The Old Man of Hoy

Rising out of the Atlantic Ocean to a height of 450 feet (137m), The Old Man of Hoy is the UK's tallest sea stack. Separated from land by the erosive powers of sea and wind - probably during the severe storms of 1782 - the stack was originally an arch with two "legs", hence its name.  It is first mentioned in travel literature in the year 1806. (There is a reproduction (below) of the William Daniells illustration published in 1813.)

However a further severe storm literally washed away one of the legs leaving the single pillar.  It is possible that this was the same storm - of 1850 - which stripped the topsoil away at Skaill Bay (just 10 miles north) to reveal the Neolithic settlement at Skara Brae. An 1865 illustration (also shown below) published from the book  "The Scenery of Scotland" by Sir Archibald Geike seems to be have been the first to show the Old Man in his one-legged form.

Nowadays a large crack can clearly be see running down from the top of the stack and many geologists believe that one day the entire Old Man of Hoy sea-stack will collapse into the Atlantic Ocean.

OMoH Daniells

William Daniells 1813 view

OMoH Geikie

Sir Archibald Geikie 1865 view
OMoH Patey OMoH aerial
Rackwick is the usual starting point for the 3 mile walk to the cliffs overlooking The Old Man of Hoy and is described elsewhere on our website.  The stack is a challenging climb and was first ascended by Chris Bonnington, Rusty Baillie and Tom Patey during 1966 and then repeated for a televised broadcast in 1967. offer several routes to the Old Man together with a stack climbing guide to the Orkney Islands.
Dwarfie Stane Lyrawa Viewpoint Betty Corrigall Pegal Burn
Sandy Loch Hills of Hoy St John's Head Old Man of Hoy Rackwick Bay

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