Stromness is the second largest settlement in the Orkney islands. Its location in a sheltered bay in the west of the main island makes it an ideal harbour for the ferry services to Shetland and the Scottish mainland, and for the fishing and diving boats which operate out of the village. It thrives on tourism coming off the ferries into its pubs and gift shops, and also on visitors who come to events such as the Orkney Folk Festival.
The population of Stromness is over 2000, and the village has been inhabited since the 16th century. Later, the Hudson's Bay company used Stromness as a jumping off point for ships heading for Canada. At the end of the 18th century, 3/4 of Hudson's Bay employees in Canada were Orcadians, and the company continued to water and resupply in Stromness until the beginning of the 20th century. Stromness was also an important port for the whaling industry up until that time.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Stromness was a thriving fishing port, sometimes sheltering upwards of 400 herring boats in its harbour. For a time, it was the largest settlement in Orkney, until the years of the great depression brought an end to the boom times. During the second world war, Stromness was the military HQ for Orkney and Shetland, and provided supplies to the fleet anchored in Scapa Flow.
The name Stromness originates from the Norse words Straumr and Nes, meaning 'tidal stream point'.