ARRIVING on the Faroe Islands and stepping from an Atlantic Airways flight in the late afternoon I’m greeted with lashing rain and a howling wind at my back. Despite the harsh weather, the air is fresh and unpolluted with an almost cleansing quality, the immediate feeling is one of tranquility. Although only an hour and a half from Edinburgh there is an otherworldliness here that is unlike home. Situated between Scotland and Iceland the country’s 50,000 population is vastly outnumbered by sheep running wild who teeter closely on the edge of these 18 islands.

The villages of Bøur and Gásadalur are covered in cloud but when the miasma of grey mist parts to reveal dramatic views over the swirling North Atlantic it’s a mesmerising experience. Without a soul in view I could be in a Cormac McCarthy novel before entering the Gásadalsgarður guesthouse.

The adjoining cafe is a welcome stop for new arrivals which serves fresh Atlantic salmon on dark rye bread washed down with a bottle of Föroya Bjór beer. There are 13 locals in Gásadalur, one of them suggests the billion pound salmon industry is why the Faroes should be independent. The islands recovered from an economic crisis in the 1990s and an abundance of fishing plants and vessels are a sign that business is booming from natural resources.

The self-governing country is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but a national conversation about independence is gaining momentum and it continues throughout the course of the weekend with much diversity of opinion.

From Gásadalur it’s a short drive to the capital Tórshavn and the Hotel Hafnia in the town-centre. The spacious room offers a panoramic view of the harbour and the city dominated by small red wooden houses with green turfed roofs.

After an early breakfast of boiled eggs, rye bread and cured meats I’m picked up by my tour guide Randi and we drive to Klaksvík, a town once twinned with Wick. The islands are linked by long dark tunnels which are vital to the infrastructure. The first was built in 1963 and others have been gradually added since.

We board the ferry to the island of Kallsoy and arrange a hike towards the remote lighthouse on Kallurin. Our first stop is Trøllanes which translates as the troll-peninsula. Randi explains that she was steeped in mythology and the oral tradition of folk songs and storytelling when she was growing up in the 1980s as there was no television here. Mikladalur is populated by 44 people and after a stroll around the village we arrive at the harbour towards a statue of the seal-woman. It’s an extraordinary vision; the closer you get to the turquoise monument being lashed by the waves the more it looks like a giant creature rising out of the sea.

According to mythology on the 12th of each month seals were said to have stripped off their skin and become human for an evening of dancing, wine and song. One of the female seals was captured by a farmer, forced into marriage but then eventually escaped back to the sea. A familiar drama of love and revenge ensues. A similar folktale is common in parts of Scotland but its fair to say the Faroese have turned it into small cottage industry with posters, expensive replicas and various reproductions on kitsch tourist souvenirs. As we make our way to the lighthouse a drift of grey mist descends over an azure blue sky. This seems a fitting time for Randi to talk of grotesque giants and “the hidden people” as we walk through the seemingly endless fog.

With not many options to load up on food and drink, carrying your own provisions is advised, especially water. We opted for take-away boxes of haddock with potato salad and carrots, this kind of fast but healthy food is typical in every supermarket. As we eat the land begins to clear again to reveal lambs in the distance, out towards the shoreline guillemots swoop on their prey. Above us a disgruntled Arctic Skua hovers above our heads. Despite being a popular draw with tourists the area is not signposted and travellers are advised to tell someone where they are going as it is easy to get lost and wander out into the murk.

As you approach the lighthouse, which at times feels more like an act of faith, the climb becomes very steep. A number of photographers gathered at the top of the hill waited patiently for the weather to change again. When it eventually did the clicking began. It felt as through we standing at the world’s edge watching the bay and large chunks of black basalt rock gradually become visible.

In Tórshavn, Kafe Kaspar is an atmospheric bar which gets busy during the weekend. The locals mix easily with tourists and seem to enjoy welcoming the world. Once again salmon is the catch of the day and also a hot topic. “We need to take our hand out of Denmark’s pocket” suggests Randi’s partner Jógvan, a passionate nationalist who works as a political scientist and geographer.

An older couple walk into the bar arm in arm. The man is a car dealer and he says that Faroese independence is a bad idea. They invite me for coffee to their large house on the hill with its two-car garage, and I realise that these are the people Jógvan is referring to when it comes to Denmark’s pocket as he believes that those who want to remain part of the Kingdom of Denmark are concerned about personal financial or material loss "which would mean downsizing homes or getting rid of a car".

On Sunday morning we visit Streymore Island. There are around 75 inhabitants here. Many of them are attending a service at St Olav’s, the oldest church in the islands. Jógvan’s father once served as a priest and his son knows the community well. Outside a photographer, researcher and journalist are talking to the deacon, in full traditional Faroese dress. They take pictures of the ruined Magnus Cathedral which dates back to 1300 before we all sit down for an intimate service. The parishioners and priest sing unaccompanied and it’s a beautiful sound similar to the lining out practiced in Scottish Presbyterian churches and featured in Loretta Lyn’s biopic The Coalminer’s Daughter.

With the weather turning more inclement and erratic, it was a relief to be invited for coffee and a seat by an open fire with the rest of the group from Norway in the old farmhouse which dates back to the 11th century.

Jógvan offered to take me on a boat trip to Vestmanna which translates as the Westman meaning the Irishmen’s harbour. Before that we stop at the Faroes national football stadium (Torsvollur) which hosted Scotland 14 years ago. Scotland went down 2-0 before managing to claw back a draw. More recently the Faroese secured two wins over Greece in the Euro 2016 qualifiers which was easily the football story of 2015. Aside from football Jógvan’s other passion is language. He suggest’s his grandmother’s generation were estranged from Faroese, the feeling was that to speak properly was to speak Danish, as it was “the language of getting on and progress”.

Undoubtedly the changing attitudes towards native tongues and the identity issues around it will resonate with nationalists at home. Like many small countries these island have to cope with large numbers of young people leaving because of a lack of opportunities, particularly for women. As a result around 300 women from Thailand and the Philippines are now the largest minority on the island.

Hard hats are advised when embarking on the otherworldly landscape of Vestmanna. We are soon looking out onto an ethereal landscape sailing around jagged cliffs and tight grottoes with only puffins and sheep revealing signs of life.

Whales also appear in these waters but the closest I get is when I’m offered some from a Tupperware box along with blubber and dried fish. It’s a lot for the unfamiliar pallet to contend with. With an evening flight booked there was time for one more stop. The National Museum features The Blue Deep by Tróndur Patursson where the floor, wall and ceiling are an arrangement of blue, turquoise, red and black mosaic glass. Summoning the infinity of the ocean and Faroese sky-line we are once again at sea. William Heinesen is perhaps the most well known and profoundly Faroese artist blending mythological creatures with religious and political themes or social issues. Political figures are portrayed as trolls and naked witches dance under the moon in his satirical vision of Faroese life and mythology. An image of a fiddler and dancing girl summons his most famous novel The Lost Musicians as well as the Garden of Eden. Undoubtedly many Scots will find much to relate to in the folklore, politics, humour and spiritual nature of this place.

Flights from Edinburgh to the Faroe Islands with Atlantic Airways, from £200 for a return flight.

Accommodation at Hotel Føroyar, 4 star hotel in Tórshavn is DKK £177.00 per night for a double room.

Rental car from £62.00 per day.