|Stromness from approach road, Hoy in background, ferry dominating the shore|
We both took a journey from Kirkwall to Stromness via some of Orkney’s most celebrated archaeology, some of which I will mention later before we return to mainland Scotland. Here Barnard notes the burial tumulus of Maes-Howe (now known as Maeshowe), the Standing Stones of Stenness “whose fame is second to Stonehenge in repute as Druidical monuments” and The Circle of Brogar (now Ring of Brodgar). His report is a little confused as the way he writes it he places the Stones of Stenness around the Circle of Brogar when in fact they are two separate sites about a mile apart.
|Ring of Brodgar|
|MV Hamnavoe leaving Stromness|
|Stromness old town shore with private quays|
|Stromness quayside boat hoist|
|Stromness main street in old town|
|Alfred Street looking south towards distillery site|
|May Burn now runs under here where distillery reservoir once sat|
|Old Man O' Hoy, a lone sentinel staring out to sea|
|Site of Stromness Distillery|
Output was only 31,800 litres p.a., the third lowest in Barnard’s record with only Edradour and Grandtully being lower at that time. The whisky was stored in two bonded warehouses that held 300 casks when he visited. The whisky may have been called Man O’ Hoy when the distillery was Stromness but after a period of closure in the 1860/70s it was restored in 1878, the distillery renamed as Man O’ Hoy and its whisky became known as Old Orkney, or often just as O.O. (Townsend, 1993).
|Mayburn Court from below|
One of Scotland’s most celebrated poets, George Mackay Brown (1921-96), lived here for the last 28 years of his life and there is a plaque on the wall to commemorate him. His poem Hamnavoe is a popular work that recalls his father, a postman, meeting some of the local characters on his delivery round. The evocative line below is from Under Brinkie’s Brae, a 1979 collection of his columns written for The Orcadian newspaper, Brinkie’s Brae being the steep hill behind Stromness:
“And the whisky what is it but the earth’s rich essence, a symbol of all fruit and corn and cheerfulness and kindling?”
Across the way from the distillery was the Town Hall which had a museum added by 1881, the museum now the sole occupant of the building. It was closed when I visited otherwise I am sure they could have offered me even more information about the location to bore you with. One of the old and rapidly disappearing styles of red phone box still stands outside, and I had to laugh at the road sign warning of a narrow street ahead, until I remembered that I still had to drive back that way. I had to wait a while to take the quiet photos above as traffic and pedestrians normally move freely in both directions.
|Stromness Museum beside distillery site|
Click here for an update on the Stromness story.