Mention Hoy to most people and they’ll think of the iconic sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy, that soars out of the Atlantic Ocean on the island’s spectacular west coast.
At 137m, the Old Man of Hoy is one of the tallest sea stacks in the British Isles and possibly the most famous.
First climbed in 1966 by leading mountaineers, Chris Bonington, Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey, the red sandstone stack rose to national fame when a live outside broadcast covered further ascents by Bonington, Patey and other top climbers the following year.
Since then, the Old Man has been a magnet for climbing enthusiasts. Even though the main route up the stack is now considered relatively straightforward technically, it’s still a serious undertaking given the fragile nature of the sandstone and the considerable ‘exposure’ along the way. In short, don’t even think about it unless you know what you’re doing!
In 2018, eight-year-old Edward Mills became the youngest person to climb the Old Man to help raise money for the charity, Climbers Against Cancer. Other notable firsts include an ascent in 2013 by blind climber, Red Szell, and a BASE jump by adventurers Roger Holmes, Tim Emmett and the late Gus Hutchinson-Brown in 2008.
You don’t have to climb the Old Man to be impressed by this spectacular landmark. There’s a good track from Rackwick Bay that follows the amazing Hoy coastline out to a vantage point overlooking the stack. You can also continue north along the coast to reach the summit of St John's Head - at 335m, the highest vertical sea cliff in the UK. The views are simply staggering, but do take care and never get too close to the cliff edge.