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  • The cliffs of Hoy, Orkney - image by Alistair Horne

Hoy & Graemsay

With its dramatic highland landscapes, Hoy is unlike anywhere else in Orkney.
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Hoy & Graemsay

  • Synonymous with the world-famous sea stack the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney's second largest island rises dramatically from the sea. With mountainous moorland and glacial valleys, you will encounter a dramatic highland landscape. Hoy is unlike anywhere else in Orkney.

    The Vikings named Hoy 'High Island' and it’s not hard to understand why. Orkney's highest peak - Ward Hill - stands an impressive 1,570 feet, while in the rugged north St John's Head presents a serious challenge for experienced climbers who flock to Hoy every year. At 1,136 feet, it is the highest perpendicular cliff in Britain!

    Hoy is best enjoyed outdoors and has an intriguing history. A recently restored path guides walkers from the hamlet of Rackwick and its dramatic bay to the iconic Old Man of Hoy. Still in the north, the Dwarfie Stane is reputed to be the only Neolithic rock-cut tomb in Britain dating from 3000BC. Orkney mythology and legends abound on Hoy, with tales of giants and evil dwarfs!

    Hoy is rightly famous for its birdlife. 10,000 acres of moorland and dramatic sea cliffs form an RSPB Nature Reserve which attracts large numbers of migrating and resident birds, including the much-loved Puffin - the viewpoint overlooking the Old Man is said to be the best place to spot them. There’s also a pair of white-tailed eagles on the island, so keep your eyes peeled for these most majestic examples of Orkney’s varied bird life.

    The majority of Hoy's 400 strong population live in the south of the island around the villages of Lyness and Longhope where you will find the excellent Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum and other attractions including the Napoleonic-era Martello Tower and Battery at Hackness. The small island of Graemsay, identified by its two lighthouses, lies between Hoy and Stromness on the Mainland.

    Hoy has good accommodation and can be reached by car ferry which runs from Houton to Lyness and by foot ferry from Stromness via Graemsay to Moaness.

  • Hoy is a favourite island in Orkney to visit, with places like the Old Man of Hoy and Rackwick always proving popular.

    There is an excellent ro-ro ferry service that links the old naval port of Lyness with Houton on the Orkney mainland. It's important to book your place in advance - especially if you're travelling during the summer months and planning on taking a car.

    There is also a regular foot passenger-only ferry that connects Stromness, Graemsay and the north end of Hoy at Moaness. It's a stunning crossing and perfect for those planning on walking to Rackwick, climbing to the top of Ward Hill, Orkney's highest point, or soaking up the peace and beauty of Graemsay.