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Orkney Islands Walk
Old Man of Hoy & Glens of Broadiface

County/Area - Orkney Islands

Author - Lou Johnson

Length - 10.0 miles / 16.3 km

Ascent - 1020 feet / 309 metres

Time - 6 hours 0 minutes

Grade - moderate

Start - OS grid reference HY222034
Lat 58.910814 // Long -3.352425
Postcode KW16 3NJ (approx. location only)

Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Old Man of Hoy & Glens of Broadiface
Click thumbnails for larger images.

This Orkney Islands walk starts from near Sandy Loch on a minor road above Hoy and follows a path past Sandy Loch that climbs between Ward Hill (the highest summit in the Orkneys) and Cuilags. After climbing to a col, the path descends through the Glens of Broadiface and down to the remote hamlet of Rackwick. From here the route follows the well-trodden path to visit the viewpoint for the famous seat stack the Old Man of Hoy. The return route follows the outward path.

The walk starts from the small parking area (grid ref. HY222034) on the lane heading south-east from the hamlet of Hoy. After parking take the signed path to Rackwick. The path initially climbs above the western shores of Sandy Loch to reach a col with Ward Hill rising to your left and Cuilags on your right. A gentle descent leads you down to the Glens of Broadiface and the road leading to Rackwick.

At the first junction, bear right and continue past the Outdoor Centre and small museum to join the signed path to the Old Man of Hoy. Despite such a remote location, at peak times of the year you are unlikely to be alone. A clear path climbs up the hillside. After gaining height, the path briefly skirts the cliffs before turning north across moorland to arrive at the viewing point for the Old Man of Hoy. This impressive sea stack rises 449 feet (117 metres) above the sea.

Having got this far, it is worth heading north on the coast path to enjoy the view back towards the Old Man. If you have a packed lunch with you, then this is the ideal strategy to avoid the crowds. The retrospective view of this dramatic coastline includes Runnarto, a section of the upper cliff that has been eaten away by erosion producing a natural amphitheatre in the cliffs. After completing your exploration return along the path through Rackwick and back to the start.

Isle of Hoy - there is a car ferry operating from Houton to Lyness on the south-eastern coast of Hoy. Day trips are possible although it is worth checking the timetable before deciding your plan. A passenger ferry also operates from Stromness to Moaness, also on the east coast of Hoy. Reaching Rackwick is possible by pre-booking a taxi. Accommodation and refreshments on Hoy are limited so again careful research is required before making plans. It is probably easier to take a packed lunch and refreshments for this walk.

Please maintain social distancing - keep at least 2 metres away from other walkers.

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