Hoy, from the Norse Haey meaning 'high island', is the second largest island in the Orkney group. The terrain of the larger northwest area of the island is similar to the Northern Highlands and largely consists of peaty moors and heather clad hills. The highest point on Hoy (and Orkney) is the summit of Ward Hill at 479 metres. It is possible to see almost all of the islands in Orkney from this summit, and on a clear day, Fair Isle, sixty miles to the north, may be glimpsed.

The Old Man of Hoy is a sandstone sea stack 137 metres high standing on a basalt base. It is the landmark most associated with Orkney, and is popular with climbers. The top of the cliff overlooking the Old Man can be reached by the signposted path from the Outdoor Centre above Rackwick Bay.

The Old Man of Hoy
© Richard Welsby

Stronger walkers may like to continue along the clifftop to the top of St John's Head, at 346 metres, one of the highest vertical sea cliffs in Britain.

Rackwick Bay, enclosed by high red sandstone cliffs and heather covered hills, is one of the most beautiful spots in Orkney. The beach is reached by crossing a bank of smooth round boulders weathered by the Atlantic breakers, many of which are banded in different shades of red and yellow.

The Dwarfie Stane is the only example of a rock cut tomb in Britain, A large block of sandstone standing in isolation below the Dwarfie Hamars, the tomb dates from around 3000 BC. The entrance is a square hole in the side with a short passage leading to two small chambers on either side. Lying close to the entrance is a large block of sandstone which was used to seal the opening. There are several interesting examples of Victorian graffiti both inside and outside the tomb.

Close to the Water of Hoy there is a lonely tombstone emclosed by a white fence. This is the grave of Betty Corrigall, a young girl who committed suicide after becoming pregnant by a visiting sailor. Since she could not be buried in hallowed ground, and neither parish wanted the responsibility, she was buried on the parish boundary. The grave was rediscovered by some soldiers during the Second World War and the fence was placed around it.

The Lyness Naval base and Interpretation Centre is all that remains of the large naval base built during World War II. The pump house has been converted into an interpretation centre, with the history of the base displayed through newspaper articles, photographs, and artefacts. The area outside the pump house has various engines, cranes, and naval guns on permanent display.

The Martello Towers at Crockness and Hackness stand either side of Longhope Bay. Constructed between 1813 and 1815, the towers were built to protect Baltic Convoys waiting at Longhope for naval escort against American Privateers during the Napoleonic Wars. The Hackness tower is open to the public.

© Orknet 1998 - "Putting Orkney on the Internet"