Orkney Islands are a set of 70 islands just off the north coast of Scotland. Day 20 of my Scotland camping trip was a day trip to the Isle of Hoy from my base of Stromness on mainland Orkney. Where I would love to write just a single summary post for the Orkney Islands, this single day trip was so scenic that I decided to write this first.
Why visit Hoy: If you love spotting birds, Hoy is an absolute must-visit. There were many distinct types of birds in the water & in the cliffs making me feel very close to nature. The views are raw, rugged & gorgeous. Lastly, to see the Old Man of Hoy (fully pictured below). We’ve also made a tiny summary vlog with the highlights.
I wrote my only “live” blog sitting in front of the Old Man of Hoy presented as is below. It was fun to write a bit of the blog in front of such a spectacular view.
I, Dalek, am typing this from a cliff edge on the island of Hoy in Scotland overlooking the famous rock stack “The Old Man of Hoy”. This sea stack will eventually cease to exist due to erosion, possibly in this generation. But it has to be seen to be believed.
- A vertical rock column where strong winds have made their mark in the form of striations. These are used by climbers to get to the top.
- It’s narrower at the top than the bottom
- Birds are nesting on the crevices of the rock stack
- Two climbers are (somehow) climbing the stack!
- White foamy sea water is battering the base (the cause of erosion & eventual destruction)
- A big grass patch on the top & tufts elsewhere.
- Elsewhere, the wind is blowing clouds over a cliff making an unreal picture.
Seeing the sea stack in person is quite a spectacle because you’re standing / sitting on the edge of a vertical cliff to get the best view. There also also some off trail areas before the trail ends from where a good view of the Old Man of Hoy as well as the cliffs on the island of Hoy are visible.
These cliffs are also home to many birds both in terms of quantity as well as type of birds. The RPSB works really hard across the UK & specially in Scotland where there is so much wildlife to be found to ensure that birds get a good nesting area protected from predators / humans. Here is a link to their donations website, every little helps preserving this wonderful bounty of nature that travellers like us keep getting to enjoy. Here are some pictures of where the birds like to nest on the cliffs.
Other things to see & do on Hoy
Step back in time
There are 2 old stone buildings totally worth visiting on way walk back from the Old Man. One is the Craa (Crow) Nest house, a small museum & time capsule of what the village of Rackwick used to look like (suspenders were invented in one of those cottages in the early 1900s).
The second building is the Rackwick school which was setup in the early 1700s where the fees use to be 1 peat for a day of classes. Its also interesting to know the school was setup by the “Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge”. Very fascinating.
Chill out at the Rackwick beach
An absolutely beautiful crescent beach with towering cliffs on both sides. There is also a bothy just off the bridge where you can stay the night for free (basic stone shelter from the elements). There was a party in the bothy the day I was visiting where the entire island came out to party 🙂
On the way back to Moaness, the taxi driver stopped and offered to wait till we made a short walk to a 5000 year old rock cut tomb called Dwarfie Stane. The name means the Dwarf’s Stone and legend has it that this was a dwarf’s home (there is a door, a sleeping area & even a stone pillow).
Getting here by public transport
- The is a ferry from Stromness (of the Scrabster – Stromness ferry route) on the Orkney mainland to Moaness on the northern side of the island of Hoy (Mon-Fri are the only practical days to visit, 7:45 AM out & 6:15 PM return). Timetables. About £9 return.
- A very friendly taxi driver took me & 2 French travelers to the village of Rackwick (£5 return). Possible to walk to Rackwick from Moaness in 2 hours. Taxi numbers here.
- The Old Man of Hoy trail begin in Rackwick as described in this Walkhighlands description. It’s a 2.5 mile walk that’s a little steep at the start but mostly gentle.
- We’ll write up how to get to Stromness on mainland Orkney in our next post.
Food & Drink
Did have my very first Swannay Brewery beer along with some soup at the very scenic Beneth’ill Cafe at Moaness. Swannay is one of my favourite breweries in the world & beer lovers visiting Orkney should give it a shot.
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