Legend has it that Irish monks were the first people to set foot in the Faroe Islands, only to be kicked out by Norwegian Vikings.
In his book De mensura Orbis terrae (On the measurement of the world) from the year 825, Irish monk Dicuil writes:
“There is another set of small islands, nearly all separated by narrow stretches of water; in these for nearly a hundred years hermits sailing from our country, Ireland, have lived. But just as they were always deserted from the beginning of the world, so now because of the Northman pirates they are emptied of anchorites, and filled with countless sheep and very many diverse kinds of sea-birds. I have never found these islands mentioned in the authorities.”
It is believed that Dicuil referred to the Faroe Islands here.
This brings us to Grímur Kamban, who came here around the year 825 and is said to be the first person to settle in the Faroe Islands. Funningur (meaning ‘finding’ or ‘found land’) has always been singled out as the place where he landed.
His name carries with it some interesting historical perspectives, as Grímur is an old Norse name and Kamban is Celtic, meaning ‘the limping one’. This underpins what genetic tests have subsequently proved: that the origins of Faroese and Icelandic people are as much Celtic as Nordic.
An ideal Viking village
Funningur is a typical Faroese village with habitation down by the shore, a river running through the centre and stone walls marking the border between the cultivated area surrounding the village and the outfield. The river, the fertile land and good fishing grounds near the coast made the location ideal for the Vikings. Here, they built boat houses, longhouses and various sheds, as well as honing their boat-building skills and other craft skills.
People have lived in Funningur ever since the first settlement in 825, and this has left a rich and exciting history and culture trail.
Føroya søga (The History of the Faroe Islands) from 1929 quotes a local source as saying: “The settlers were pulled by the current into Funningsfjørður fjord. They moored their ship by the Funningslíð hillside at a spot they named Føroyakletturin (The Faroe Rock) and drank from a cascade running from the rock. They named the stream Føroya Á (Faroe River), and the place became known as Føroyar (Faroe Islands). They then sailed further into the fjord and found a spot where they settled, naming it Funningur (‘finding’ or ‘found land’).
The Faroe Rock
Locals refer to the area surrounding the rock as Føroyar (the Faroe Islands).
The place names in and around Funningur correspond perfectly with the tales of Grímur Kamban and the settlement. That this oral tradition has survived since the first settlement is an astonishing story in itself. Although these place names are not well known across the islands, they are brimming with history. This area is the very heart of the Faroe Islands and it is well worth a visit. The historic hiking trail from Funningur to Líðarbakki takes about 30 minutes each way.
Legend has it that Grímur Kamban also took water from another river, Ferjá, further into the Funningsfjørður fjord.