code: +44 (0)1857
The peaceful, low-lying island of Stronsay has some fine sandy beaches and cliffs which attract large colonies of grey seals and nesting seabirds.
There are few real sights on this largely agricultural island, but the coastline has some pleasant walks. One of the best is to the Vat of Kirbister in the southeast, a spectacular 'gloup' or blow-hole spanned by the finest natural arch in Orkney. To the south of here, at Burgh Head, you'll find nesting puffins and the remains of a ruined broch, and at the southeastern tip, at Lamb Head, is a large colony of grey seals, lots of seabirds and several archaeological sites.
Local Sights & Activities for Stronsay
The main settlement is the quiet village of Whitehall, on the northeast coast where the ferry arrives. It's hard to believe it now, but this was one of the largest herring ports in Europe. During the boom years of the early 20th century 300 steam drifters were working out of Whitehall and nearly 4,000 fishing crew and shore workers were employed. In the peak year of 1924 over 12,000 tons of herring were landed here, to be cured (salted) and exported to Russia and Eastern Europe.
Whitehall developed considerably and the Stronsay Hotel was said to have the longest bar in Scotland. On Sundays during July and August there were so many boats tied up that it was possible to walk across them to the little island of Papa Stronsay. By the 1930s, however, herring stocks were severely depleted and the industry was in decline. The old Fish Mart by the pier houses a heritage centre with photos and artefacts from the herring boom days. It also has a café and hostel (see below). Info - May-Sep 1100-1700. Free. Tel. 616360.
Prior to the herring boom, Stronsay's economic mainstay was the kelp industry. By the end of the 18th century 3,000 people were employed in the collection of seaweed and production of kelp for export, to be used in making iodine, soap and glass.
Stronsay Hotels & Accommodation
The F Stronsay Fish Mart Hostel, Tel. 616360. Open all year, is well-equipped and comfortable (see above). The E Stronsay Hotel, Tel. 616213, Stronsay Hotel is being refurbished and offers cheap bar food. There's B&B at F Stronsay Bird Reserve, Tel. 616363, on Mill Bay to the south of Whitehall; where you can also camp overlooking the wide sandy bay. At the southern end of the island is the very basic and very cheap Torness Camping Barn, Tel. 616314, on the shore of Holland Bay near Lea-shun Loch. They also organize nature walks to the nearby seal-hide. Phone for pick-up from the ferry. Other eating options are the café at the Fish Mart, which does cheap meals, and the Woodlea Takeaway along the shore (open Wed 2130-2300, Fri-Sun 1630-1830 and 2100-2300).