Stromness has always been the major south-facing port on Orkney. It therefore comes as something of a surprise to find that the main car ferry link to the island of Hoy, so dominant in views south from the town, is not from Stromness but from the pier at Houton, further east.
But for the more intrepid who can live without their car, there is an alternative that does run from Stromness. This is one of Orkney Ferries' smaller operations, using the MV Graemsay to served both the island of Graemsay and the north end of Hoy at Moness Pier. For current fare and timetable information, and for bookings, contact Orkney Ferries via their website.
The Graemsay was built at the Ailsa yard in Troon in 1996. She can carry up to 73 passengers, eight tonnes of freight or one vehicle and an unspecified number of bicycles, and takes just 25 minutes to make the crossing from Stromness harbour to Moness, or 30 minutes if going via Graemsay.
Graemsay, the island, not the boat, measures about 2km by 3km. Its pier lies on the north-east side, and it reaches a maximum height of 203ft at West Hill. Its population, which stood at well over 200 throughout the 1800s, was 28 in 2011, up by one from 20 years earlier.
Graemsay's reputation for green tranquility is matched only by the reputation of the seas surrounding it in Hoy Sound for ferocity. This, combined with Graemsay's many rocks and shoals has given the island a long history of shipwrecks.
The result was the building of two lighthouses on the island in 1851, the Hoy High Lighthouse at its north-eastern tip, and the Hoy Low Lighthouse at its north-western tip. It also led to the solid build and powerful design of the MV Graemsay.