The picturesque port of Stromness is spread out along the shore in the shadow of Brinkie’s Brae, a place forever associated with the acclaimed local writer George Mackay Brown.
With its winding lanes, narrow paths and well-preserved buildings, Stromness is full of unspoilt charm. And there’s a certain quirkiness too. Many visitors have been pleasantly surprised to find that Stromness boasts its very own Khyber Pass… it’s one of the little side-streets leading up the brae!
The Vikings had two names for the town: Straum-nes, meaning “Stream Point”, and Hamnavoe, or “Harbour Bay”.
The harbour remains very much the focal point of Stromness, with ferry services to Graemsay and Hoy as well as the link to Scrabster on the north coast of Caithness.
The town rose to prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries, becoming an important stopping-off point for shipping as New World trading links were developed. Whaling fleets and ships from the Hudson’s Bay Company were regular visitors, and the rich maritime heritage of Stromness is reflected in its excellent museum.
Also on display are many fascinating exhibits relating to the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow in the aftermath of the First World War. The proximity of these sunken wrecks makes Stromness a popular destination for keen divers.
The Pier Arts Centre is the creative heart of Stromness, with its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.
Every year the town plays host to the Orkney Folk Festival, one of the most eagerly-anticipated events in the Scottish folk music calendar.
Another annual highlight is Stromness Shopping Week, when there’s a fun-filled programme of events for all the family.