Hoy Guide Banner

Hoy walks schematic    Walking on Hoy 

One of Hoy's many attractions is its excellent walking opportunities. Rackwick, on the north-west side of the island, is the start or finish point for many of these routes. and it's a lovely two-hour walk by road from Moaness through beautiful Rackwick Glen, once populated by crofters and fishermen, but now quiet and isolated. On the way you'll pass the Dwarfie Stone, a huge, lonely block of sandstone which is the only rock-cut tomb in Britain, dating from around 3000 BC.  On your return you can take a different route through a narrow valley between the Cuilags (457m) and Ward Hill (479m) and Berriedale Wood, the northernmost woodland in the British Isles. The most popular walk on Hoy is probably the spectacular three-hour hike from Rackwick Bay to the cliffs facing the Old Man of Hoy. The path climbs steeply westwards from the old crofting township, then turns northwards before gradually descending to the cliff edge.  Onward from the Old Man,  is a route that takes you past St John's Head, one of the highest vertical sea cliffs (378m) within the UK

West Coast Walk

The really energetic can try Orkney's most spectacular walk, which goes south from Rackwick to Tor Ness. This walk takes in very magnificent cliff scenery, with very fine views across the Pentland Firth. It will take a whole day due to the distance involved (12km, 7.5 miles) and rough terrain. With the many cliff views to admire, care must be taken to leave plenty of time.

And there are still more miles to cover!

Cantick Head stands on the island of Walls, joined to Hoy by a narrow causeway named "The Ayre".  Immediately beyond that causeway is a footpath which can be followed as far as Aith Head providing the opportunity to view a coastline full of natural arches, caves and unusual rock formations.  Beyond it are the Hill of White Hamars, a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve, which has a network of paths of its own. Eventually, we hope to develop a more recogniable path all the along this coastline to Cantick Head Lighouse (and back to Osmondwall).
Cuilags view
Orkney from the Cuilags
St Johns Head
St John's Head

There are fuller descriptions of these routes to be found in our Library of walks page.

Some other views for walkers


Old Man misty  West Coast Walk
Old Man of Hoy                                                                   West Coast Walk from Rackwick Bay
Axe at Aith   Snelsetter arch
"The Axe" seen from Aith Head                                                          Natural Arch  near Snelsetter

For those less inclined to "go it alone" Hoy has the good fortune to be home to The Hoy Ramblers Club and also to the South Isles Ranger.

The Hoy Ramblers organise  walks(usually on the first Sunday of the month) to various locations in Hoy  and also Philip, the South Isles Ranger, organises various events not only in the RSPB Reserve but also around Hoy (and the island of Graemsay, too).  We receive copies of their planned events which are open to everyone.  We would be only too happy to pass the information on to you if you think you might be interested.


Visit Orkney logo
Getting here buttonGetting Here buttonLocal Activities button


 Content 2009 Cantick Head Lighthouse Cottages