I said that I would write up our flying visit to Stromness. Then promptly forgot about it as I busied myself with spinning and knitting. So, let’s give it a go now…

Since we moved to the island we have found that it has been impossible to explore the rest of Orkney. We can’t afford to take the ferry from the island very often and tend to do our shopping on the mainland every eight weeks or so. The sheer volume of stuff that needs doing, and the narrow window afforded by the timetable on most days, means that we normally get no time at all outside pf Lidl, let alone Kirkwall. Summer Mondays are good long days, though I tend to disfavour Monday as a shopping day and we have not previously taken advantage of the Monday boat. This week was different, we had to get Nell in to the vet. Shopping was limited somewhat by Somerfield/Tesco being closed – so we had plenty of time on hand. Thus – our very first excursion to Stromness.

We both fell for the place. Hook. Line. And sinker.

Reasons to love Stromness:

  • It’s photogenic
  • It’s quiet
  • It has knitting wool
  • It has art

On the photogenic front – I indulged my taste for blue plaques (and by no means shot them all)

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The town stretches out along the waterfront, with old houses clinging to the hillside. A girl could spend all day with a good camera, taking shots of doors and windows (and probably will, one day). There are many, many alleyways and staircases and surprise views. At one point, I thought I was in Whitby…


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We ambled along, and finally settled on a bench by the town cannon – and waited to watch the ferry leave. It’s a much larger ship than I had imagined, far larger than the Gill’s Bay ferry that we have used for the Pentland crossing. Close by to our sitting place was a real piece of history…


As we worked our way back we explored a few shops and the Pier Arts Centre. Each was a cursory stop, more to inform future visits than to enjoy this time.

We found good knitting yarns in two shops – The Quernstone and another shop that I cannot recall the name of, but it was once a coffee shop and soda fountain and still had the old mosaic Art Deco signage and marble floors – gorgeous! I found Colinette and Noro yarns, and Opal sock yarn, plus local handspun and dyed yarns from Tait and Style (ooooh, look what I just found! courses pdf) and others, including our own Sanday product of Orkney Angora.

We found this, which I already mentioned:


where Mr L bought me some carded and dyed fleece and we met the lovely and energetic Debbie Jones, and spotted but did not speak with Emma Ainsley, whose web site and leather goods I had discovered some months ago. (I have two of these free advertising postcards – comment below if you would like one and I’ll scribble a note and send it off to you. If you are prepared to wait, I might be able to get a Stromness postmark on it for you too.)

In the Pier Arts Centre we just scooched round to see the lie of the land and I promised myself a full return visit. We did cast a quick eye around the Gunnie Moberg exhibition and felt some sense of déjà vu in looking at the Barbara Hepworth works… but all that is for a day with more time.

I picked up a not-postcard flyer in the arts centre – for Joanne B Kaar‘s current project “Mary-Ann’s Cottage.” I am already familiar with Joanne’s work – and I love this image.

It is just conceivable that I might be persuaded to part with it and stick a stamp on it, but it would take a really well expressed request to wrest this from my sticky mitts. Feel free to try!

We purchased sandwiches, and a tin to make pork pies in, and collected some cash, then had to dash off for a quick picnic lunch and some supermarket torture.

We really fell in love with Stromness and if we ever feel the need to return to some degree of “civilisation” and have to live in a town – well, we could happily live there. We will return for an outing, with the express intent of enjoying Stromness and the Arts Centre. Next time, I’ll take the DSLR with me. Watch out for windows and doors a-plenty.