Saturday, 28 November 2015

Rackwick Bay and the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney Islands

The Orkneys can be anyone's Ultima Thule. They have the remoteness, the preserved authenticity, the wilderness of cliffs, bays and seas, quaint towns with an atmosphere and a history of their own. And they were certainly on the route of Pytheas the Greek when he adventured on the northern icy waters.

On the west coast of Hoy, one of the Orkney Islands, there are two great sceneries that attract visitors to the rather wild coast : Rackwick Bay and the Old Man of Hoy, a slim but high rock column.

Rackwick Bay

Coordinates: 58° 52' N, 03° 23' W.

The bay in half moon shape is a strikingly desolate yet beautiful beach between red sandstone cliffs.

A glorious pink sandy beach with  giant sea-smoothed boulders lies below the cliffs. Only the boom of the sea can be heard on a summer day.

The tiny settlement, previously a farm, was converted to a boothy for visitors, a hostel and a small museum.

The boothy at Rackwick.

Rackwick has its own microclimate and is often warmer than elsewhere in Orkney. The terrain is hard to walk on but the views and landscape make the suffering worthwhile!

Rackwick is also the home to the Crows Nest Museum and  the Rackwick Hostel.

Craa Nest Museum occupies three old farming cottages.

These are the oldest houses on the bay, from a hundred years ago.

The Rackwick Hostel

The best option if you must spend the night at the bay.

The three-mile path to the Old Man of Hoy.

Old Man of Hoy

Coordinates: 58° 15′ N,  5° 23′ W

The rock is tallest sea stack in Europe (137m) and the most famous sight on the island if not all Orkney.

The column is probably the remaining end of a complete arch.


A handful of houses are scattered around Rackwick Bay, but there’s no shop, pub or café which is probably the reason that the place has retained its charm. But also reminds us of how har life used to be there:

No bloody sport, no bloody games,
No bloody fun; the bloody dames
Won't even give their bloody names

                                                                                     atribb. to Captain Hamish Blair

Has inspired this little jewel on the piano, Rackwick Bay by Phamie Gow: