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The Orkney island with more postmen than police!

Distance from Mey House: 52 Miles
Google maps link:

The island of Hoy is only 4 miles from Mey House and (on a clear day) it can be easily seen from either of our suites. However, to reach it requires crossing 25 miles of water on two ferries and journeying 27 miles by road around Scapa Flow but my goodness, it’s worth the effort.

Hoy is the second largest island in the archipelago but it is the least densely populated of the inhabited ones with an average of only 7 people per square mile. The lack of inhabitants stems from its geography and geology which is vastly different to its neighbours – it is noticeably more rugged, has higher peeks and is covered in significant areas of peaty moorland that is unsuitable for cultivating crops, trees or pasture. It is bizarrely remote and unspoilt despite it being so big and so close to civilisation.

We visited one April and were blessed with fabulous weather which encouraged us to venture along the 6 mile return walk to the Old Man from the picturesque Rackwick Bay. The Old Man is a rock stack that stands 450 feet above the surging north Atlantic and whilst it is an impressive sight, it is thought to be less than 250 years old and liable to collapse at any time! It regularly attracts rock climbers and I understand that a small visitor’s book is stored in a container that is buried in a cairn on its summit! The cliffs nearby are the tallest in Britain towering an unbelievable 1100ft above the ocean and as well as being imposing they are also stunning to behold – on the day we visited they were ablaze in hues of reds and greens.

En route to Rackwick Bay you will pass ‘The Dwarfie Stane’, set back about a ten minute walk from the roadside. This is a 5000 year old tomb cut into a single solid megalith of red sandstone using nothing but stone or antler tools and a great deal of muscle power. It is the only example of such a tomb in northern Europe and if you crawl inside it you can see (by torchlight) the 18th and 19th century graffiti that has been carved into its structure.

Hoy has played an important part in Britain’s maritime history and whilst there is precious little room to elaborate here, we visited and can recommend the Hackness Martello Tower and the Naval museum at Lyness. If you are of a mind, the naval cemetery at Lyness is a moving place to visit – so many young men are buried here, victims who died simultaneously in one local maritime disaster or another.

Finally, we just encourage you to explore! We discovered the wonderful ‘gloop’ holes on the Hill of White Hammars nature reserve, the memorial to the Longhope lifeboat, the grandest home on Orkney (18th century Melsetter House) and the final resting place of Betty Corrigal said to be “Britain’s remotest grave” – what a sad and tragic story that is (read about it here).

Path-to-Rackwick-(D) MOD Rackwick-Bay-(D) MOD

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: There are two ferries to Hoy – one for foot passengers only (sailing from Stromness) and another for vehicles and pedestrians which sails from Houton. Unless you are a walker or cyclist, we recommend taking your car over for a day or two as there is no public transport on the island. Book your ferry crossing in advance as it gets booked up in the high season.

GREAT FOR: Being so far away whilst being so close.

RECOMMENDATION: Lunch at the Beneth’ill Café (Linksness), a steak supper at the Stroma Bank Hotel (South Walls) and overnight accommodation at Wild Heather B&B (on the shore of Mill Bay).

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