The main settlement is the quiet village of Whitehall, on the northeast coast where the ferry arrives. It's hard to believe it now, but this was one of the largest herring ports in Europe. During the boom years of the early 20th century 300 steam drifters were working out of Whitehall and nearly 4,000 fishing crew and shore workers were employed. In the peak year of 1924 over 12,000 tons of herring were landed here, to be cured (salted) and exported to Russia and Eastern Europe.
Whitehall developed considerably and the Stronsay Hotel was said to have the longest bar in Scotland. On Sundays during July and August there were so many boats tied up that it was possible to walk across them to the little island of Papa Stronsay. By the 1930s, however, herring stocks were severely depleted and the industry was in decline. The old Fish Mart by the pier houses a heritage centre with photos and artefacts from the herring boom days. It also has a café and hostel (see below). Info - May-Sep 1100-1700. Free. Tel. 616360.
Prior to the herring boom, Stronsay's economic mainstay was the kelp industry. By the end of the 18th century 3,000 people were employed in the collection of seaweed and production of kelp for export, to be used in making iodine, soap and glass.