Stronsay lies roughly 12 kilometres north of Mull Head on the East Mainland. Although the island is only 12 kilometres long, it has a fairly lengthy and complex coastline which has given it a long association with fishing. Up until the middle of this century, Whitehall Village was an important port for the European herring fleets and Orkney's main fishing port with over 300 drifters working out of the harbour. Many of the buildings in the village reflect this with the long slate roofed Fishmarket at the pierhead, and the old, mostly derelict, herring station at the eastern end of the Village.

The Vat of Kirbister
(C) Richard Welsby

Kelp making was also important to Stronsay until the middle of the 19th century. The long and shallow coastline with easily accessible beaches meant that shore sea weeds could be gathered with little effort at low tides, while the many winter storms washed large quantities of deep sea weeds ashore. The seaweed was gathered and stacked to dry, and then burnt slowly in Kelp-pits to produce potash and soda. Good examples of Kelp-pits and drying areas can be found at Grice Ness, east of Whitehall village.

Adjacent to the West Pier, there is an unusual stone built public toilet, reached by a narrow gangway, which is flushed clear by seawater. A small house with an upturned boat used as a roof stands nearby - the chimney vents the smoke from a small stove.

Photograph courtesy of Richard Welsby

Copyright Orknet 1996