Stromness, Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom

The entry to Stromness is among the most atmospheric arrivals in Europe, sliding in from the Scapa Flow to a harbor alive with boats of all sorts, with the old stone town’s steeples and steeply pitched roofs curved around. The town’s single main street winds up from the port, paved with broad flat stones, changing its name several times as it ascends. A visit to the Stromness Museum reveals the secret to the town’s history as vital seaport, during th era when the English were at war with France and shipping avoided the Channel. And later the global whalers and Hudson’s Bay Company traders transiting between the New World and the Old. Whaling artifacts and Inuit relics abound in the museum. Even older are the rich archaeological sites of the UNESCO-inscribed Heart of Orkney Archaeology: The Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Maeshowe Chambered Tomb. The statue of Arctic explorer Dr. John Rae commemorates his discovery of the last navigable link in the Northwest Passage. The Breckness House dates from 1633, and nearby are a ruined church, a monastery and an antique cemetery. The shops in the town are rich with crafts, jewelry and textiles created by talented Orkney Mainlanders.