Walking on Orkney Pt 2

Houton - Lyness ferry
Let me pass on to you some advice I was given my folk at BBC Orkney the first time I visited for work.

They're never "The Orkneys", I was told.   They are "The Orkney Islands" or "Orkney" and encompass over seventy islands.

The island one in the middle is "Mainland", which can be confusing who use the word to refer to the rest of Scotland.

However, our second walk and possibly the island we liked most after our one week visit in the camper van, is Hoy.

This brochure tells you all about the different islands.

There are two ferries you can use to get to Hoy.  A foot-passenger only ferry leaves regularly from Stromness and crosses to the north of the island where the best hill walking is located.

Rackwick bothy
If you want to take a vehicle as we did, you catch the council run Orkney Ferries service from Houton.

'Hoy' means high island in Old Norse so it's not surprising it's home to the best hill walking.

A surprisingly good road leads all the way to the island's west coast and the lovely settlement of Rackwick.

There's a cracking good bothy here, a hostel and a car park where caravans can stay for up to seven days.

The most popular walk is obviously the relatively short walk around the cliffs to look at the sea stack called The Old Man.

First climbed in 1966 by Chris Bonington, Rustie Baillie and Tom Patey, it was came to world attention the following year.

In an astonishing outside broadcast for the time, three new routes were climbed and transmitted live on BBC1 across an entire weekend.

I vividly remember sitting in front of the TV and marvelling at the spectacle.

We walked a loop from Rackwick, the route of which you can see at the bottom.

Up a well made path past the Old Man then up to St John's Head.

Here the path is a little sketchy with some heather plodding.

The best option would be to climb Cuilags, then drop into the broad valley which separates one side of the island from the other.

If you were returning to the passenger ferry then this would definitely be the way to go.

We were slightly concerned about the distance our wee young dog Maggie was walking so we cut the walk short.

Steep sides of High Fea
At Back Saddles, we contoured around the Segal valley, gradually loosing height.

You can't follow the river as it's too steep, and frankly our choice was not a good one because the sides of High Fea are relatively steep.

The nose off Cuilags would probably have been better and gained the valley path more efficiently.

Either way, Rackwick is a lovely, peaceful place to spend a couple of nights with a  fabulous beach.

I'm told the midges can be hellish.

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