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Tinganes, Faroe Islands

The rocky promontory of Tinganes on the foreshore of Tórshavn has been the home of the Faroese parliament for over a thousand years.

Initially the thing at Tinganes was a public assembly, or Althing, where all free men of the Faroe Islands could meet to discuss and decide on common matters. Later it became a løgting (lawthing), presided over by the løgmaður (lawman) and attended by representatives from each local region.

The thing met once a year during the summer, and was traditionally associated with Ólavsøka, (St Olav’s Wake) held on the 29th July. Initially it was held outdoors on the promontory, but later it moved into one of the small buildings on Tinganes.

From 1274 the lawthing operated under Norwegian laws drawn up by Magnus Lawmender, as well as administering specialist Faroese laws, such as those found in the 1298 Seyðabrævið (The Sheep Letter).

Towards the end of the 17th century the influence of the Løgting had begun to decline, and increasing power was held by representatives of the King.  By 1816 it had been abolished completely, and the Faroe Islands became a Danish county, ruled by a prefect and his civil servants.  However in 1852 it was re-established and it has continued to grow since then.

Today the Prime Minister’s office is currently located in one of the buildings on Tinganes.   The area is home to some of the oldest houses in the city, some dating to the 14th century and others from the 17th and 18th centuries, which are still in use today.  There are also a number of rock carvings visible on the foreshore. It has been suggested that some of these carvings may relate to activities taking place at the thing.

District thingsteads

As well as the main thing held in Tórshavn at high summer, Faroe was divided into six thing districts: Suðuroy, Sandoy, Vágoy, Streymoy, Eysturoy and Norðuroyar and meetings took place here in the spring, although there is one reference to an autumn thing. Meeting places often had ting (thing) or dóm (verdict) incorporated into the name, as in Tinghellan and Dómheyggjar.

The district things were lower courts and cases could be transferred to the althing, or løgthing, but this was not always done, and several sentences, even involving corporal punishment, along with death sentences, were passed and carried out at a district thing. Places of execution are therefore part of most district thingsteads.

In some villages, district things were held indoors, but oral tradition also tells of sites far out in the outfields, where the thing is thought to have been held in ancient times. In four of the districts there are references to ancient thingsteads away from the settlements, but near important infrastructural paths between the villages. In Suðuroy and Norðoyar these are located far up in the mountains, whereas in Sandoy and Eysturoy they are found in the lowland. In the same way as the main thing in Tórshavn is situated in the middle of the Faroes, these ancient thingsteads are located centrally in their thing district, with the best possible traffic links to the villages in the district. When the thingsteads were moved into the settlements, in most cases it was to the nearest one.

Names referring to gallows are found in five of the thing districts, and in all these cases the names are found nearby the historical, rather than the ancient thingsteads. The gallows were usually placed on high ground where they were clearly visible. It was crucial that as many people as possible could see with their own eyes what would befall those who committed serious offences.

Suðuroy

The thing was held in the village of Ørðavík in the middle of the island, with the ancient thingstead, in the mountains above the village. Members of the thing are said to have put up their tents at Tjaldavík a distance to the south of the village.

Tingborði (the Thing Table) on the farm í Trøðum in Sandoy © Frank Bradford Tingborði (the Thing Table) on the farm í Trøðum in Sandoy © Frank Bradford Zoom
Sandoy

The thing district covered the islands of Sandoy, Skúvoy and Dímun. The thing met on the farm í Trøðum in the village heima á Sandi, where a stone bearing the name Tingborði (the thing table) is still located. Further east the ancient thingstead is said to have been at millum Vatna, the area between the two small lakes.

Vágoy
The historical thingstead was situated at Rygsgarður in the village of Miðvágur. At Giljanes, on the border between the villages of Miðvág and Sandavág, a boulder named Gálgasteinur indicates the location of a former gallows.

Streymoy

This is probably the most populous thing district in the country and included the islands of Streymoy, Nólsoy, Hestur and Koltur. The thingstead was located in the village of Kollafjørður, where one of the houses is called í Tinggarðinum (in the thing farm). Slightly removed from the settlement there was a gallows, and stories are also told about a place where the condemned could save themselves if they managed to reach it.


Eysturoy's ancient thingstead at Stevnuváli Eysturoy's ancient thingstead at Stevnuváli Zoom Eysturoy

The Eysturoy thing was in the village of Selatrað. Tradition points to a big stone called Tingsteinur, although the thing was presumably held indoors. Down by the shore we find the place name á Gálga. It is historically documented that a thief was hanged at Selatrað in 1626. The ancient thingstead is thought to have been quite a distance away at a place called Stevnuváli.

Norðuroyar
The thing in the village í Vági, which developed into the town of Klaksvík, covered the northern isles of Borðoy, Kalsoy and Kunoy, and to the east Viðoy, Svínoy and Fugloy. The ancient thingstead, in the mountains north of Klaksvík, lies as near the centre of the thing district as possible. A big boulder called Tingsteinur stands there, and around it smaller stones have been erected.

What's nearby

Tórshavn

Nordic House, Tórshavn © Frank Bradford Nordic House, Tórshavn © Frank Bradford Zoom Tórshavn is a busy town full of hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars and a library all with wi-fi or internet, together with a range of museums, sports facilities, parks, walks and interesting shops to sample.  Kunningarstovan, the tourist information centre in the town centre, will help you with all the information you need, maps, timetables, brochures and souvenirs. (www.visittorshavn.fo)  The town combines a great mix of old and modern buildings. To the north, Nordic House is a wonderful example of modern architecture and hosts a range of cultural events.

The Old Town

The old town stretches from the point at Tinganes to the town centre of Tórshavn, home to the Faroese Parliament and Town Council.  Get a sense of the old town by walking through a thousand years of history from the thing site where the Faroese met from the late 9th century, past old warehouses that belonged to the royal monopoly trade, along narrow winding alleys with small black tarred houses with white windows and grass roofs, to the Løgtingshúsið (Faroese Parliament), built 1000 years later in 1856.

Fort Skansin 

The first fort was built at Skansin by local hero Magnus Heinason in 1580. Two others fortifications were built on Tinganes to protect the trade from attacks from sea and from land. These two did not last long however, and the one near the point of Tinganes was replaced by a warehouse in 1740 and later turned into a family home.  Since 1957, together with adjacent buildings, it has belonged to the Faroese government and today houses the Prime Minister’s office.

Kirkjubøur

St Magnus Cathedral and modern parish church, Kirkjubøur © Frank Bradford St Magnus Cathedral and modern parish church, Kirkjubøur © Frank Bradford Zoom The village of Kirkjubøur is one of Faroe’s most popular attractions.  During the Middles Ages it was the ecclesiastic and cultural centre of the Faroe Islands.  It was home to the Bishop’s residence until the mid-16th century reformation when the Faroese Diocese was abolished.  The ruin of the 14th century St. Magnus Cathedral and the older St. Olav's parish church and the turf-roofed Roykstovan, one of the oldest timber houses in the world, are considered one of the most important components of Faroes' heritage.  Roykstovan is a 700 year old farmhouse standing on the site of the Bishop's Palace and occupied by the same family for 17 generations.  A small museum and the parish church are open daily during the summer and by request during the winter months. (guided bus tours: www.tora.fo)

Vestmanna Bird cliffs

A boat trip to the Vestmanna bird cliffs is a must for any tourist.  In the summer season there are daily trips, weather permitting. 

Mykines

Why not visit the remote island of Mykines; a birdwatcher's paradise.  Once a large and thriving community, today only a few people live on the island all year round, but in summer it comes to life with thousands of migrating seabirds and visiting tourists. The nature is fantastic, and you have to pick your way between nesting puffins on your gentle hike to the westernmost lighthouse. The spectacular cliffs are home to Faroes's only breeding colony of gannets. 

Travel to Mykines by small boat from Sørvagur or helicopter from the airport. Mykines is the westernmost island, and quick changes to weather and rough seas can sometimes make travel unpredictable. The island also boasts a small guesthouse, café and toilets.

Visitor information

Visit the Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands have dramatic landscapes, unspoiled nature and wonderful wildlife, which attracts visitors from around the world -   you can get close up to puffins, gannets and storm petrels and the native hardy sheep and small horses.  Enjoy the peace and quiet and relaxed way of life and soak up the special culture and history. 

The Faroe Islands tend to have sloping shores on the east and soaring cliffs on the western coasts.   The landscape is breathtaking; green sloping mountains are broken up with craggy protrusions – enormous layers of basalt laid down by gigantic volcanoes 60 million years ago.  Each region has an individual and distinct character, from the northernmost point of Enniberg to the lighthouse of Akraberg in the south. 

A hiking holiday will give you a taste of the real Faroe. The islands are small, the highest mountain, Slættaratindur, is only 882 m high, but the terrain is very rugged, so it can be challenging.  Alternatively, fish in the streams and lakes for salmon and trout or try your hand at sea angling or deep-sea fishing.  For a more active holiday why not try surfing or kayaking.

Culture and history

The Faroese language has its roots in Old Norse and the islands have a great tradition of ballads which were passed down orally.  One of the most unique cultural features is the rhythmic Faroese Chain Dance, danced in a circle to songs about kings and heroes, some stretching to several hundred verses!  For the art-lover The Faroese National Gallery of Art is a must and there are also a range of themed holidays for those interested in drawing, painting or photography.

St Olav's Day on 29th July is a national holiday.  The official opening of parliament is also marked by a range of ceremonial and other festivities in the capital Tórshavn.  There are fairs or festivals in nearly every island and in many villages, and especially popular are the summer rowing competitions.  In July, the beach at Göta is home to a fantastic G! Festival – a music festival attracting local Faroese and internationally renowned artists. 

Travel within the Faroe Islands

You can travel from Tórshavn to most destinations and back the same day. There are frequent bus and ferry connections in the main area, but less so in the fringes and smaller islands.   A good system of roads and tunnels link villages, and sub-sea tunnels and bridges connect the main islands.

There is also an inexpensive helicopter service three days a week in winter and four days a week in the summer, but the locals have priority and you cannot book a return ticket.

Bus, ferry and helicopter timetable: www.ssl.fo, helicopter timetable: also on www.atlanticairways.fo

Travel to the Faroe Islands
There are several possibilities for travelling to the Faroe Islands.  The M/F Norrøna has a weekly schedule in winter connecting Hirtshals (Denmark), Tórshavn (the Faroe Islands) and Seyðisfjørður (Iceland), this becomes more frequent during the summer months. 

Atlantic Airways operate winter and summer schedules, in winter a twice daily service to Copenhagen, and twice weekly to Billund in Denmark and Reykjavik, Iceland. This increases during the summer and additional twice weekly flights go to Aalborg in Denmark, Bergen in Norway and London Stansted in UK.

Location

Contact Info

Kunningarstovan í Tórshavn
Vaglið 4
P.O.Box 379
FO-110 Tórshavn

tel +298 30 24 25
fax +298 31 68 31
torsinfo@torshavn.fo

Visit Faroe Islands
Bryggjubakki
P.O. Box 118
FO-110 Tórshavn
info@visitfaroeislands.com

Origin / Explanation of Name

Old Norse Þinganes: promontory of the parliament

Project Funder