Continue driving towards Emmaste. In about 20 km, turn
right, or follow the sign to the Sõru harbour.
Photo: Tiit Leito / www.fotokogu.com
Sõru has become an important place for
tourism. For most people, it is simply a
harbour with a connection to Saaremaa.
But many historians associate the place
with Sarwo that was first mentioned
in the document on the partition of
Hiiumaa from 1254. Until the 16th
century, a small chapel stood on the
shore. The next sanctuary was built by
a Dutch shipbuilder and entrepreneur
Erasmus Jacobsson Bloedysel in the
1690s. It ceased to be an active church
only at the end of the 19th century - after the completion of the Emmaste
church in 1867. In any case, there has been a harbour area on the
Hiiumaa side of the Soela Strait for a long time, although shipbuilding
as we know it today only began at the end of the 19th century and the
beginning of the 20th century. This was the time when peasants started
to be more involved in shipbuilding and seafaring; and also the Czarist
Russia's interests towards the local areas grew at the same time. So the
more important dredge and construction works in Sõru harbour were
performed in the period before the World War I.
During the first decade of the independence era, Emmaste was
famous for its numerous masters in various fields. The large families
of Sõru seaside village must have had an important role considering
this tendency. The sailing ship Alar was built in Õngu in the years from
1937 to 1939 and it stands in the harbour nowadays as a memorial to
the seafaring history. Sõru had its own schoolhouse, chapel, and even
a tavern. Sõru has suffered much as an area of strategic importance
before and during World War II, when the coastal defence batteries of
Tohvri were built. Many families had to leave their homes and find new
places to live. The military constructions were not very useful, either.
Maybe only that some locals were employed in the construction works;
and those, interested in military history, can satisfy their curiosity in
During the Soviet occupation period, the Sõru harbour was mainly
known as a small fishing port and reception point for fish. In 1996 the
connection with Saaremaa was restored again. People living around
in Sõru could be characterised as active people in many ways. Sõru
inhabitants even have their own consumer association and co-op.
A little museum to coastal culture and local village life helps revive
memories of the old times. It was established on 12 May 1999.
The big harbour buildings are often adapted for bigger summer
events. Midsummer fires on Sõru's beach are especially popular.
On your way to Sõru, the Mänspäe church or chapel is worth a visit.