On december 23rd 1913, seven men from Skarð on Kunoy went fishing on the rough sea, but they never returned home. A snowstorm surprised them and claimed all seven lives. That day, the village lost all of its men, except from one elderly man. In the years following the tragedy, the women, the man and the children worked hard to survive, but it was an impossible task, so they eventually decided to move from the village.
On January 26th 1919, the last residents sailed around the island and settled down in the village of Kunoy. From that day, Skarð became abandoned.
Today, all of the wooden buildings have disappeared and only a few stone foundations are left. There has since been built a shed, where hikers can now get shelter.
Mine and Mads’ last hike this time around was to this village. After showing Mads and two traveller’s around some of the most popular places on the Faroe Islands, including Saksun and Gjógv, which are definitely worth a re-visit, we set off on the 3-hour long hike, starting from Haraldssund just across the dam on Kunoy.
We hiked alongside the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, overlooking Borðoy at all times. To begin with, the weather was great, and although being exhausted from the hike on Nólsoy (read) the day before, we were ready for adventure and couldn’t wait to get to Skarð, a village that I’ve always wanted to explore!
While the hike is quite easy and straightforward, there are millions (and I’m not exaggerating) of waterfalls and streams that we had to pass. The only way to get past them was to cross them, which was quite difficult at times, as they were really slippery. I had to use Mads to hold me steady quite a few times, so I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it without him.
Therefore, this hike proved to be the most challenging yet, and without a doubt the most dangerous. We had to be cautious at all times, but since we’re both sensible and good at helping each other, nothing bad ever happened.
On the way, we saw quite a few ruins scattered about, which made us believe that we were almost there… Buuut, we weren’t! We hoped to get there earlier than the 3 hours it normally takes, as it was getting late and we didn’t want to hike after the sun had set, but because of all the waterfalls, we couldn’t possibly walk fast.
Before leaving for the hike, I had read that it would be possible to see Skálatoftir, another abandoned town, on Borðoy. Thanks to the awesome lens on my camera, I actually spotted it way before we were even halfway to Skarð, so now we had an idea of how long we had left. When I come back to Faroe Islands (which I definitely will!), I want to hike to Skálatoftir and see Skarð across from it!
But finally we caught sight of Skarð! The bright red shed was easy to spot and now we got the last energy to pull ourselves towards the village. The only problem was that as we were getting closer, so was the fog. It was coming in from the other side of the village and it was evident that we would get caught in it. We really had to speed up now, if we wanted to explore the village, so we did and got there just before the three hours were up.
Just before we reached Skarð, we saw a group of 8-10 people coming down the mountain to the village and we couldn’t believe our eyes! We never thought that we would see other people in a place so remote, but we were lucky that we did. After eating our lunch in the shed and writing our names in the guestbook, we went to look for the other people and found them below the sea, where the fishermens boats used to dock. They were waiting for a boat to take them to Haraldssund and invited us to join them, so we were saved from having to walk back in the fog!
We had 30 minutes to explore the village before the boat arrived, so we walked a bit up the mountain to get a great aerial view of the ruins. From here, we also got a great view of the gorge Klamm Skarðgjógv, where the other hikers came down from.
There are two ways of getting to Skarð; hiking 7 km. along the coast from Haraldssund, which is what Mads and I did; or hiking from the village of Kunoy over the mountains (800 m.) and coming down the gorge. That hike takes about 8 hours each way and is one of the most difficult on the Faroe Islands. This is the route that the villagers used to take every Sunday to get to church.
Unfortunately, due to the fog, we weren’t able to see as much as we would’ve liked. But what a great excuse to come back and try the other hike next time!
Then it was time to get on the boat and head back to civilization. We learnt that all the other people were Faroese and there was even an elderly woman amongst them. The Faroese are indeed courageous!
While sailing on the sea, we saw two seals and that was so exciting!
When we arrived back in Haraldssund, it was time to get to the car and drive back to Klaksvik, where we enjoyed a well-deserved icecream. Our legs were exhausted, but our spirits were extremely high.
It wasn’t hard to imagine what life was like in this village. So remote and so harsh. It couldn’t have been easy even before the tragedy, but afterwards it must have been unbearable. Skarð is a beautiful place, but the location and the difficult ways of getting to and from the village makes it an almost impossible place to live.
Nonetheless, it’s an amazing place to visit and the story of the women trying to cope after all of their men had died is very awe-inspiring.