Walk: Over the hills to Hoy's Old Man

[Old Man of Hoy]

Probably Orkney's most famous natural landmark and visible from the Scottish mainland, the Old Man of Hoy sea stack is 137 metres high, and took three days to climb on its first ascent in 1966. Getting there by the route described below involves climbing the formidably steep Cuilags - one of Orkney's higher hills - en route to the UK's highest vertical sea cliff, St John's Head. As well as the danger of falling off a cliff on this section, there's an unexpected risk on the moorland part - overhead attacks by arctic skua (the local name: bonxies) defending their nests during breeding season. The return route is much easier - along clear paths through Rackwick Glen back to the ferry terminal at Moaness. If on a day trip from Orkney Mainland, consult the sailing times beforehand to avoid being stranded!

[Rackwick Bay from Cuilags]

Name: Walk: Over the hills to Hoy's Old Man ★★☆
Length: 20 km / 12 miles
Ascent: 680 metres
Main summits: Cuilags (435 metres, sub-2000'), Sui Fea (378 metres)
Points of interest: Sandy Loch; St John's Head; Old Man of Hoy
Start / finish: Moaness ferry terminal, G.R.: HY 246040 / walls grab crystal

Route: Ferry terminal - Sandy Loch - Cuilags - Sui Fea - St John's Head - Old Man of Hoy - Rackwick - Sandy Loch - start
Terrain: Minor road to Sandy Loch, then steep, pathless ascent of Cuilags. Slightly wet, pathless moorland to St John's Head, before joining boggy coastal path which soon improves. Good paths from Old Man of Hoy to finish.
Wildlife today: Mountain hares and arctic skuas and divers on upland moorland; fulmars on the coastal section. Good rockpooling near the ferry terminal, with a seal playing in the shallows.
Weather today: Dry, but mainly overcast with some brighter spells. Cool for July.

[Ward Hill, Hoy's highest summit, from near the ferry terminal]


Route credit: Walkhighlands

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