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Coordinates: 58°58′N 3°18′W / 58.96°N 3.3°W / 58.96; -3.3

Stromness (locally /ˈstrɒmnəs/) is the second-largest town in Orkney, Scotland, and is located in the south-west of Mainland in Orkney. It is also a parish, with the town of Stromness as its capital.



The name "Stromness" is derived from the Norse language. "Strom" refers to the strong tides that rip past the Point of Ness through the Hoy Sounds to the south of the town. "Ness" means "headland". Stromness thus means means "headland protruding into the tidal stream ".[1][2] In Viking times Stromness was called Hamnavoe, meaning "peaceful" or "safe harbour".


A long-established seaport, it has a population of approximately 2,190 residents. The old town is clustered along the characterful and winding main street, flanked with houses and shops built from local stone, with narrow lanes and alleys branching off it. There is a ferry link from Stromness to Scrabster on the north coast of mainland Scotland.

First recorded as the site of an inn in the 16th century, Stromness became important during the late 17th 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, notably from Stromness, served as traders, explorers and seamen for both. Stromness Museum reflects these aspects of the town's history (displaying for example important collections of whaling relics, and Inuit artefacts 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.

Writer George Mackay Brown was born and lived most of his life in the town.

Stromness is referenced in the title of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's popular piano piece Farewell to Stromness, a piano interlude from The Yellow Cake Revue, which was written to protest plans to open a uranium mine in the area. (The title refers to yellowcake, the powder produced in an early stage of the processing of uranium ore.) The Revue was first performed by the composer at the Stromness Hotel on 21 June 1980 as part of the St Magnus Festival; the uranium mine was cancelled later that year.

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