of the real highlights of a trip to Streymoy is a visit to the Vestmanna birdcliffs and grottoes, located in the far northwest of the island. Soaring to a height of 600m above the churning seas of the North Atlantic, the cliffs are a favourite summer nesting ground for thousands of seabirds such as puffins, razorbills and guillemots. The boat sails into some of the larger grottoes where the echoing squawking of the birds coupled with the dripping water from the rock walls overhead makes for quite a cacophony.
If you just fancy a trip out on the water to see Streymoy from offshore, consider jumping on the passenger-only ferry between Tórshavn and the neighbouring island of Nólsoy, or, alternatively, from Gamlarætt, near Kirkjubøur, for the trip onboard the larger car-carrying ferry across to Sandoy. Both services operate regularly and, what’s even better, you only pay for the journey back to Streymoy. You’ll find timetables at www.ssl.fo.