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Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > Scotland > Orkney Islands > Stromness


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Stromness is a port on Mainland, the largest of the Orkney Islands. To the Vikings, Straumsnes meant the headland just south, where a fierce tide rips between Scapa Flow and the Atlantic; get past that and you came safely into Hamnavoe or "peaceful harbour", where the town now stands. It's long been a fishing port but it was more important in the 17th-18th C, when Britain was often at war with France, the Channel was unsafe, and shipping had to detour around the north of Scotland. Hudson's Bay explorers and traders, and the expeditions of Captain Cook and of Franklin, all stopped here for rest and re-supply. Today Stromness is the second largest town in the Orkneys but it's a quiet place, with a pleasant narrow flagged main street, and it's escaped the industrial sprawl seen around Kirkwall.

Stromness from seaside

Get in[edit]

By boat[edit]

Northlink car ferries sail 2 or 3 times daily between Stromness and Scrabster, taking 90 mins. If you book a cabin on the early morning sailing to Scrabster, you can board between 21:30 and 23:30 the previous evening. The ferry terminal is central in town next to the bus station.

The other ferry routes from the Scottish mainland to Orkney are Aberdeen-Kirkwall-Shetland, Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope, and John O'Groats to Burwick: see "Orkney Islands: Get in".

Orkney Ferries sail at least twice a day from Stromness to Moaness on Hoy and to Graemsay. The other Hoy ferry (to Lyness its main village, and to Flotta) sails from Houton five miles south of Stromness: bus 5 connects.

By bus[edit]

The main bus into town is Stagecoach X1, hourly from Kirkwall via Stenness. This also runs south of Kirkwall but less frequently, past the Italian Chapel to the ferry terminal at St Margaret's Hope.

Get around[edit]

Stromness town is compact and a walk along the flagged main street is never less than pleasant.

The Stones of Stenness are only four miles away, an hour's hike, but it's a busy main road with intermittent sidewalk. Bike is the ideal way to reach these, Skara Brae, Birsay and Kirkwall, and to potter around Hoy, though for sure the stiff breeze will contrive to be in your face in both directions. Orkney Cycle Hire are based at 54 Dundas St, call +44 1856 850255.


Stromness Museum
John Rae-Diorama inside Stromness Museum
  • 1 Stromness Museum, 52 Alfred Street KW16 3DH, +44 1856 850025, . April-Oct daily 10:00-17:00, closed winter. Covers natural history, sea-going and maritime exploration, and wartime Orkney. Adult £5, concs £4.00, family (2+2) £10, school pupil £1.
  • 2 Pier Arts Centre, 28 Victoria Street KW16 3AA, +44 1856 850209, . Tu-Sa 10:30-17:00. Gallery with permanent collection of work by 20th C artists, some of whom are local to the area. The centre also hosts temporary exhibits and runs a programme of educational and community outreach activities. Free. Pier Arts Centre (Q7191713) on Wikidata Pier Arts Centre on Wikipedia
  • For the must-see neolithic sites, see Stenness for Maeshowe, Stones of Stenness, Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae. See Birsay for the Earl's Palace and Brough there.


A short easy walk up behind the town brings you atop Brinkies Brae (94m), for views of Hoy. A longer but level walk leads south from town to Point of Ness, with its campsite. Continue west along the coast, by the golf-course, to the gaunt structure of 1 Ness Battery. You can tour inside this gun battery. It was built in 1915, in regular service until 1955 and used for training until 2001. You may also drive here along the golf course private road. £6 for a guided tour. Ness Battery (Q16998644) on Wikidata Ness Battery on Wikipedia Continue further west to the tranquil graveyard, where lies the poet George Mackay Brown (1921-1996), with an unobtrusive sandstone headstone. A public road leads back over the ridge to town.

  • Orkney Folk Festival is held annually in May, mostly in Stromness. The next is Th 20 - Sun 23 May 2021.


  • 1 Stromness Books and Prints (Tam's Book Shop), Graham Place, Stromness, KW16 3BY. Tiny but much-loved bookshop tucked into the corner with Dundas Street.

The main place to stock up on food and other essentials is the Co-op, north end of town.


All the hotels have bars and restaurants, including Ferry Inn, Royal Hotel and Stromness Hotel, see "sleep".


Remains of Ness Battery
  • The Flattie Bar is a cosy traditional pub within the Stromness Hotel, see "sleep".




  • 4 The Ferry Inn, 10 John Street KW16 3AD, +441856 850280, . As well as rooms here, the Ferry Inn also run the nearby Royal Hotel, and other properties to let across town. Plus, let it not be doubted, their bars.
  • 5 The Stromness Hotel, 15 Victoria St KW16 1AA (Facing bus station & ferry terminal), +44 1856 850298. Straightforward 3-star hotel, with the "Flattie Bar".

Go next[edit]

Hoy is an easy day trip from Stromness. Kirkwall has several sites and accommodation, and is the transport hub for all of Orkney.

This city travel guide to Stromness is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.