Walk: Over the hills to Hoy's Old Man

Hoy | Moaness | Full day walk | ★★★★

[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 (local name: bonxies) defending their nests during breeding season. The return route is much easier, suing clear paths through Rackwick Glen back to the ferry terminal at Moaness. If on a day trip from Orkney Mainland, consult sailing times in advance to avoid being stranded!

[Rackwick Bay from Cuilags]

Location & info

📌 Walk: Over the hills to Hoy's Old Man ★★★★
Start / finish at Moaness ferry terminal, Hoy, G.R.: HY 246040 ///walls.grab.crystal
🚌 Ferry to Moaness | 🚢 Infrequent buses from elsewhere on Hoy | 🚗 Limited parking at ferry terminal, but unless travelling elsewhere on Hoy you should leave the car in Stromness on Orkney Mainland - the local ferry is for foot passengers only

▶ 20 km / 12 mi | ▲ 680 m | ⌚ Full day
Features: Sandy Loch; △ Cuilags (435 m, sub-2000'), △ Sui Fea (378 m); St John's Head; Old Man of Hoy
Tough | 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.

Route: Start - Sandy Loch - Cuilags - Sui Fea - St John's Head - Old Man of Hoy - Rackwick - Sandy Loch - start

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On our visit

Wildlife: 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: Dry, but mainly overcast with some brighter spells. Cool for July.

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


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