Walk along the scenic trail leading to this iconic sea stack, which is among the tallest in Britain.
An imposing 450-foot (137-meter) high rock stack located off the island’s western coast, the Old Man of Hoy is one of Orkney’s most recognizable landmarks and a popular challenge for experienced climbers. The stack can also be viewed by following the pleasant footpath from nearby Rackwick. Stroll along this picturesque path and enjoy spellbinding views over Rackwick Bay.
Set on an old lava flow about 197 feet (60 meters) away from the cliffs, the Old Man of Hoy was gradually carved by the sea over the centuries. The red sandstone rock is shown in early 19th-century depictions as a stack and arch, a two-legged appearance that gave the landmark its name. A powerful storm later washed away one of the stack’s “legs,” leaving only the pillar that you see today. Examine the formation closely and you might be able to spot a 131-foot (40-meter) crack running down from the top of stack, a sign that the pillar is likely to collapse completely one day.
Wander along the 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) trail leading to the stack, which begins from the Rackwick Hostel. A round trip along this well-marked trail takes around 3 hours to complete. It offers spectacular views of Rackwick Bay and its surrounding cliffs, eventually leading you through an open hillside covered with heather, which blooms in early summer and fall, creating a carpet of pinkish-purple hue.
Look for sea birds, such as puffin, razorbill and guillemot, which often nest in the cliffs surrounding the stack. In the summer, you may notice climbers attempting to ascend the stack’s rocky face. The Old Man was successfully climbed for the first time in 1966 during an expedition led by Chris Bonington. The event is remembered for being the first televised climb in Britain. There are seven routes up the stack, but the east face route is the most popular with climbers.
The quickest way to reach the Old Man of Hoy is to fly into Orkney’s Kirkwall Airport, which offers daily flights from Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and London. Alternatively, take the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness, where connections are available to Hoy’s Moaness Port. Don’t miss the chance to see this unique site before it disappears forever.