Thursday, 26 April 2012


Stronsay and Eday are two of the scattering of smaller islands to the northeast of the Orkneys. Stronsay's only real settlement of note, Whitehall, was caught up in the herring boom in the early 19th century until it ended in 1930. Now the only fishing that takes place here is for lobsters. Earlier, in the 18th century, it was kelp which provided the economic mainstay, with 3,000 people employed in collecting and exporting kelp for use in making iodine, soap and glass. The topography of the island is characterised by gentle bays with lovely sandy beaches, while the main geological point of interest is the Vat of Kirbuster, a large natural arch. The tiny island of Papa Stronsay, visible from Whitehall, is populated by monks. Stronsay can be reached from Kirkwall by ferry or air.

Fans of antiquities should head for the island of Eday, which counts among its ancient treasures a large standing stone called the Stone of Setter and the Vinquoy Chambered Cairn. The antiquities can be viewed by keen walkers on the Eday Heritage Walk, which also takes in Mill Loch, which has a hide for viewing the red-throated divers that breed there, and Red Head, with its dramatic red sandstone cliffs used by nesting seabirds in the summer. The terrain on Eday is mostly moorland rather than farmland, and there used to be a thriving trade in peat from here, which was used as fuel on some of the other islands, and was also exported to distilleries on the mainland. On the east coast of the island is Carrick House, built in 1633 by the Laird of Eday, which is open to visitors during the summer months on Sundays by appointment. The pirate John Gow, on whom Sir Walter Scott's book The Pirate is based, was taken prisoner here after his ship Revenge ran aground. There are more chambered cairns and bird colonies on Eday's little brother, the nearby Calf of Eday.

Map of the area.

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