Island Destinations - Stronsay


...All arms and legs

Some of the bristles from a 55-foot 'sea monster' which came ashore on Stronsay in 1808 were kept as a curiosity by Lord Byron. Scientific opinion name the creature as a basking shark but others hae their doots.

Stronsay is about seven miles long from north to south and is often described as being 'all arms and legs' resulting from the three larger bays which bite into the Island. It is a place which prides itself on its friendliness and tranquillity, welcoming walkers, cyclists and motorists alike. Low-lying, the highest point is Burgh Hill which is only 46 metres (154 feet) above sea level and the Island boasts several lovely sandy beaches. Along its east coast between Lamb Ness and Odiness is a magnificent cliff-coast which includes the famous Vat of Kirbister, a dramatic opening or 'gloup' spanned by the finest natural arch in Orkney.

A nature walk in the southeast corner of the Island takes in the scenery and history of cliff, hill and bay.


Stronsay abounds with birds throughout the year and sea bird colonies can be found on the cliffs to the southeast and southwest of the island. The island's fine loch and marshes are havens for ducks and waders including Pintail ducks. The island is now known throughout Europe as one of the best sites for rare migrants and several species new to Orkney have been recorded recently including Cretzschmar's Buntin in 1998. Stronsay Bird Reserve is owned and run by bird artist John Holloway and his family.

The wild places

The moorland peninsula of Rothiesholm is purple with Heather and Bell Heather during the late summer and the wetter areas are dominated by Rushes, Sedges, Cotton Grass and Cross-Leaved Heath. Burgh Hill on the other hand provides a fine example of northern maritime heath. There are also many lochs and associated wetlands providing rich flora and fauna.