Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands: A Taste of Local History on Streymoy

My initial plans for the Faroe Islands included spending a few hours hiking to Kirkjubøur, hanging around the historical village for a bit, and then hiking back to Tórshavn.  As the days went on, I became more keen on checking out some of the lesser talked about islands such as Nólsoy and Skúvoy, and the desire to hike to Kirkjubøur kind of fizzled out.

Well, due to the Faroes working her magic (my way of saying providing us with less than desirable weather), we skipped out on Skúvoy and axed the long day trip to Nólsoy.  This left us with an entire day in Tórshavn and we ended up throwing Kirkjubøur back onto our itinerary.  We didn’t do this trip by foot as the weather truly was horrendous, but rather by car.  Our last adventure in the Faroe Islands, and one that I am so happy we got to experience.  Kirkjubøur is an absolute must for anyone visiting the islands.

Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

ABOUT KIRKJUBØUR

Kirkjubøur is about a twenty-minute drive from the Faroese capital city of Tórshavn.  It is the southernmost village on the island of Streymoy and really does sit at the end of the road.

What makes Kirkjubøur so notable is that it is the historical and cultural hub for Faroese history.  You can find three of the most historical sights in the Faroe Islands located within this village.  The three key sights are the St. Magnus Cathedral, St. Olav’s Church, and the old farmhouse Kirkjubøargarður.

ST. MAGNUS CATHEDRAL

The ruins of this never-finished cathedral are situated by the sea in Kirkjubøur.  Its initial construction began around 1300 by Bishop Erlendur and was never actually completed because it was never roofed.  Nevertheless, the St. Magnus Cathedral still remains the largest medieval building in the Faroe Islands.

Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

Conservation efforts have been taking place since 1997 on the Cathedral, but have not been completely ongoing.  In 2010, however, efforts picked up a bit and protecting it has become a priority as it slowly wanes as a result of sea water, the wind, and the environment.

Go back in Faroese history by traveling to Kirkjubøur on Streymoy #travel #visitfaroe Click To Tweet

ST. OLAV’S CHURCH

This charming white church dates all the way back to the 12th century and is still in use today, making it the oldest church in the Faroe Islands that is still being used.

St. Olav's Church in Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands
St. Olav's Church in Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands

<Photo on the right is the graveyard that surrounds the church>

KIRKJUBØARGARÐUR

Literally meaning “King’s Farm”, Kirkjubøargarður is one of, if not the oldest, still inhabited wooden houses in the world.  Dating back to the 11th century, it was initially used as the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands.  There are many legends that surround Kirkjubøargarður, and one of the most noteworthy ones is that the wood for the houses came as driftwood from Norway and was collected, sorted, and arranged to be used as building material.  If you know the Faroe Islands, you’ll know that there are no natural trees or forests on the islands, therefore making wood a very valuable and sought-after material.

The oldest part of the farmhouse is the smoke room, or roykstova.  It doesn’t quite fit with its foundation in its present state which has given an indication that it was moved from its original state.  It is also said that Bishop Erlendur wrote the “Sheep Letter” inside of Kirkjubøargarður in 1298, which gave us the earliest documentation of the Faroe Islands we know today.

Interestingly, the Patursson family, which has been the house’s occupants since 1550, is still living residing there (the 17th generation!)  Today the house has been turned into a museum.  The farm also is home to sheep, cattle, and some horses and it is possible to purchase a coffee here and buy fresh mutton directly from the farmer himself.

Kirkjubøargarður to the left and St Olav's church on the right

Inside Kirkjubøargarður

Inside Kirkjubøargarður

MY TIME IN KIRKJUBØUR

We headed out to Kirkjubøur in the middle of the afternoon and it was sunny as we arrived and started raining and became super windy within a matter of minutes.  Welcome to the Faroe Islands, basically.  I took the shades off and put my rainjacket’s hood up and soldiered on to explore this historic Faroese village.

After checking out the sites mentioned above, we decided to walk down closer to the water for some better views of Kirkjubøhólmur, an islet that sits in between Kirkjubøur and the island of Hestur in the background and is home to an eider duck community.  Kirkjubøhólmur actually contains remnants of the old Kirkjubøur which suffered from a fierce storm in the 16th century and destroyed most of the fifty homes that existed in the village at that time.  As we walked down by the sea we saw possibly the worst thing I could have ever seen… a dead sheep.  The poor thing had its leg dismembered in rocks up from the shore a bit and it died on its way down to the water.  Talk about ruining someone’s afternoon.

That event really shook me up and we stood around, took in the views, and then sheltered our wind-blasted bodies in the heated bus shelter until we packed up the car and headed back to Tórshavn.

Sheep in Kirkjubøur

<Alive sheep for the win.  Photo © Ed Singleton 2017>

Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

Sheep in Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

<Photo © Ed Singleton 2017>

Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

Kirkjubøur in the Faroe Islands

<Photo © Ed Singleton 2017>

Getting to Kirkjubøur

You can get to Kirkjubøur one of three ways really… by car, by foot, or by bus.  The bus is free, as are all buses in and around Tórshavn.  Just be sure to hop on the 101 to Kirkjubøur.

For directions by foot, you can check out these very detailed instructions from Make.fo or the details provided by Visit Faroe Islands.

If you have a rental car, the village is not far away from Tórshavn as noted above.  It is simply about a twenty-minute drive south of the capital city.  You’ll pass the Gamlarætt ferry port on the way and that will let you know that you’re about five minutes from Kirkjubøur.  On a side note- Kirkjubøur would be an ideal pit stop on your way to the ferry port if you’re looking to take the ferry to Sandoy for the day.  You really don’t need much time in Kirkjubøur to see it all.

In conclusion, you definitely need to plot some time to check out Kirkjubøur.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have made the effort to actually do the hike, but the weather wasn’t cooperating, so I am glad we did end up seeing it via car.  If you have any tips for travelers or questions, please leave them below!  Thanks!

Learn more about the history of the Faroe Islands on Streymoy in Kirkjubøur #travel @visitfaroe Click To Tweet

Additional Resources

Kirkjubøur from Visit Tórshavn

Kirkjubøur from Lonely Planet

Kirkjubøur from Visit Faroe Islands

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A Taste of Faroese History in Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands
A Taste of Faroese History in Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands

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Megan is a digital marketing strategist and world traveler based in Frankfurt, Germany but hailing from Richmond, Virginia. She has traveled to over 85 countries and 45 US states and has a special love for the Nordics and Eastern Europe. Her passions are animals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ohio State football, craft beer, coffee, and copious amounts of concrete. She is also an advocate for removing dill from all dishes globally.
14 Comments
  • Ed singleton
    Posted at 18:35h, 26 April Reply

    Great post and great pictures I must say! :)

  • Phoebe Escott-Kenny
    Posted at 19:30h, 26 April Reply

    I loved this one girl! Your pictures are getting me ready for my trip next month.

    I think my cousin mentioned she wants to do this hike as it’s only around 1.5 hours, am I right? Tell me, did you do a lot of the historical research before you went, were the landmarks signed with information or did you have to do the research after the trip? Just wondering how I can best collect and gather my information for the trip. Keep up the good work!

    • Megan Starr
      Posted at 17:46h, 27 April Reply

      I’m not certain about hike’s length, but I have heard it was around 1.5 – 2 hours, so that should be about right. You can always try the hike there and then take a bus on the way back if it takes longer!

      In Kirkjubøur there was a bit of historical information on signs (I actually had a photo to put up on here but I didn’t for some reason…) but I already knew a bit of this prior to going as I’ve been reading up on the Faroes since I was a young girl. But I try to do a bit of research prior to traveling just to make sure I don’t miss out on something (which I often do) and because I usually make a Google map of the things I want to hit up in a destination. I am not a museum person, so I try to get my fix elsewhere and it requires a bit of research.

      Very stoked for your upcoming trip! You’re going to love the Islands!

  • Vanessa Brune
    Posted at 21:40h, 26 April Reply

    Awww I would love love love to visit the Faroe Islands one day! They come definitely first on my Nordic bucket list and your photos just proof that I should make the trip sooner rather than later! And how amazing is it that you can find SO much history in what essentially looks like the middle of nowhere?! ;)

    • Megan Starr
      Posted at 17:50h, 27 April Reply

      You will definitely fall in love with the Faroes! Since I know you can handle the cold (haha), I recommend going when the season isn’t high as I can’t imagine how these islands will be able to handle the tourism once it starts at a mass level (and it will- everyone is wanting to go there these days!) My next stop is hopefully Greenland- with much inspiration from you!

  • Emily
    Posted at 13:09h, 27 April Reply

    That they have no natural trees is something I wouldn’t have considered had you not said anything…it’s one of those things where you look at the landscape and can tell it’s so different and beautiful but aren’t sure what it is. It’s the lack of trees. The most obvious thing.
    I love that the descendants of the original family live in that home. I think that’s amazing.

    • Megan Starr
      Posted at 17:51h, 27 April Reply

      I remember as a kid I was so drawn to the Faroes, Iceland, and parts of Norway and I never, ever could pinpoint why. And it took me like 20 years, but it was the treeless thing. It really isn’t so easy to spot in a photo but you know something is different. Much different than the tree situation where we hail from!

  • Frank
    Posted at 09:34h, 11 May Reply

    Looks so lonely and barren, but beautiful in it’s starkness. Love that log cabin, just brings the Vikings to mind. I can’t imagine, must have been a really rough life and I can just imagine how cold it must be in winter with the wind howling in from the North Atlantic.
    I remember many years ago visiting Sumatra. We pulled into the shoulder of a road to get a photo of the countryside. There was a dog in that shoulder and he was a bit nervous of foreigners and he slowly walked away from us into the road as we got out of the car…suddenly a car pulls around the corner and runs him over. I’ll never forget that and the guilt that I felt that our presence led to his death. Having said that, sheep aren’t too bright and hopefully someone made a good mutton stew out of it. Just kidding.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Megan Starr
      Posted at 10:40h, 22 May Reply

      It was definitely an experience I will never forget :) I would love to take a roadtrip around Indonesia someday! Although I’d surely have a crying fit seeing a poor pup out there. Thanks for the comment, Frank!

  • Jasilyn Albert
    Posted at 14:08h, 11 May Reply

    This place is seriously the cutest! I love the old headstones!

  • Bianca
    Posted at 15:02h, 12 May Reply

    What incredible pictures, I had to look up Kirkbou and the Faroe Islands. Your pictures took my breath away, I can only imagine a town like this in an old viking movie. Now I have to get there! Thanks so much for sharing,

    • Megan Starr
      Posted at 10:38h, 22 May Reply

      Thanks so much, Bianca! I really hope you get to make it out that way someday <3 Thanks for the comment!!

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