Stronsay is a beautiful island to visit and live on with magical sandy beaches backed by dunes, a stunning coastline and a main settlement with grand houses dating back to the herring fishery days.
There is a strong community spirit with the local development trust working on projects to ensure the island remains sustainable. There is a population of around 370 residents and the main centre is the village of Whitehall. Here are large houses which look more like fancy city dwellings dating from the days when the vast herring fleet came in, from the 17th century until the 1930s. Hundreds of boats would be tied up and the herring girls would travel up the east coast to Stronsay to work.
Whitehall today has a hotel, shops and a post office. The Stronsay Fish Mart Cafe and Hostel is a newly refurbished facility in the heart of the village, offering teas, coffees, homebakes, snacks, lunches and Sunday meals. The island is popular with sailors as the harbour has excellent mooring facilities. Stronsay also has a healthy living centre with a mini gym at the Junior High School as well as a swimming pool. Elsewhere, the Craftship Enterprise is a craft and gift shop offering crafting courses, days out and holidays throughout the summer season. There are excellent accommodation options in Stronsay as well as a taxi service and self-drive car hire.
Stronsay has fertile farmland and many hard-working farmers and fishermen. Local people share a community greenhouse, cutting down on food miles and providing a social place to meet and grow produce. Community groups work to provide a wide range of cultural activity, entertainment and social support.
Another part of Stronsay’s history is the kelp industry which employed many Stronsay folk in the 18th century which processed seaweed for glass and soap manufacture and lined the pockets of local lairds.
Stronsay’s coast has cliffs, caves, geos and long sandy beaches. Among the many coastal walks is a signed path to the Vat of Kirbister natural rock arch and gloup which is much photographed. A short walk westwards through the village brings you to the Ayre of Myers, a popular picnic spot and the first of many sandy beaches. Seals are quite often hauled out on the rocks. Rothiesholm has moorland, wind turbines and beaches. Here Bu Sands has large spaced-out dunes built from the wind-blown sand from a beach over a mile long. Some of Orkney’s rarest shells; the bubble shell (canoe) and Cyprina (coo) can be found here.
Lamb Ness and Lamb Head are home to many seabirds. Stronsay’s bird reserve is one of the best sites in Europe for spotting rare migrants. A series of six information leaflets widely available cover the herring fishing industry, flowering plants, shells and seashores, birds and wildlife, archaeology, and one leaflet for children written by Stronsay children about life in the island.
The neigbouring tiny island of Papa Stronsay is the home of Transalpine Redemptive monks who offer boat rides around the island. Another small island, Auskerry has the ruined 12th century St Nicholas Chapel and a flock of North Ronaldsay sheep.
You can travel by ferry from Kirkwall to Whitehall or fly from Kirkwall airport. Find out more about visiting Stronsay using our related links section to the right hand side of the page.
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