Anti-tourism is not welcome on the Orkney isle, where a community group has started a campaign to attract visitors (and residents) to the remote outpost with a ‘rich cultural life and sense of freedom’
It’s not uncommon to hit the new year with an overwhelming desire to quit your job, shed your responsibilities and flee to a tiny, isolated island to begin a new, simpler, perhaps even more meaningful life. Such disaffected folk should consider a move to the tiny Orkney island of Stronsay, Scotland (population 370), which has launched a campaign to attract visitors – and residents.
Promoting itself with a new brand and website, Stronsay is pitched as a world away from the big city lifestyle, where Islanders “maintain a tight-knit community with a rich social and cultural life underpinned by a sense of place, freedom and self-sufficiency that many city dwellers, frustrated with the frenetic pace of modern life, can only dream about”.
The campaign makes a change from the anti-tourism stories that marked 2017, when many destinations, including Venice, Barcelona and the Scottish island of Skye complained of over-tourism. Skye residents called for “urgent help” to deal with a surge of tourists keen to visit beauty spots used as locations in TV shows and music videos.
Stronsay, known for its cliffs, sea caves and sandy beaches, is seeking support for its campaign from Visit Orkney and Visit Scotland and hopes it will be able to double tourist numbers over the next three to five years.
It currently attracts 600 visitors a year, who arrive by ferry, or plane, from Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney. Among the attractions are Orkney’s “finest” natural sea arch at the Vat of Kirbister, as well as the dramatic cliffs of Odin Bay.
Dianne Riley-Moore, a member of the community group behind the campaign, retired to Stronsay seven years ago from London and opened a craft centre on the island, the Craftship Enterprise. “We hope that by increasing tourism we will be able to create additional jobs on the island that will bring more residents, whether retirees or young families,” she said.
We have a small, brilliantly equipped and resourced school, fantastic healthcare and a safe, crime-free environment. The community is active and friendly but everyone has the freedom to be as involved or as solitary as you please. It is a truly unique place to live.”
One person who made the jump to island life is Shirley Whiteman, who moved from England with her family five years ago after responding to an advert for a community nurse.
“We feel very much part of a lovely, friendly and welcoming community and have no regrets at making this beautiful island paradise our new and forever home,” she said.