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Ferries from Scrabster arrive in Stromness, and the newcomer is greeted by rows of stone-built houses hugging the shore, each with their own jetty. Stromness is a much more attractive town than Kirkwall, and its narrow, winding main street, its wynds and closes, its fascinating shops, and its unique atmosphere make it the ideal base for exploring the West Mainland.

Though referred to in the Viking Saga as Hamnavoe, the town in fact dates from the 17th century. Its importance as a trading port grew in the 18th century when wars and privateers made the English Channel too dangerous and ships used the northern route across the Atlantic, calling in at Stromness to take on food and water and to hire local men as crew. Until the late 19th century ships of the Hudson Bay Company made Stromness their main base for supplies, and used Login's Well as a source of fresh water. Whaling ships bound for Greenland also hired local labour. By the late 19th century the herring boom had reached Stromness and there were 400 boats using its harbour, but within two decades the boom was over due to over-fishing. Today Stromness remains a fishing port, as well as Orkney's main ferry terminal and the headquarters of the Northern Lighthouse Board. Phone code: +44 (0)1856 Population: 2,500 Scottish ads

Eating Out

The best place to eat is the Hamnavoe Restaurant, at 35 Graham Pl, Tel. 850606. It specializes in local seafood but also offers good vegetarian dishes. Mid-range. Open Mar-Oct Tue-Sun from 1900. The Stromness Hotel bar serves good, cheap meals. The Ferry Inn also serves cheap bar food. The Orca Hotel has a good cellar bistro. Near the ferry terminal, on John St, is the popular Coffee Shop which serves good, cheap grub. Open Mon-Sat 0900-1830, Sun 0900-1700 (Mon-Sat till 1700 in winter). The best places for a drink are the downstairs bar of the Stromness Hotel, the Ferry Innand the bar of the Royal Hotel.



Travel Directions to Stromness

The Tourist Information Centre is at the new ferry terminal, Tel. 850716. Its exhibition, This Place Called Orkney, is a useful introduction to the islands, and its free Stromness Heritage Guide takes you round all the buildings of interest in the town. Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 0800-1800, Sun 0900-1600; Nov-Mar Mon-Fri 0900-1700.

There are several buses daily (Mon-Sat) between Stromness and Kirkwall, 30 mins. There's also a bus from Stromness to Birsay on Mon only, with Shalder Coaches, Tel. 850809. Car hire Brass's Car Hire, Blue Star Garage, North End Rd, Tel. 850850.

Cycle hire

Orkney Cycle Hire, 54 Dundas St, Tel. 850255. £4.50-8.50 per day.


There are branches of Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland, both with ATMs, on Victoria St.


Next to the Coffee Shop, Tel. 850904. Self-service or service washes.

Local Sights & Activities for Stromness

Stromness consists largely of one narrow, winding main street, paved with flagstones, which hugs the shoreline. Running off the street are numerous little lanes and alleyways, many with fascinating names such as Khyber Pass, and full of interesting buildings which reflect the town's proud maritime heritage. The houses on the seaward side of the street are gable end to the waterfront and each has its own jetty. The town is not designed for the motor car, so you'll have to park by the harbour and explore its delights on foot. The main street changes its name from Victoria Street to Graham Place, Dundas Street, Alfred Street and South End as it runs south from the harbour.

The Stromness Museum, at 52 Albert Street, has exhibitions on natural and maritime history, and contains artefacts from Scapa Flow and the days of the Hudson Bay company. Info - May-Sep daily 1000-1700; Oct-Apr Mon-Sat 1030-1230 and 1330-1700. Adult £2.50, children £0.50. Tel. 850025. Opposite the museum is the house where George Mackay Brown (1921-96), Orkney's most famous poet and story-writer, spent the last two decades of his life. On a jetty to the south of the new harbour is the excellent Pier Arts Centre, housing a permanent collection of works of the St Ives school, including Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Patrick Heron, amongst others, in a lovely gallery. Info - Tue-Sat 1030-1230 and 1330-1700; Jul and Aug also Sun 1400-1700. Free.

Stromness is one of the classic Scottish fishing villages and a perfect introduction to Orkney

Diving The Diving Cellar, 4 Victoria St, Tel. 850055. Offers diving packages, equipment rental and boat charters. Open Mon-Fri 1100-1400 and 1700-1900, Sat 1300-1700. Scapa Scuba, 13 Ness Rd, Tel./Fax. 851218. Diving course, guided dives, night dives and boat charters.

Nearby Ancient Monuments

  • Barnhouse Settlement

    ONly discovered in 1984, this is another fascinating neolithic monument that makes this area absolutely remarkable. 15 houses that date back to 3000BC. Walk from the Standing Stones of Stenness.

  • Maeshowe or Maes Howe

    Maeshowe is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave situated on Mainland. It was probably built in around 2800 BC. It gives its name to the Maeshowe type of chambered cairn, which is only found in Orkney.

  • Ness of Brodgar

    The most recent Neolithic site in the area and to some accounts the most important. Dates back to 3500BC and was occupied for 1500 years. In the summer months, archeologists are hard at work. 

  • Skara Brae

    The best preserved stone age village in Europe: an extraordinary insight into life 5000 years ago.

  • Standing Stones of Stenness & Ring of Brodgar

    Two Henges (or sets of standing stones) in walking distance of each. Catch them at sunset or early evening when you will virtually have them to yourself. Amazing and so much more exciting than Stonehenge!

Stromness Hotels & Accommodation

The best hotel in town is the C-D Stromness Hotel, Tel. 850298, [htttp:///www. Thr stromness Hotel], an imposing old building overlooking the harbour, recently refurbished and offering good-value meals.

Also near the ferry terminal, on John St, is the E Ferry Inn, Tel. 850280, The Ferry Inn which serves food and has a lively bar. There are several B&B options, including E-D Stenigar, Tel. 850438. Open Apr-Oct, a converted boatyard on Ness Rd, just before the campsite, with views of Hoy and E Mrs Worthington, Tel. 850215. Open Apr-Oct, a traditional gable-ended house at 2 South End. On Victoria St near the harbour is E Orca Hotel, Tel. 850447, Also has a bistro (Bistro 76) serving good food.

A few miles behind Stromness, at Innertown, is E Thira, Tel. 851181, a comfortable, friendly and non-smoking modern bungalow with spectacular views of Hoy. Also serves an excellent cooked breakfast, and will provide a fantastic dinner made from the finest local ingredients on request. F Brown's Hostel, 45 Victoria St, Tel. 850661. This popular independent hostel has no curfew and is open all year round; unlike the F SYHA Hostel, on Hellihole Rd, a 10-min walk south from the ferry terminal, Tel. 850589. Open Mar-Oct. There's a campsite, Tel. 873535, open May to mid-Sep, at Ness Point, a mile south of the ferry terminal. It's well equipped and has incomparable views, but is very exposed.