Stromness is a port on Mainland, the largest of the Orkney Islands. To the Vikings, Straumsnes meant the headland just south, where a fierce tide rips between Scapa Flow and the Atlantic; get past that and you came safely into Hamnavoe or "peaceful harbour", where the town now stands. It's long been a fishing port but it was more important in the 17th-18th C, when Britain was often at war with France, the Channel was unsafe, and shipping had to detour around the north of Scotland. Hudson's Bay explorers and traders, and the expeditions of Captain Cook and of Franklin, all stopped here for rest and re-supply. Today Stromness is the second largest town in the Orkneys but it's a quiet place, with a pleasant narrow flagged main street, and it's escaped the industrial sprawl seen around Kirkwall.
Northlink car ferries sail 2 or 3 times daily between Stromness and Scrabster, taking 90 mins. If you book a cabin on the early morning sailing to Scrabster, you can board between 21:30 and 23:30 the previous evening. The ferry terminal is central in town next to the bus station.
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