Stronsay is an island in Orkney, Scotland. Known as Orkney's 'Island
of Bays', owing to an irregular shape which creates miles of dramatic
Stronsay is 3,275 hectares (13 square miles) in size, and
44 metres (144 feet) at its highest point and has a usually resident
population of 349. The main village is Whitehall, home to a heritage
Sights on the island include the Vat of Kirbister, a natural arch
described as the "finest in Orkney", white sand beaches at the
three interlocking bays – St Catherine’s Bay and the Bay of
Holland to the west and Mill Bay to the east - and various seabirds
amongst which are Arctic terns.
1 Geography and geology
2.2 18th and 19th centuries
3 Present day
5 See also
8 External links
Geography and geology
Vat of Kirbister, on the east coast of Stronsay
As with most of Orkney,
Stronsay is made up of
Old Red Sandstone
Old Red Sandstone which
has produced a fine soil in many places. It is generally low lying.
On the eastern coast, spectacular rock formations include the Vat of
Kirbister – Stronsay’s famous natural rock arch, often described
as the finest in Orkney. The coast around Odiness Bay features
numerous dramatic geos, caves, flagstone rock platforms and sea
stacks, including Tam’s Castle, reputed to have once housed a
hermitage on its flat summit.
With an area of 33 square kilometres (13 sq mi) it is the
seventh largest of the
Orkney Islands. Surrounding small islands
include Linga Holm, Papa Stronsay, the
Holm of Huip
Holm of Huip (named after a
district in north west Stronsay) and the Holms of Spurness. To the
north is Sanday, to the north west Eday,
Shapinsay and Mainland Orkney
to the south west, and
Auskerry due south.
Two flint arrowheads discovered at a site investigated by Orkney
College in April 2007 are believed to date from the late Paleolithic
Mesolithic periods some 10-12,000 years ago. They were found
amongst a scattered collection of other tools on a farm. If confirmed,
they could be the earliest human artifacts found in Scotland.
18th and 19th centuries
The island is now agricultural, but during the 18th and 19th
centuries, kelp collection and herring curing employed up to five
thousand people. The population, which is high for a Scottish island,
was over a thousand for the entire 19th century through the mid-20th
century, with the 1891 census recording a population of 1275 people,
excluding seasonal itinerants involved in the herring industry.
The kelp burning industry was started by James Fea of Whitehall in
1727, and thrived during the remainder of the 18th century, lasting
into the early 19th century; some of the kiln ruins can still be seen.
Stronsay beast was a mysterious, decomposing corpse of a
sea-creature that was stranded in 1808. The carcass measured 55 feet
(16.8 m) in length, with the "neck" 15 feet and the circumference
of the body 10 feet. The corpse created a great stir, with some
proclaiming it a sea serpent, but others have claimed it was a decayed
The usual resident population of the island in 2011 was 349,
compared to 342 in 2001.
Orkney Ferries sail from Whitehall to
Kirkwall on the
Orkney Mainland, and planes fly there from the
island's airstrip. The island is mainly agricultural with farming and
fishing the main industries. Efforts are being made by the community
to develop the economy by improving tourism infrastructure
The main population centre is Whitehall village, featuring a row of
seafront houses is bordered by two piers, a link to the village’s
foundation as a herring fishing station in the 19th century. There is
a variety of accommodation in Whitehall, including the
Storehouse B&B and FishMart hostel.
Whitehall overlooks the separate island of Papa Stronsay, across the
blue waters of Papa Sound. A prominent feature of the smaller island
is the monastery complex of the Transalpine Redemptorist monks who
live there. Visitors are welcome and the monks can help arrange boat
The island's school is well-resourced and caters for nursery, primary
and secondary pupils.
Moncur Memorial Church is the Church of
Scotland centre of worship on
Stronsay and there is a
Catholic chapel in Whitehall, which is part of
the Diocese of Aberdeen.
There is a thriving craft community, including Marion Miller Jewellery
(hand-crafted silver and gemstone jewellery), Airy Fairy (personalised
baby quilts, gifts and children’s clothes),
Orkney Star Island Soap
specialises in natural soaps and balms, Selkie Glass (fused and
stained glass work) and the Wyrd Weaver (handwoven folk-art textiles).
Housed in an old chapel built in 1800 and overlooking St Catherine’s
Bay, Craftship Enterprise is the island’s craft hub.
Sketch of the "
Stronsay beast" made by Sir Alexander Gibson in 1808.
While the landscape has very few trees, the fertile soil supports a
wide variety of wild flowers including oysterplant, frog orchids,
adder's tongue, and also a naturalised population of Patagonian
There are a wide variety of birds on the island, and birdwatchers have
recorded many rarities. Common species include whooper swan, various
ducks and geese including the greater white-fronted goose, as well as
common redshank, common snipe, common quail, great skua, corn bunting
and corncrake, the last of which is rare in Scotland.
Take your binoculars to the cliffs at Lamb Ness and Lamb Head and you
can chart the comings and goings of vast quantities of seabirds.
Serious birdwatchers might follow the well-worn twitcher’s trail to
Stronsay Bird Reserve*, one of the best sites in Europe to spot
rare migrants such as the American Golden Plover, Arctic Redpoll,
Scarlet Rosefinch and Tawny Pipit.
Seals can also be spotted at many locations, including the Ayre of the
Myers, a popular picnic-spot near Whitehall, at the twin south-facing
bays at Houseby and Sand of Crook or from the seal-hide near Holland
The more unusual occasional visitors which have been recorded include:
American golden plover
Various warblers including: Radde's warbler, marsh warbler and
Papa Stronsay - a nearby islet which belongs to the Transalpine
Redemptorists, a traditionalist
^ a b c d e f g h Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 370-72
Orkney Placenames Orkneyjar. Retrieved 28. May 2012.
^ a b Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands over
20 ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in
the 2011 census.
^ a b c National Records of
Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf)
Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and
Household Estimates for
Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2:
Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands".
Retrieved 17 August 2013.
^ Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 5
Orkney (Northern Isles)
(Map). Ordnance Survey. 2008. ISBN 9780319228111.
^ Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga Saga. Translated by Jón A.
Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press
(1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9
^ Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) Orkneyjar ok Katanes (map, Inverness,
^ Ross, John (5 October 2007) "
Orkney arrowheads find points to
Scotland's earliest settlement". Edinburgh. The Scotsman.
^ Newton, Michael (2005). "
Stronsay Beast". Encyclopedia of
Cryptozoology: A Global Guide. McFarland & Company, Inc.
pp. 442–443. ISBN 0-7864-2036-7.
^ General Register Office for
Scotland (28 November 2003) Scotland's
Census 2001 – Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited
Islands. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
^ "Stronsay" Visitorkney.com. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh:
Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Stronsay.
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Coordinates: 59°07′N 2°36′W / 59.117°N 2.600°W /