A prime hiking and bird-watching destination, Orkney’s second-largest island is home to some of the archipelago’s most spectacular scenery.
Hoy Island takes its name from the Norse word for “high island,” a reference to its red sandstone cliffs, which can reach heights of over 1,000 feet (300 meters). Its northern and western reaches are home to mountainous moorlands and glacial valleys, and contrast with the lowland landscape that characterizes Orkney’s other islands. Hike along rugged sea cliffs, survey the island’s large population of seabirds and visit intriguing prehistoric sites.
No visit to Hoy would be complete without a trip to see its most well-known landmark, the Old Man of Hoy. This 450-foot (137-meter) high rock stack is one of the tallest in Britain. Hike along the scenic 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) path leading to the stack, which offers gorgeous views of Rackwick Bay and the chance to spot a variety of seabirds.
Continue along the trail from the Old Man of Hoy to St. John's Head, a vertical sea cliff that is among Britain’s highest. The cliff is best viewed in early evening, when the setting sun highlights its beautiful red and yellow colors.
Orkney’s highest summit, Ward Hill, offers yet another rewarding hike. From the hill peak, enjoy views over virtually the entire Orkney archipelago. Look for Dwarfie Stane near the beginning of the hill ascent. This compelling rock-cut tomb dates back over 5,000 years.
Travel to Lyness, which is located on the eastern side of Hoy, to explore the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre. Orkney was an important naval base for the British Grand Fleet during both world wars, and the center provides fascinating insight into the island’s military history. The center is set in an old pump house that once supplied oil to tankers moored off Lyness. Inspect war-time photos, the pump house’s well-preserved equipment, and read poignant letters sent home by seaman.
Hoy Island is connected by passenger/bike ferry to Stromness. A car ferry runs to Lyness from Houton on mainland Orkney. Buses from the ferry docks transport visitors to the island’s main settlements. Discover the striking natural scenery of one of Orkney’s most unique islands.