Stronsay Stronsay


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.

Inside Explore Orkney

Tankerness House Gardens at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall


Orkney's capital dates back to Norse times, in the 11th century, when it was called Kirkjuvagr (Church of the bay).

A view of Stromness from Brinkies Brae - image by Fionn McArthur


Stromness poet and author George Mackay Brown once wrote that the town's 'streets uncoiled like a sailor's rope from North to South'. Quaint closes and narrow old streets huddled between stone buildings of historical interest is the delight that is Stromness. Orkney’s second largest town is an architectural gem that inspires artists and writers and is a favourite with visitors.

Sunrise over Mull Head in Orkney - image by Rick Fleet

East Mainland

The area east and south east of Kirkwall is cattle country, with low lying and fertile farmland. Although the East Mainland doesn't have a World Heritage Site, it does have its own nature reserve, sea caves, beaches, historical sites and attractive villages to explore.

Sunrise over a west mainland loch in Orkney

West Mainland

Orkney's West Mainland hosts a collection of some of the finest archaeological sites to be found anywhere in Europe. It's home to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site, and welcomes thousands of visitors every year.

This wind turbine was one of the first installed in the east mainland


Burray is a small island linked to the east mainland of Orkney and South Ronaldsay by the Churchill Barriers. Once only accessible by boat, the farming and fishing community is now linked forever by the causeways.

Hoxa in South Ronaldsay has spectacular views over Scapa Flow

South Ronaldsay

After you cross the fourth and final Churchill Barrier, you'll arrive in the largest settlement outside Kirkwall in the east, the attractive harbour village of St Margaret’s Hope in South Ronaldsay.

A view of Red Head and the Calf of Eday


Eday is at the centre of Orkney’s North Isles and has a rich heritage and history to explore, as well as being at the forefront of research for the modern renewable energy industry.

Wartime defences at Stanger Head in Flotta


Flotta is an island that has changed much over the years. From its role at the very heart of Orkney's military history to the building of the Flotta Oil Terminal in the 1970s, it has always played an important part in our economy and heritage.

Looking across to the Kame in Hoy

Hoy and Graemsay

Hoy is Orkney’s second largest island and dramatically rises from the sea with mountainous moorland and glacial valleys, appearing more like a highland landscape than a typical Orkney low-lying island.

North Ronaldsay's new lighthouse at Dennis Head

North Ronaldsay

The island's unique seaweed eating sheep, an Old Beacon featured on prime time television and the flight path for thousands of migratory birds have all helped put North Ronaldsay on the map.

At the pier in Papa Westray

Papa Westray

Take the world’s shortest scheduled flight and see northern Europe’s oldest house on one of Orkney’s smallest inhabited islands with a big community heart.

Rousay boasts a spectacular coastline - image by Max Fletcher

Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre

Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre host some of Orkney's most magical archaeological and historical sites - with ancient brochs, cairns and tales of Vikings.

An aerial view of the Holms of Ayre in Sanday


Sanday by name and sandy by nature, the largest island of Orkney’s North Isles has beautiful sandy bays and dunes, turquoise seas and a gentle, fertile landscape.

A view of Balfour Castle in Shapinsay


Shapinsay is only a 25-minute ferry ride from Kirkwall but the atmosphere of this small Orkney island can be soaked up even before you step ashore.

A view of the Rapness ferry terminal at the south end of Westray


Westray is known as the Queen o’ the Isles and is a vibrant place to live, work and visit.