Sunday, 26 May 2013

A Hoy Old Man

We were blessed with a good day for our visit to Orkney and The Old Man of Hoy. A misty morning yielded as the John O'Groats ferry arrived at Lyness on the island of Hoy and the sun broke through. The Highland Council Rangers herded us onto the bus for the journey round the edge of Scapa Flow. Just outside the village we pass the Naval Cemetery, a reminder of the sacrifice paid by many sailors during WWII when Scapa Flow was a major Navy base. The bus then meandered, following the shore as far as Graemsay, the westerly guard island opposite Stromness on the mainland. At that point the bus turned east to cross the wilderness on upland Hoy, past the Dwarfie Stane to Rackwick Bay, nestled between two high headlands. From there the steep climb up the northern headland takes us past the cottage once owned by master of the Queen's music, composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies currently in hospital in London being treated for lukemia.
A well made path heads north towards the final objective, the mighty red sandstone stack standing 450 feet tall on its basalt plinth. It's one of the most famous climbs in the world, first executed in 1966 by Chris Bonnongton, Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey. Nowadays, it is climbed around 50 times a year, including during our visit. The photo shows a climber spreadeagled across the crack that furnishes the main route to the top. The other picture looks north from the stack towards St John's Head, the highest sea cliff in Britain. We ate our picnic lunch overlooking the stack on what was turning out to be the warmest day of the year, an amazing bonus. On the walk back we were entertained by a pair of eagles harassing wildfowl on a lochan.

On the ferry back to John o' Groats we passed the Cantick Head lighthouse that highlights the south east corner of South Walls. We had hoped to spot orcas or dolphins on the sail back across the Pentland Firth but none obliged.

The Glorious Twelfth by Alan Calder- Buy Links

 Also by Alan Calder, The Stuart Agenda published by Willowmoon




  1. Wow, what scenery, Alan. That is truly something you'll never forget.

  2. brilliant article and photos, Alan. And how lucky with the weather!

  3. Thanks Miriam and Lindsay. We did have great weather and the eagle sighting was awesome. Next blog is about a visit to a Highland clearance ruined village. Watch this space. Alan