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We hope that during our Stromness Town Walk you will learn something about the history of Stromness and its fine maritime heritage, whilst hearing a little bit about the local characters that have populated the town.
As a flavour of the Stromness Town Walk we have included some snippets of Stromness facts below:
The origins of the word Stromness come from the large bay that fronts the town. The Norse people called this sheltered anchorage Hamnavoe, meaning sheltered haven. The town itself takes it's name from the bay's sheltering southern arm, meaning point of the tide stream so we get 'strom' meaning tide stream and ness meaning headland, Stromness.
We visit this point to view the Stromness Hotel and to briefly introduce you to two of Stromness's most famous sons - the rebel Alexander Graham and the writer and poet George Mackay Brown. You will hear more about these two men and others further into our tour but before we set off up the main street of Stromness remember the words of George Mackay Brown who described the street as 'The street uncoiled like a sailors rope from North to South'
From the 1770s, the whalers called into Stromness to recruit Orcadian men as skilled oarsmen for their whale catchers. Whaling was extremely hazardous work. The building you see here is called The Arctic Whaler. George Mackay Brown mentions the Arctic Whaler in his poem entitled 'Hamnavoe' - the verse perhaps captures the images of men yarning about setting off or returning from a whaling expedition - 'Three blue elbows fell regular as waves from beards spumy with porter until the amber day ebbed out top its black dregs' This theme of Orkney men being great adventurers continues at our next stop, when we hear about the world famous Arctic explorer, Dr John Rae.
Here at the South end of Stromness you can grasp the scale of the Bay of Hamnavoe and clearly view Brinkies Brae, from the old Norn meaning 'fire hill', the granite ridge that forms its Western edge. The ships of the Hudsons Bay company took on provisions and water up until the beginning of the 20th Century their arrival generated much business, prosperity and excitement in the town. Stromness too was a major fishing port particularly in the late 19th Century - the town's gentle decline over the years inspired George Mackay Brown to say of his beloved home town - 'Stromness after a boisterous youth of 300 years sank prematurely into a silver grey age,old and grey and full of sleep' - but today Stromness and Orkney are at the forefront of renewable energy and wind and tidal projects that herald the dawn dawn of a new age and doubtless more sea salted tales and characters will emerge.
To view times and details of our Stromness Town Walk, please visit our dedicated page. Please contact us to book!