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“Can be done on a Friday afternoon, with a return on the late ferry”
Review of The Old Man of Hoy

Ranked #3 of 9 things to do in Hoy
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed 29 June 2014

When planning a trip to Hoy, one thing I didn't know was that there is a 10pm late ferry returning to Stromness on a Friday evening. This means that a trip to the Old Man can be made without spending the whole day on the island. I hired a bicycle in Stromness, caught the 4pm ferry over to Hoy, then cycled to Rackwick. (If you are cycling or walking, *do* take the first signposted turn up to the hostel, as it gives you a better starting point.) The walk to the Old Man and back took me about 2.5 hours, including plenty of time to take photos. On the cycle back, I stopped off at the Dwarfie Stane too. Well worth it even as a quick trip.

Thank skittledog
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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67 - 71 of 108 reviews

Reviewed 12 June 2014

There are a few options for seeing The Old Man of Hoy and the first one is easy enough - you could pass by it when sailing on a ferry. However to see it really up close involves getting to the Island of Hoy and for most people this will mean either getting a foot passenger ferry from Stromness, Mainland Orkney to Moaness, Hoy or the car ferry from Houton, Mainland Orkney to Lyness, Hoy.

If going as a foot passenger it’s a very long hike to The Old Man unless you can arrange transport from Moaness across to Rackwick which is feasible - taxis and mini-buses provide a service but to be certain it’s probably best to book ahead.

We took the car ferry - timetable details are available at www.orkneyferries.co.uk - check the South Isles Ro-Ro Services or phone 01856 811398. It’s necessary to book in advance as there isn’t a huge capacity for vehicles and if you’re planning just to be there for the day go for an early departure and late afternoon return if possible. Check-in is a minimum of 15 minutes before departure. We sailed at 10.15am and returned at 4.40pm which gave us enough time to drive to Rackwick, do the walk and spend a little time at The Old Man, return and go down to Rackwick Bay and then have a quick look around Scapa Flow Visitors Centre & Museum before catching the ferry back. Ideally I’d stay on Hoy or take the 8.00am sailing and return 4.40pm (on some dates in June to August there’s a later return ferry from Lyness to Houton on a Sunday at 6.15pm). The Pumphouse Café at the Visitor Centre closes at 4.00pm, the museum itself at 4.30pm and their opening dates are seasonal so you would need to check if planning to visit.

The ferry crossing was quite calm on the day we travelled (although breezy) and took about 45 minutes each way. It was cold and misty so many passengers stayed in their vehicles albeit there is a narrow open passenger platform for the enthusiastic and a lounge below with toilets and a drinks machine.

The drive from Lyness is on the B9047, a surfaced single track road with passing places. It initially follows the east coast of Hoy and after about 10 miles or so, near the Bay of Quoys, you take a sharp left and head up into Rackwick Glen - the road is still surfaced here. The scenery becomes quite dramatic with sheer cliffs rising up on the left and in the distance near the roadside you can see the “lonely grave” of Betty Corrigall of whom there is a sad tale. Not long after the grave there is a small parking area to allow you to walk to the Dwarfie Stane, a tomb hollowed out of a giant slab of rock about 5000 years ago. Sadly time didn’t allow us to stop at either spot!

Continue up the valley and when you see the sign for “Old Man of Hoy” branching off to the right ignore it - it leads to the Rackwick Hostel and there is no parking there. The car park is straight on and nearby there are toilets housed in a little stone building, complete with hot water and a hot air hand dryer no less! You can continue on foot down that path to reach Rackwick Bay which we did when we returned from The Old Man.

The drive from Lyness to Rackwick was around 1 hour each way allowing for a couple of photo stops only - if you want to see other sights en route you’d need more time.

The Old Man route commences straight across from the car park and winds its way uphill quite quickly. We set off in drizzling rain which continued for much of the time we were walking and despite waterproof gear we were thoroughly soaked. The slow gradual climb above the Bay had water running down the stoney path (almost like a stream) and boggy ground to each side so hiking boots were essential. Two ladies who had set off before us requested we take a photo of them with the Bay in the background when we caught up with them - a lovely scene. However they must have eventually abandoned the hike as we didn’t see them again - when we returned to the car park later their vehicle was gone. We only met two others, near The Old Man and on their way back after having seen it up close. It was the kind of day which wouldn‘t attract crowds - wet and misty.

Beyond the top of the Bay the path follows the cliffs and we could see a small waterfall pouring down them. Most of the time the route is open and unsheltered. After a while we came to a rise and in the distance could see the top of The Old Man peaking just above the cliff tops before disappearing in the sea mist again. Our hopes were that it wouldn’t be shrouded in mist when we got up close and thankfully our wish was granted - at least intermittently. The mist was coming and going every 10 minutes or so but in between we got some good views from the cliff tops of the towering sea stack. We reckon that the iconic image which gives it the “Old Man” name must be obtained from slightly further around the coastline track and looking at the stack from a side angle. There are no safeguards along the cliffs so common sense is required - the Old Man of Hoy is around 450 feet high and the cliffs similar so it’s a big drop. Sadly with some reluctance and the rain getting heavier we decided to return back along to Rackwick without going further as visibility was poor. We don’t think anyone was climbing the stack at that time - I’m sure they would await better conditions.

It took us about an hour each way to walk the route. In our “drookit” state we gave the museum at Rackwick village a miss but took a look at the beach down on the Bay. There are huge amounts of rocks and boulders down there and good views along the coastline.

With the waterproofs thrown into the boot of the car we headed back satisfied that we had persevered and seen The Old Man in person. I’m sure that on a few other days that we were on Orkney the conditions would have been much better for a visit but the sense of achievement may have been less!

Later, after a visit to the Stromness Town Hall for the Canadian Concert at the Orkney Folk Festival, that long-awaited pint of beer went down well in a nearby bar.

11  Thank Rantin rover
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 June 2014

We started our walk from Rackwick Bay and headed straight to the Old Man. The walk takes about an hour at a reasonable pace. It's a little steep at the start, but soon levels out (most casual walkers will have no problem with the terrain). The path is well laid out and easy to follow. The Old Man is beautiful - I highly recommend taking a packed lunch to enjoy whilst admiring the view. The seabirds along the cliff are also fun to watch - binoculars are worth bringing if you have some. We walked a bit further round the coast, which is also stunning, before heading back. Don't forget to check out the beach at Rackwick, which is also stunning.

A word of warning, the weather on Hoy is very changeable, so make sure that you are well prepared!

1  Thank Dr-S-White
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 May 2014

Took the ferry from Houton to Lyness and drove up to Rackwick. From there it took us about an hour to reach the old man. The footpath was quite steep in places but overall a relatively easy walk. Lovely views on the walk. Once we reached the old man the view was breathtaking. Took lots of photos before making our return.

Thank JillAdventures
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 May 2014

We caught ferry from Stromness to Moaness and cycled to Rackwick stopping off at the Dwarfie Stane, well worth a look. After a lovely picnic outside the bothy on the beach, we hiked over to see the Old Man. It was truly spectacular. The approach is marked by a wooden post and it's at this point you might want to grab your kids to remind them of the huge cliffs. It's not for the faint hearted and as someone who suffers vertigo by proxy, I enjoyed the view, belly down on the grass.

On our return we'd just missed the 4.30 ferry and the local tearoom was closed. However if you've a mind to head back up the hill to the museum in the old Church, there are coffees/teas/biscuits there if you leave a donation in an honesty box.

We caught the last ferry but a local worthy (namely Big Stu) kindly left his mobile number with us in case it didn't turn up. He said he would have seen us ok to the hostel (we were a party of nine split between two families) so we weren't stranded. Great gesture of hospitality.

2  Thank suduperth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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