On day four of our Faroese adventure, Katrine and I decided to head to Klaksvík, the second largest town on the Faroe Islands, to attend the festival Summarfestivalur over the weekend. We camped at a camp site just outside Klaksvík and spent four amazing days on the north islands (Norðoyggjar in Faroese), where the long summer evenings were spent hanging out at the festival and at the camp site with our new Swedish friends, and the daylight hours were spent hiking on Borðoy, Viðoy and roadtripping through Kalsoy.

On the first day, we decided to go on a hike on Borðoy to the abandoned village of Skálatoftir. Ever since I explored Skarð, an abandoned village located right across the fjord from Skálatoftir on the island of Kunoy, last year, I’ve wanted to visit Skálatoftir as well. There is a lot of information about Skarð online, but hardly any on Skálatoftir, so while I wanted to explore the place, I also set out to find out what happened there, and especially what led to it being abandoned.

The two Swedish guys, Anton and Simon, who we met on Mykines a few days earlier, decided to join us on the hike and brought along some Faroese beers for us to enjoy while walking. We set out rather late at 5 PM, but because it was summer in the Faroe Islands, the days were long and the sun wouldn’t set until 10 PM, so we had plenty of time… or so we thought.

Because things didn’t turn out quite the way we thought they would, but when I go hiking, they never really do.

Borðoy, where we were standing, to the right and Kunoy to the left
Borðoy, where we were standing, to the right and Kunoy to the left
The hiking trail to Skálatoftir
The hiking trail to Skálatoftir
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Two crazy Swedish guys!
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Föroyar Bjór – the best beer in the world

The hike was nice and easy on this mild summer evening. Skálatoftir is located about three hours north of the dam from Borðoy to Kunoy, where the hike begun, and there’s a well-trodden path all the way along the coast on the west side of the mountains of Borðoy.
We had a good speed on, and despite us starting a bit late, I was sure that we would make it there and back before it would get dark. The hike was beautiful and offered amazing views of Kunoy and its fantastic mountain range ending in the impressive promontory, Kunoyarnakkur, on the northern tip of the island.

During the entire hike, I could see a green piece of land in the distance, which I was almost certain was Skálatoftir, and we later found out that it was. It’s amazing how you can still see from afar that there has been a human settlement.

Mountains of Borðoy
Mountains of Borðoy
We climbed across several waterfalls during the hike
We climbed across several waterfalls during the hike
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Simon on top of the world rock
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A sheep house on Borðoy with a view of Kunoy and Kunoyarnakkur
Can you see the green piece of land? That's Skálatoftir!
Can you see the green piece of land? That’s Skálatoftir!

During the hike, we met several nosy sheep, who would come up to us, which is very unusual. Sheep in the Faroe Islands are usually very shy and will run away as soon as someone approaches them, but not these sheep. I guess they miss human contact since they’re stuck on a remote and rather unknown hiking trail, where almost no one goes, so they wanted to talk. It was a nice surprise!

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After talking to the sheep, Anton and Simon decided to go back to Klaksvík to attend the festival, while Katrine and I continued. It was getting late and I also wanted to go to the festival, but I just had to see Skálatoftir now that we were so close.

About an hour after we met the curious sheep, we arrived in Skálatoftir, where the original houses are gone, presumably looted, and only the old stone foundations as well as a ruined concrete house remain.

While exploring the abandoned village, I felt like a child. I ran from house to house, touching everything, taking pictures of everything, trying to remember every little detail from every building that I saw. Exploring Skálatoftir was something that I had wanted to do for so long, and now I was finally there. It was amazing to be able to see it in real life! For some reason, I just love abandoned villages – especially the Faroese ones!

From Skálatoftir, we could see straight across the fjord to Skarð, the other abandoned village, on Kunoy.

Skálatoftir
Skálatoftir

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Skarð on Kunoy - Can you see the little red house? That's the shelter in the abandoned village, built in recent years for hikers to use
Skarð on Kunoy – Can you see the little red house? That’s the shelter in the abandoned village, built in recent years for hikers to use
Skálatoftir and Skarð
Skálatoftir and Skarð

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For the last couple of days, I had been feeling a constant pain in my left knee, which only got worse while hiking. It was something that I could live with and still hike with, but while running around Skálatoftir, the pain suddenly got worse. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but it got so bad that I almost couldn’t walk.

Since we were three hours away from civilization and it would be dark before we could make it back with my now slow-paced walking, we saw no other option than to call for rescue. We got in contact with the Faroese PSAP, who sent a rescue boat out to get us. We had to wait a couple of hours for it to get to us, so when it did, it was already dark. I was so grateful that we didn’t have to walk back in the dark, and although I felt stupid for calling with such a minor injury, I’m sure it was for the best.

The trip with the rescue boat was an experience in itself. We sailed around Borðoy, Kunoy and Kalsoy, until we got to Klaksvík about an hour later. The rescue guys were really nice and talkative, and they even told us some of the local myths and legends as we sailed past the islands.

When we got to Klaksvík, an ambulance was waiting to take me to the hospital, where I had my knee checked. A little fluid in the knee was all I had, and it actually went away a few days later.
So for calling the rescue boat for the smallest injury ever, I felt slightly embarrased, but at least we got home safely, and we’re now one experience richer.

Waiting for the rescue boat
Waiting for the rescue boat
Here it comes!
Here it comes!

Little is known about Skálatoftir and its people’s fate. Skálatoftir is an old village that was first mentioned in a source in 1584. It’s the northernmost village on Borðoy, an island that is home to Klaksvík, the second largest town in the Faroe Islands, but then not much more, apart from Mulí, another abandoned village on the other side of the mountains from Skálatoftir.

According to online sources, the last people moved from Skálatoftir in 1914, but prior to that, the village had already been depopulated several times. A local man told us that one of these incidents was in the 1820’s, when 12 children and teenagers died in a capsizing accident.
I asked around a lot in the local area for information about Skálatoftir, but only a few people seemed to know something about its story, but still, I couldn’t put the pieces together. Another local man told me that the people of Skálatoftir suffered the same fate as the people of Skarð, where most of the village’s men capsized on December 23rd 1913, which led to the village being completely depopulated by January 26th 1919. But in the case of Skálatoftir, that story doesn’t make any sense to me. The story about the capsizing accident in 1913 is usually only connected to Skarð; I’ve never heard Skálatoftir mentioned in this context before.
But it’s a fact that Skálatoftir was completely depopulated in 1914, the year after the capsizing accident in Skarð, but five years before Skarð was completely depopulated. So the way that these two villages were abandoned may very possibly have a connection, but I’m curious about exactly why Skálatoftir was abandoned, unless they also lost all of their men on the same night as the capsizing accident in Skarð? Personally, what I think happened to Skálatoftir was a gradual depopulation, which probably had its beginning after the accident in Skarð, since the people of Skálatoftir now saw that, across the fjord, the people of Skarð began to leave, and then got the same idea themselves.

Skálatoftir is very secluded and it takes at least three hours to walk to the nearest village, which is also small, so living there was definitely not easy. Eventually, the modern times caught up with the village, and the village was abandoned because of the lack of interaction with the outside world; a world that the villagers knew existed, but were never a part of.
So how come the story of this village has been forgotten by so many? There must be more to the story and I want to find out all of it. Next time I’m in Norðoyggjar, that will be my mission.

8 thoughts on “Skálatoftir: The Village that the World Forgot – The Hike and the Rescue”

  1. Skálatoftir was a very tiny settlement and they were fragile. On a lovely and calm summer day in 1906 the future of Skálatoftur was decided in a tragedy. The future farmer Niclas Hans had been with his father and the only other grown up and ferried a man to Viðareiði. They came back and a little girl of 12 stayed with the boat, while they went home for dinner. Then Niclas Hans went back to the boat, carrying his dog – and he stumbled and fell. The girl ran home and the two old men hurried to help. They found Niclas Hans in the water, fetched him up and desperately rowed to Klaksvík for a doctor. But it was to late, he was drowned, and with him the future of Skálatoftir. He was 28 and not married. His father was trying to manage for some years, but he died in 1912. His second son had made his home in Klaksvík and did not want to move back. He got the farm on the condition, that he could stay in Klaksvík. He and his family have taken care of the sheep of Skálatoftir. Another family, who lived there, was very special. A brother and sister living in solitude with there father outside Klaksvík – they moved from Skálatoftir to a place, who became the Skálatoftir of Klaksvík – the road, were they lived is called “Skáltavegur”. She was considered a witch, casting evil spells on people, who were not nice to her and people were afraid of her. I remember her well, but my parents tought me not to be afraid of her, just treat her civilly. Her brother used to walk around in ladies clothes sometimes. They were bot unmarried. She had tragically lost a baby in her youth. A book is written about them. He went every summer to Skálatoftir, because he made birdhouses, painted them bright colours and put them up everywhere at Skálatoftir. Then he went back every summer to paint them and see whether the birds were OK. I find it touching. The capsizing, you mention, was not at Skálatoftir but another abandoned village – Blankaskáli at Kalsoy. But it was not abondoned because of that, but because of an avalance hitting the village and smashing

    1. Wow thank you so much for that! What amazing knowledge! I haven’t been able to find anything on the story, but this sounds just as tragic as I had imagined it would be.
      I heard about Blankaskáli as well, another sad story, and another village that I would love to visit. Thank you!!

      1. You are welcome! I can see now that I have managed to make a lot of spellingerrors in that text, but never mind, you got the gist. Quite a lot has been written about Skálatoftir, so I am surprised that people did not know to tell you. There are seven books on the people of Norðoyggjar. Genealogy. They line up the conditions of each village, history and then people.

        1. That’s quite alright!
          I did find some Faroese stuff about Skálatoftir, but unfortunately, I’m not able to completely understand it yet. I’m learning Faroese now though, so hopefully soon! Until then, I’ll keep asking around to get more information 😃

  2. It’s do pity that such beautiful places are depopulated and abandoned. However, if civilization would touch them, they might be spoiled. Perhaps it was for the better. Where people there is not so good. At least, we can enjoy such untouched places and thank them for leaving in time! Another breathtaking place! Thank you for sharing, dear Mel! Hugs!❤

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