In September this year we spent three weeks on Orkney in the same house we rented last year. Having a bit longer this time meant that we were able to visit a few of the smaller islands and the first one was Hoy. The walk up to the Old Man Of Hoy was easy and well signposted, although it did prove a challenge for those who don’t like to go near cliff edges with 200 foot drops…
On the way to Orkney we had taken the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness specifically because you can get a really good view of The Old Man from the sea side. Unfortunately, visibility was very poor that day. We were compensated when we went to Hoy as the weather was beautiful: warm and clear skies. The Old Man stood erect and provided a good reward for the 3 mile walk.
After closer inspection and a bit of zooming in with the 105mm lens I noticed that a few climbers were actually trying to climb the stack! Not sure if they were going to get there as it was almost 13:00 already and they were only about a third of the way to the top. I had just read in a local paper that a few weeks earlier Chris Bonnington, who was the first to climb to the top in 1966, had reached the summit again at the age of 80!
The stack is thought to be less than 300 years old, as a map of 1750 shows a headland where the Old Man is now. The name ‘Old Man of Hoy’ originated from a time when the stack looked quite different, as shown on this watercolour painting from 1817. A storm washed away one of the legs early in the 19th century leaving it much as it is today, although erosion continues and the stack is certain to disappear. By 1992 a 130 ft. crack had appeared in the top of the south face, leaving a large overhanging section that will eventually collapse. Kudos to the climbers that succeed to get to the summit. Standing on the cliff edge is exhilarating, reaching the top of the Old Man must be sensational!
After the cliff top walk I visited the Dwarfie Stane, a megalithic chambered tomb carved out of a gigantic block of Devonian Old Red Sandstone. The name is derived from local legends which says the dwarf Trollid lived there. I crawled inside and wondered if the stone is on the list of the Mountain Bothies Association, as it provides comfortable shelter for two or three people, the separate chamber even has a stone cushion!