The Charming Town of Stromness

No matter where you’ve traveled you are unlikely to find a place that is quite like Stromness, Scotland. With incredibly narrow streets, undeniable charm and an ever-present sense of history, Stromness truly is one of Scotland’s more outstanding destinations. This unusual little town is situated in an inlet of Scapa Flow and it stretches out for roughly a mile along the shores of Hamnavoe. It is the second largest town in Orkney and its safe harbor, sheltered by the Outer Holm and Inner Holm islands, has been filled with activity ever since its establishment. It has been surmised that the natural harbor at Stromness was in use long before the Vikings arrived as this naturally sheltered area would have likely been noticed by the Picts. Nevertheless, the name ‘Stromness’ first appears in records in 1544, being just a tiny little seaside village at the time.

In 1670 this small village of just 13 houses was chosen to be the first and last port of call for any ships from the Hudson’s Bay Company which were en route to Canada. It was this decision that was largely responsible for the town’s impressive growth, since just over a century later it had grown to a size of 222 houses – many of which were homes of the wealthy. It is easy to see that Stromness wasn’t built for cart and horse as many bigger cities and towns were. When Sir Walter Scott visited in 1814, he complained about steps which had been built into the main street that made horse-aided transport nearly impossible. In addition to this, many of the streets in the older parts of the town are still incredibly narrow and it is clearly evident that they were designed only to receive foot traffic. Some improvements have been made over time and there are no longer any steps on the main street of the town but there are certainly still quite a few places where you cannot drive so it is generally better to make your way around the town on foot. The main street itself is quite distinctive in that it twists and turns along the foot of the hillside and because it changes name at least five times as it snakes its way along.

Today Stromness has grown somewhat and it is home to roughly 2 200 people. You can learn more about the history of this fascinating town by visiting the Stromness Museum which is a part of the town hall and which can be found in the old side of Stromness. So visit this interesting and curious little harbor town and discover its many secrets.

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