Candidate: Stromness
Location: Orkney Islands, Scotland
Category: The Great Town Award (Winner)
Year: 2023

Other finalists in this category: Belper, Derbyshire and Caernarfon, Gwynedd

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Judges' comments:

“For a town populated by around two thousand people, Stromness punches way above its size and weight. It has huge aspirations and ambitions, welcoming world class research and international companies and residents. It is home to world leading technology development in the ocean energy sector and has a thriving community and cultural scene, with particular excellence in modern and contemporary art. It is no surprise that Orkney residents have been named the happiest and most content in the UK, as their strong community buy in drives these successes.” - Tim Challans AoU, Great Town Lead Assessor


Stromness is the second largest town on Mainland Orkney, a long-established seaport, it has a population of approximately 2,000 residents but punches way above its size and weight. In 2022 the ONS named Orkney residents the happiest and most content in the UK. Stromness became important during the times when Great Britain was at war with France and shipping was forced to avoid the English Channel. Ships of the Hudson’s Bay Company were regular visitors, as were whaling fleets. Large numbers of Orkney men, many of whom came from the Stromness area, served as traders, explorers and seamen for both. Close to Scapa Flow, it was a strategic naval base during the First and Second World Wars. Its maritime history has ensured that its people have a world view and perspective that continues to the present day.

Thumbnail illustration of Stromness by David Rudlin AoU, Artist-in-Residence

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