Hoy, Orkney’s second-largest island, rises sharply out of the sea to the southwest of the Mainland. Its dramatic landscape is made up of great glacial valleys and mountainous moorland rising to more than 1500ft, dropping into the sea off the red sandstone cliffs of St John’s Head. The passenger ferry from Stromness arrives at Moaness Pier, near the tiny village of Hoy.

Rackwick

RACKWICK, four miles west of Hoy village, is an old crofting and fishing settlement squeezed between towering sandstone cliffs on the west coast. A small farm building beside the hostel serves as a tiny museum, with a few old photos and a brief rundown of Rackwick’s rough history. Despite its isolation, Rackwick has a steady stream of walkers and climbers passing through en route to the Old Man of Hoy, a great sandstone column some 450ft high, perched on an old lava flow which protects it from the erosive power of the sea. The well-trodden footpath from Rackwick is an easy three-mile walk (3hr return). Halfway along the road between Hoy village and Rackwick, duckboards head across the heather to the Dwarfie Stane, Orkney’s most unusual chambered tomb, cut from a solid block of sandstone and dating back to 3000 BC.

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre & Museum

Hoy played a major role for the Royal Navy during both world wars and the harbour and hills around Lyness are still scarred with the scattered remains of concrete structures that once served as hangars and storehouses during World War II. The old oil pump house has been turned into the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre & Museum, a fascinating insight into wartime Orkney. The pump house itself retains much of its old equipment – you can ask for a working demo of one of the oil-fired boilers – used to pump oil off tankers moored at Lyness into sixteen tanks, and from there into underground reservoirs cut into the neighbouring hillside. Even the café has an old NAAFI feel about it.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Scotland features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

8 alternative UK winter breaks

8 alternative UK winter breaks

The UK gets pretty grim during the winter, with its dark, early nights and splutteringly cold weather. But if you can’t wait until spring to start having fun …

07 Nov 2016 • Greg Dickinson insert_drive_file Article
8 spectacular remote places in Scotland

8 spectacular remote places in Scotland

Scotland’s seven cities offer myriad urban charms, but if you want to really get to the heart of a complex country that makes up 69% of the UK coastline and o…

19 Sep 2016 • Robin McKelvie videocam Video
Video: 5 reasons to road trip Scotland

Video: 5 reasons to road trip Scotland

Scotland is undeniably beautiful. From famous landscapes like Glen Coe and Loch Ness to unheard of islands scattered off the far reaches of the Highlands, there…

05 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month