Stromness is located in the south west of the mainland of Orkney in Scotland. It gets its name from the Norse word Straumness with Straum referring to the strong rip tides that are prevalent at the Point of Ness through the Hoy Sound and Nes meaning headland. In Viking times the anchorage where Stromness now stands was called Hamnavoe, meaning “peaceful” or “safe harbour”.
Stromness has always been a well-established seaport and the old town has quaint narrow, winding streets with small side alleys with houses made from local stone.
First recorded as the site of an inn in the sixteenth century, Stromness became important during the late-seventeenth century, when England was at war with France and shipping was forced to avoid the English Channel. Ships of the Hudson’s Bay Company were regular visitors, as were whaling fleets.
Large numbers of Orkneymen, many of whom came from the Stromness area, served as traders, explorers and seamen for both. Captain Cook’s ships, Discovery and Resolution, called at the town in 1780 on their return voyage from the Hawaiian Islands, where Captain Cook had been killed.
Stromness Museum reflects these aspects of the town’s history (displaying for example important collections of whaling relics, and Inuit artifacts brought back as souvenirs by local men from Greenland and Arctic Canada). An unusual aspect of the town’s character is the large number of buildings decorated with displays of whale bones outside them.
At Stromness Pierhead is a commemorative statue by North Ronaldsay sculptor Ian Scott, unveiled in 2013, of John Rae standing erect, with an inscription describing him as “the discoverer of the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage”.
Stromness Golf Course sits at the west end of the town and right on the Point of Ness.
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