Odyssey into the Northern Atlantic
|A July 2004 exploration of Orkney
& Shetland (UK), and Føroyar (DK)
A more extensive travelogue will appear any decade - the short version is this : after I'd gotten back from New Zealand, my girlfriend wanted to do some travel, too. We've been drooling over Iceland for quite a few years, but let's face it - it IS expensive. On the other hand, our fond memories of Scotland in mind, a re-visit was forcing itself upon us. The locigal thing is to take what's in between... plus, our 2002 Scotland trip was in September, so practically no wildlife left. This time we wanted some birds for example.
It might seem slightly odd, with all the globe lying there waiting to be explored, to go visiting some treeless lumps of rock scattered across the Northern Atlantic, where summer temperatures do not exceed 15 centigrade; well, it takes all kinds... The Føroyar would not in and of themselves constitute a holiday destination, but we thought, while we're at it... I mean, how many of you can actually claim to have set foot on the Faroe Islands?! Huhuh <nerdish snicker>.
We don't prearrange much; only transport. And there, the web rules! We booked practically every single piece of transportation (quite a lot; see below for links) through the web. Finally, the idea was this : gradually going northward and then back, which led to the plan,
In a week or so, all was booked. The last tickets came in the day before we were leaving. So the next day we got to Inverness. Man, what a feeling to be back in Scotland! I felt sorry having to pass by the magnificent Highlands. It was the first time we actually returned to a place we'd visited before. Strange feeling. Basically an instant melancholy hits you as you realise that you'll never be able to experience the feeling you had when you came the first time, simply because now you know. But the journey only began. And let me tell you, taking ferry after ferry to get more and more out there into the great blue... it is something to experience. And you can! by reading the travel information below and doing it yourself, or by putting your browser full screen (F11-key) and start on the PHOTO ALBUM (beware, there's over 300 of them, and that's a stringent selection).
[Just noticed that the Faroes and New Zealand are practically
on opposite ends of the globe. Three months away, but over 18,000 kms
apart... who said space was just a device to prevent everything from
being in the same spot? - funky!]
So, why an odyssey? Well, dig the itinerary (price/TWO persons) :
[THE journey planner for Scotland is at Traveline Scotland ! You just enter any two places, tick which transport modes you'd like to use, and it searches in all timetables, train, ferry, coach, local buses - hell, even Royal Mail postbuses ! Absolutely not to be missed; afterwards you can still check at the local sites for complete timetables etc. - always the best thing to do, as I've found out that some post bus timetables are missing.]
And then I don't count the bus from Brussels to Charleroi; furthermore we were pretty lucky that my mum's boyfriend lives in Eindhoven, and they came to pick us up - for London Std-Charleroi doesn't fly anymore.
CASH Orkney & Shetland are UK
and work with Pounds Sterling; several different Scottish Pound-banknotes
are issued by different banks, so they might look different depending
where you got them - doesn't mean they're old or something. Fall '04
it's 1 GBP = 1.44 EUR = 1.82 USD = 10.72 DKK. The Føroyar have
the Faroese Kroner, which is equivalent to the Denmark Kroner. Currently
that's 100 DKK = 13.45 EUR = 16.95 USD = 9.32 GBP. So don't start calculating
when you order a pint of simple lager and the barmaid says "50
Kroner" - it IS $8.50, it IS over £4.50, it IS almost 7€
! And STILL people drink ! Even we !
LANGUAGE Orkney & Shetland speak English of course. Unlike the Outer Hebrides, no Gaelic is spoken here; basically because it was hardly ever spoken there at all - recall that Gaelic came from Ireland. Instead they had Norn, a dialect form of Old Norse as language, especially on Shetland; unfortunately it is now extinct, and remains visible only in certain placenames, like Yell, or Unst. The Faroe Islands have their own language, Føroyskt (Faroese), also a descendant of Old Norse, which looks, unsurprisingly, like a crossover bewtween Icelandic and Norwegian (apparently sounds more like the latter). People speak Danish and English, though their knowledge of the latter is not as fluent as in the rest of Scandinavia.
O yeah, and HAVE A PASSPORT if you go to the Faroes ! We didn't know (several sites give ambiguous information), and for some reason, we got in without one (less stringent controles on the ferries - gogo Al Quaeda!). However, we had serious trouble at Vágar Airport, where they didn't want to let us go. Had something to do with the Faroes not being EU (despite the fact that Denmark is), while the UK not being a Shengen country... politics whatever. So despite the fact that we as Belgians can travel to the UK without passport and that this time even we were only in transit, London would not accept us, simply because we came from the Faroes. Fortunately, the plane made one touchdown in Aberdeen first, and the Scots (bless them) would have us, after the umpth phonecall. I mean, waiting 3 weeks on the Faroes for a passport from the embassy in Copenhagen is not only a numbing prospect - you'll probably end up pennyless as well. Be prepared !
WEATHER Last but not least: the forecast! Check the 10-day weather outlook for Orkney and Shetland, from Fair Isle weather station.
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