Day tripping - Island of Hoy, Orkney
This post is made in conjunction with NorthLink Ferries. All views expressed are my own.
I’m what some might refer to as an islophile - I love islands. I live on an island but I love island hopping and luckily for me Scotland has over 790 of which I have visited 22. It may be a lifetime’s work to visit them all. Visiting Orkney mainland, I was really keen to make it out to at least one of the islands not connected by causeway. We opted for Hoy: the second largest island on the archipelago of 70+ islands that make up Orkney.
We took a 45 min trip from Houton (on the south of Orkney mainland) to Lyness on the east coast of Hoy opting to take our van with us for flexibility and greater touring potential. You can also take a 30min passenger / cycle ferry from Stromness to Moaness Pier at the north-east of the island. The ferries run fairly frequently and we managed to get 6 hours on the island which was just about enough time to fit in all we wanted to on a day visit.
First stop was lunch. We headed north towards Moaness and the highly recommended Beneth’ill Cafe. Ward Hill dominated the landscape for most of the 30 min drive up. At 1570ft, it is the highest point on Orkney and from the summit you can see every island on Orkney except for Rysa Little, which, ironically, is the closest. It’s definitely a walk we want to do which gives us another reason to return.
Beneth’ill cafe has gorgeous views out over the sandy bay and towards the hills of Hoy. We enjoyed home made lentil soup and a ploughman’s plate of orkney cheeses, local ham, home made chutney's and relishes, sourdough, olives and more. There was a play area out the back with climbing frame, slides and swings which kept the kids occupied whilst we enjoyed eating our lunch.
Our main plan for the day was to head over to Rackwick Bay on the west side of the island. This has to be one of the most beautiful places on Orkney. A wide sweeping golden beach nestled into an amphitheatre of hills. My husband headed out on a two hour round trip to view the Old Man of Hoy whilst we stayed and played on the fine golden sand on the beach. We paddled at the water’s edge, shrieking as the ice cold water washed over our legs and came away sun kissed and freckled.
On our return we stopped in past the RSPB van which is parked up on the Rackwick - Moaness road throughout the summer months. The ranger chatted to the kids about the local wildlife and in particular, white tailed sea eagles who returned to Hoy in 2013 after a 140 year absence. We were delighted to catch a glimpse of a 7 week old sea eagle chick though binoculars. This was also the starting point for our short walk, about 3/4 of a mile, to Dwarfie Stane: a 5000yr old monument thought to be Britain’s only example of a rock- cut tomb. The stone was hollowed out using nothing but stone or antler sometime around 3000BC. You can crawl into the tomb’s interior and view the two carved out ‘beds’ inside. One has a stone ‘pillow” and both have small doorways. These are both too short for humans giving rise to its viking name which means home of the dwarfs.
Hoy was truly spectacular with a variety of scenery from the low lying east coast with its sandy coves to the high, dramatic hills and stunning sea cliffs on the west side. We’d love to return and explore the island on foot. There are so many walks and an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities. It’s also a treasure trove for historians
We left Hoy with a hunger to see and explore so much more. The island is a haven for those who love the outdoors and want to explore more of the islands. It won’t be long before we make a return visit.