Article & Video: Of Land & Sea, Boat magazine in the Faroe Islands

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The islands are almost eerily void of man-made sound.  The wind whistles, the sheep bellow, the waves crash against the coastline and rearrange the stones, clapping and cracking as they roll around.  The quiet is instantly comforting and sets forth the pace of life here without you even having to think about it.

Over the past few years there have been several articles in the mainstream press (The GuardianThe Financial Times, The Independent and Fodorsprofiling a ‘new breed of independent travel magazines”.  

As Tom Robbins in The Financial Times explained, these new magazines:

share a distinct look and approach, their similarities emphasising how different they are to the glossy mainstream titles. Produced by independents rather than big publishing houses, they are typically quarterly or biannual rather than monthly, and usually cost at least £10. Many have gnomic one-word names; covers are simple and striking, stripped of attention-grabbing cover lines; the paper is usually heavy, expensive and matt. 

All have websites, naturally.  Some have online content (and some more than others).  Some are available as electronic editions through apps such as Readbug, as downloads from their websites or own apps.  But, what really sets them apart is their commitment to print editions.  These are different though to Wanderlust, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Lonely Planet Traveller or NatGeo Traveller.  

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Sometimes seen as part of a ‘slow journalism’ movement, their publication cycle is deliberately less frequent and the print editions lovingly created, something to be treasured rather than left on a train.  Not widely available in shops, I am fortunate that a handful of places in central London carry a decent range of these new magazines. 

Boat is one of these magazines.

Published twice a year, Boat focuses on a different place for each issue (usually a city) with the editorial team relocating there for several weeks to research and work with locals to produce the content.  Boat calls this its ‘inside/out approach’, with locals deciding “what they want the world to know about their city” to ensure that perspectives on the places are “varied and balanced”.  This allows Boat to ‘dig deep’ in each place they cover, to meet the locals and avoid “the typical fly-by top 10 lists, tourist hotspots or new openings”.

Ancient literature describes a mythical island kingdom called Thule where “the sun goes to rest” and “there was no longer any proper land nor sea nor air, but a sort of mixture of all three.  It has been suggested that the Faroe Islands were in fact this mythical place.

For its latest outing, Boat visited the Faroe Islands, a group of 18 volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway.  The islands are self governing although formally part of Denmark.

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In this superb issue, Boat covers everything from local culinary traditions, the islands’ first Michelin-starred restaurant, alternative night life, the origin of the islands’ architecture (intersting given the absence of wood-producing trees), its LBGT movement, the struggle for women’s rights, sustainable approaches to aquaculture and power generation as well of course its resurgent wool and knitwear industry and the lives of the islands’ shepherds.  

The feeling of loneliness is a mental state.  It’s not dependent on the number of people alongside you, but instead your relationships with them.

Boat travels to the Faroes’ most remote parts and, in one of the centrepiece features – Of Land and Sea – Fred Scott takes the twice weekly helicopter to the least populated island, Stóra Dímun, which is home to just 8 out of the 50,000 or so people in the Faroe Islands, and hears the captivating story of Eva and Jógvan and their two children who run Stóra Dímun’s sheep farm.

In another feature, Tom Eagar visits the Faroes’ most westerly island, Mykines, home to only 10 people but hundreds of thousands of sea birds including puffins, which can be viewed either on a cliff or on a plate in the local cafe.  Perched at the tip of the island in this remote archipelago and surrounded only by sea, Tom Eagar observes: 

It’s rare that you’re ever able to see so far and in so many directions. That may sound like a frivolous observation, but even the grandest of landscaeps are filled with things:  mountains, forest, lakes, land – just stuff.  Out here, facing west, it feels like we’re half way between the world and forever.

Boat covers all this through almost twenty insightful stories accompanied by beautiful images and videos on its website. The pieces are strong on local voice, allowing the islanders to tell their own stories and give their perspective, revealing a real sense of the Faroes and what life there is like.

This is one to settle in with for an afternoon, to savour and get lost in with some Teitur, Konni Kass or even Carl Neilsen’s Fantasy Journey to the Faroe Islands on the stereo.  I’m looking forward to see how Boat top this and, well, to those harbingers keen to pronounce the end of good travel writing, pish! 

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