Driving Around the Faroe Islands
Yaaasss. I finally slept in! And I slept really well. Desperately needed. We got a late start and barely made breakfast time, but it was so worth it. Jeff learned earlier that morning that all the Faroe Islands ferries to Mykines, the puffin island, were cancelled for the day due to rough seas and was researching other things to do while I snoozed the morning away. God love him.
He said he reviewed multiple blogs and came up with a list of a bunch of Faroese towns to visit, each of which was listed by the bloggers as the best town in the islands, a “can’t-miss!” While we were disappointed we’d miss Mykines Island and the chance to see some adorable birds, we decided to challenge the bloggers and see who was legit and who was just filling Web space.
The Faroe Islands Landscape
After pouring with rain most of the night, it was amazingly beautiful outside. While the gray mist and low-hanging clouds the day before gave the islands a sense of mystery, the sun and the shadows cast by the clouds today gave them a true sense of majesty.
The Faroe Islands landscape consists of steep, grassy cliffs bursting right out of the Atlantic, waterfalls and sheep abound. Everything seemed to be glistening today. Even the sheep seemed a little more energetic (see sheep video!).
The Amazing Saksun
Our first Faroe Islands stop of the day was the town of Saksun and, while we were already amazed at the views, we were absolutely stunned by this town. There was the staple waterfall, this one particularly impressive, as well as the usual church. Both, however, overlooked a huge valley with a lake at the base of it. Just breathtaking.
We took a quick walk around the church to get a better view of the valley and, of course, ended up in super boggy marsh. Things almost took a turn for the worst when I lost my boot in the mud. Thankfully, I was able to save myself and my shoe without further damage. We ended up spending quite a bit of time in this quaint little town, just looking around, enjoying ourselves. This, we decided, was what we were waiting for!
Amazon, The Gram & Morning Coffee
Jeff and I have had this joke about whether Amazon Prime delivers in this town or that town in the Faroe Islands. Or whether we could live “here for a year without Facebook.” My answer is always, “Yes, but please don’t take away my Instagram.”
We also keep seeing people way the hell out in the middle of nowhere walking. And then we’ll see them hours later still walking. Like… where are you going? And for what? The concept of walking for the sake of going for a walk is obviously completely lost on me. (This happened outside of Saksun with this young girl in an orange jacket.)
Jeff’s convinced they’re going for their morning coffee and that I’d never survive in the Faroe Islands because I couldn’t get to my coffee fast enough. I will say these people are walking far. Ridiculous distances. And they don’t have those rentable, electric Lime scooters here like they do in DC…
The Edge of the World In Tjørnuvík
Next up—Tjørnuvík. Apparently, the road to Tjørnuvík was one of the last constructed in the Faroe Islands and, when you’re driving it, you can see why. It’s a tiny, one-lane road hugging the side of a mountain. You’ve got a cliff going up on one side and a cliff going straight down to the ocean on the other.
Across the way, you can see other islands with rock structures jutting out of the water. Tjørnuvík also turned out to be amazing. Nestled at the base of the cliffs—and a waterfall—it has its own little beach. The waterfall actually runs right into the ocean. Felt like we’d arrived at the edge of the world.
It should be noted now that I’ve been trying to get a really good photo of a Faroe Islands baby lamb for two days now. They’re everywhere. And they’re adorable. But they generally pay zero attention to you, even when you’re trying to get their attention, and if you do manage to get their attention, they just run away.
So, we’re driving along this cliff and I see two baby lambs walking ahead of us. Excitedly, I grab my camera, when they both literally just jump off the roadside in unison, seemingly right over the cliffside. Like—screw this, I’d rather throw myself into the ocean than get a picture by this bitch. Jeff just busted out laughing.
Before you start to panic, of course, they didn’t launch themselves into the frigid Atlantic waters. What they did do was jump off the road onto a ledge several feet below the roadside (not visible from our perspective). Alas, the mission for the perfect sheep shot continues. Those little bastards…
Gjógv & The Bullshit Buttercup Trail
Last, but not least—Gjógv. This town is situated in the crevice of the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands. Switchbacks all the way up, sweeping views of grassy valleys, and yes… more waterfalls. Also beautiful (view looking out and down, below). Maybe my least favorite of the three, but if it was the first one I’d visited for the day, I’d still be really impressed.
Apparently, all three of these towns are on the Faroe Islands “Buttercup Trail,” but Jeff thinks the Buttercup Trail is bullshit since we’ve yet to see a single buttercup. I saw some yellow flowers across a hillside and suggested maybe those were some, but Jeff just scoffed. It’s just not buttercup season yet, babe!
I’ll be Googling to see if the trail is a real thing. I did read it on a blog I found and the signs to the towns all have a little yellow flower in the corner. I mean… what the hell else could it be? I don’t just come up with this stuff randomly. Whatever.
Tomorrow, we fly back to Edinburgh from the Faroe Islands to officially begin our Scotland road trip. The Faroes have been breathtaking and the sheep have been entertaining, but I’m really looking forward to the Islands and Highlands. We’ll be in touch.
Exploring Scotland’s Islands & Highlands
I learned firsthand last night that the sun never actually sets in the Faroe Islands. For some reason, I had the hardest time falling asleep and staying asleep and, although we had blackout curtains, I could see the sunlight peeking out the sides all. night. long. I felt like I was on the set of “Insomnia” where the sun never setting plays some sort of whacked out psychological games with your mind. I’m not certain what time, but at some point, I just decided to stop the f*ckery and just get up. I couldn’t even tell you what I actually did with all that free time, to be honest.
Back At Vágar Airport
Ate breakfast, showered, packed. Drove back to the Faroe Islands airport, which is ridiculously tiny. The directions for the rental car drop-off were to literally leave the keys in the glove box and the car unlocked in the airport parking lot (the same way we picked it up). We figured it’s not really like you can drive the car off the island or take it very far if you decided to steal it, but… I still haven’t received information the rental company got the car back. They also weren’t open the entire time we were at the airport.
There were a couple of Americans at the airport with us. I’m telling you, they always sniff us out. One talked incessantly. Fortunately, he was talking to the other couple there, but I nervously exchanged glances with Jeff and told him not to make eye contact. No, seriously. Don’t do it. The Faroes airport is great. And hysterical. It’s two gates and the plane coasts down to the far end of the one runway to the edge of the aforementioned hanging lake cliff, turns around, and takes off. I love it.
No Upgrades In Edinburgh
The flight from the Faroe Islands to Edinburgh was super easy and we were in there in no time. Checked back into the same hotel we’d stayed at before. This time we didn’t get an upgrade it seemed and we actually got what we paid for, a studio apartment. How dare they. Just kidding. It was equally awesome.
They had the same amazing toiletries and Jeff even signed up to use the gym in the morning. Reception asked me if I also wanted a waiver, and I just laughed. “No, no. Thanks, though.” I’m going to go watch “Judge Judy,” the only thing on TV, and have some decaf coffee before I collapse for thirteen hours on the oh-so-memorable rock hard mattress.
Our Scottish Road Trip Begins
Well, rock hard mattress or not, I slept like a beast. For hours. Which was perfect because we had quite the jam-packed itinerary for today. Checked out (again), made a poor joke about bringing the wrong adapter and got a free one from the hotel (score!), and waited for a cab to go get our rental car.
There was a pile of puke on the sidewalk, fresh from the night before, and a stand just a few feet in front of us for the “Necro Bus,” Edinburgh’s haunted pub crawl. Looks like someone did the damn thing. Not sure whether to congratulate them or feel sorry for them. Column A/Column B? This is Global Debauchery, after all. I’ll just watch my step getting into the cab…
An Unwanted Upgrade
The car rental place wasn’t very far from our hotel, but we were tired of schlepping and our last trek through Edinburgh proved to be filled with with endless stairs and hills and cobbled streets and… just… yeah. We cabbed it. The great news is we somehow got another free upgrade. This time to a Mercedes.
Sounds awesome, but the roads in the UK are super tiny, so a nicer (and bigger) vehicle is not always a positive thing. Plus, who wants to be responsible for keeping a rental in tip-top shape? Not I. Listen to me—so negative. Crying about a Benz. Ridiculous.
The rental lady asked if we wanted to grab a GPS and we declined, opting to use our phones. She warned that coverage is a bit sketch in the Highlands and to be sure to download our maps. Of course we’d come to regret this. Sooner than the Highlands, too.
Jeff’s Masterful International Driving Skills
Kudos to my husband for always being the designated driver in foreign countries. We were trying to count exactly how many countries he’s driven in at this point—New Zealand, Faroes, Ireland, Iceland, Canada. Scotland, of course, drives on the opposite side of the road, which is quite the adjustment (for the both of us).
We weren’t yet out of Edinburgh when he almost turned down the wrong side of a median. I don’t think he’d‘ve even realized it right away if I hadn’t frantically yelped. Even more alarmingly, we’d gotten on the “motorway” and he was attempting to read a sign from a distance. Turns out it read, “Are your eyes fit for driving?” Oh, the irony. Driving in Scotland will be a real treat.
Stirling & Mary Queen of Scots’ Lake Menteith
Our first stop of the day was Stirling, home to one of Scotland’s most important fortresses and a key location in its battles for independence. It was pretty cool, but Jeff and I have this thing where we pay however much to travel and get from point A to point B and then 20 Euro or however much of an entry fee is just too much for us. We also have a mutual aversion to crowds, so it works out. We wander around the outskirts away from the madness and keep it moving.
Drove on to Lake Menteith where Mary, Queen of Scots was supposedly moved to be kept safe from Henry the VIII. And it’s one of the few places named “Lake,” not “Loch,” in Scotland, just a language fluke. Just a pretty lake, really. So, we continued on around the edge of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
It should be mentioned that Scotland, much like the Faroes, has quite a few sheep. Not as many, but a lot. They’re a little more locked up here and not so… free-range. We also noted they’re “trim and proper” (as opposed to “prim”), not like those hippie Faroe sheep with their long, wooly locks. But these poor, clean-cut, preppy Scottish sheep have no idea what real freedom on the open road is.
The Devil’s Pulpit
Our next stop was Finnich Glen, or the Devil’s Pulpit. It’s a lesser known glen on private property that you can crawl down into by way of “Jacob’s Ladder.” The glen is almost a mini version of Antelope Canyon in the U.S., with the wavy walls, stream down the middle. There’s a waterfall somewhere in there as well, but you have to walk a length of the stream to find it.
Jacob’s Ladder is this super steep scramble to get down the cliff wall into the glen. As you approach the property, there’s this sign that literally advises you death or serious injury may occur and proceed at your own risk. Translation in Jordan’s head: Death is imminent; you are going to die. But, what the hell, let’s do this!
We get to Jacob’s Ladder, which we read has ropes and rails to help you get down. Ummm… not so much. There’s one janky ass rope in one part of the climb. And there’s a super sad little railing at the very bottom of the scramble (see below), so… if you fell while climbing, you’d just fly right over it. Or through it. It’s completely pointless.
It was insanely muddy and slick, and the stairs are kind of worthless; they’re crooked stones that you slide right off of. You kind of just grip rocks and trees and bushwhack your way down. It’s also not so easy for short people as there are a couple of areas with big drops that you have to overstretch a bit to access. Kind of like a trust fall. Like a… “putting-your-faith-in-the-hands-of-God-trust-fall.”
(Note that the photo below shows only the bottom portion of Jacob’s Ladder. That was the easy part. The top portion—with the scramble—extends up into the glen at the very left of the railing. See how the top of the railing is gone on the left?)
A Very Cold Secret Garden
Needless to say, I made it. I actually got official cool points from the #adventurepartnerforlife for not chickening out. Was a little hairy, but really just required some solid problem solving and creative acrobatics.
When we got into the glen, it was amazing, like a secret garden. There were a few people there already and you could hear screams of joy echoing down the ravine walls. We took our shoes and socks off and attempted to walk further down into the glen, but the water was incredibly cold.
After we got to the first rock ledge, I thought I might go into shock so we thought better of it and headed back. Don’t let the Todd and Campbell names fool you, I do not have a Scottish immunity to the cold whatsoever. I will say that the climb back up was much easier than on the way down. And you’re already covered in mud and have already accepted the fact that you’re just going to end up downright dirty, so game on.
Sorry to say my Devil’s Pulpit photos didn’t turn out nearly as gorgeous as the actual sight was. More photos here.
Rob Roy’s Grave
Stop four was much less adventurous, but pleasant—Balquhidder Parish Church where Rob Roy’s grave is located. Pretty little church, nice photo op.
Jeff Googled this story and learned that the Liam Neeson version is a total lie, a trumped-up Hollywood version if there ever was one. The real story is not nearly as interesting, so I won’t bore you with the details here. I won’t even advise you to Google it; just take my word for it and, when someone asks, tell them, “Global Debauchery said so.”
This is the part of our journey where our GPS started flaking out and we had to *gasp* pull out an actual map. The map navigating part was not so hard, but for the fact that the map itself was totes basic and not very helpful.
Fortunately, there just aren’t that many roads in this part of Scotland. By the time we were done winging it, our GPS found our location again. This occurred on and off for the remainder of the day. I’m just glad we’re still in a part of Scotland where towns aren’t too far apart and the roads are in good condition. I don’t suppose it’s this way all the way north.
Argyll Forest & Luss
Our drive took us through Argyll Forest Park and I was glad we were stuck behind a larger truck most of the time because it meant we drove much slower than we otherwise would have. The roads were small and winding and Jeff had a tendency to move uncomfortably close to the rock walls lining the left side of the road anytime there was traffic passing in the opposite direction.
The true upside to this Mercedes upgrade is that it notified Jeff every time he was too close to the car in front of him. Any time he needed to brake suddenly, he had, not only me yelling incoherently, but the car too. I felt so vindicated. He won’t listen to me, but the car validates everything. Wives everywhere understand my plight.
We drove through the town of Luss, which was supposed to be super picturesque. Not that it wasn’t, but it was also a huge tourist trap, so… I couldn’t verify this with any degree of certainty. Jeff and I used the restroom and bounced. Not for us.
As I was running across the packed parking lot, I lost my shoe in the middle of the road and had to go back and get it. (Seems to not be the best trip for my shoes, right? Lots of shoe issues—stepping in sheep shit, losing my shoe in the mud, losing my shoe in the road…)
Beautiful Little Inverayray
One thing we were completely surprised by on our drive was the town of Inverayray. We’d been making fun of the name since before our arrival and, when we drove through, got our socks knocked off by this beautiful castle just hanging out by the roadside. Bustling little town. Not sure how we overlooked this one in our research and opted for Luss, but check it out if you’re ever in the area.
A Not-So-Baronial Manor & A Whiskey Lesson
Our hotel for the night would be Stonefield Castle, an actual baronial manor turned hotel in the 1950s. Jeff kept asking me for an address since all we had was a town name and I kept insisting it didn’t have one and I suspected we’d be able to find it once we got there. Sure enough. Can’t miss it. There are like three houses… and one’s a castle. Gorgeous grounds, beautiful building. The rooms… left much to be desired. By far, the most horrible bed we’ve had on this trip thus far. Not “baronial” in any way, shape, or form.
We had dinner and drinks and Jeff got to test a new scotch. Our bartender looked like Alexander Skaarsgard. When Jeff asked who that was, I showed him IMDB and he asked what he would be doing all the way out here. “Method acting, surely.”
Met a couple of women who came to the area annually for the scotch festival, which would be starting on the islands next week. Their whiskey knowledge was beyond ridiculous and we picked up a couple of tidbits for Jeff. Another tough night of tossing and turning, but very much looking forward to making our way out to the Scottish Isles!