Tag Archives: climb

A Day On Hoy

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…

Hoy Cliff

Hoy Cliff

 

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.

Old Man Of Hoy

Old Man Of Hoy

 

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!

Climbing The Old Man

Climbing The Old Man

 

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!

 

Old Man of Hoy by William Daniell, 1817

Old Man of Hoy by William Daniell, 1817

 

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!

Dwarfie Stane

Dwarfie Stane

 

Inside The Dwarfie Stane

Inside The Dwarfie Stane

 


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The Old Man Of Storr

Inappropriate Footwear

Inappropriate Footwear

The second day out on my own was a good day for a visit to the Old Man Of Storr. I have driven past him a few times, and even cycled past, about 35 years ago, but never went up there to pay my respect. Now I know that there is a path up to the Old Man and that it does not require mountaineering skills, but it does make sense to put on some walking boots. While going up I met this young lady going very gingerly on her way down. Later on, when I was on the way back a guy was coming up and, I kid you not, he was wearing flipflops! Not the kind of outdoor, walking kind, no proper, thin, rubber flipflops.

Anyway, I was glad to have good boots as the path was rocky and steep in places.

 

 

 

 

 

To get the view with Loch Leathan in the background I had to walk a bit further, past the Needle.

The Old Man Of Storr And The Needle

The Old Man Of Storr And The Needle

 

The Old Man Of Storr And The Needle #2

The Old Man Of Storr And The Needle #2

 

A bit further south, after walking through The Sanctuary, is a nice vista of the Loch and Raasay in the background.

Loch Leathan And Raasay

Loch Leathan And Raasay

 

On my way back I saw a guy getting a few yards up The Old Man, I don’t think he got any further though. It has been climbed (first in 1955), but as the route is rated Very Severe I did not make an attempt this time…

The Old Man Of Storr

The Old Man Of Storr

 


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Bike Ride To Suisnish

Now that I am temporarily on my own on Skye I can do a few things that Di and I are not able to do together. Yesterday’s 26km mountain bike ride from Broadford to Suisnish and back was the first of those. On the outskirts of Broadford there is a well made track called the Broadford Marble Line that follows the railway that used to be there to transport the marble quarried just east of Loch Cill Chriosd. It is very easy and flat, unlike the later part of the route!

The path continues on into the hills, but the bike route goes down to follow the road along the Loch towards Killbride. At a fork the road to Elgol goes right, but I went left towards the coast and a good view of the modern marble quarry that is there. The road stops at Camas Malag, a pebble beach popular with wild campers and with a good view of Blaven (if it is not shrouded in clouds…)

Then followed a few miles of a steep rocky track, sometimes blocked by small ‘lakes’ created by the rain during the last weeks. The goal of the route is the abandoned village of Suisnish. Abandoned is the wrong word as the inhabitants did not leave of their own free will. During the clearances, in October 1853, Lord MacDonald evicted 32 families from their homes and crofts to make way for sheep, which were more profitable. He turned the villagers out into the cold and snow and to prevent them returning, he had their houses burnt down. Apparently one old man went back anyway and was found dead from exposure the next day. Archibald Geikie, a renowned Edinburgh geologist, was visiting the area at the time of this clearance. He later wrote: A strange wailing sound reached my ears. I could see a long and motley procession winding along the road that led north from Suisnish. There were old men and women, too feeble to walk, who were placed in carts; the younger members of the community on foot were carrying their bundles of clothes while the children, with looks of alarm, walked alongside. A cry of grief went up to heaven, the long plaintive wail, like a funeral coronach. The sound re-echoed through the wide valley of Strath in one prolonged note of desolation.

Ruin In Suisnish

Ruin In Suisnish

 

In the early 2oth century someone rebuilt one of the cottages and tried to make a living as a crofter. I don’t know how long the house was inhabited, but now it is used by the sheep to find shelter in bad weather.

Abandoned Home In Suisnish

Abandoned Home In Suisnish

 

After enjoying the lunch I brought and a snooze in the sun I had the much easier return to look forward to. The steep rocky part was fortunately mostly done freewheeling down and about an hour and a half later I was back at the car in Broadford.


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