Stromness to Rackwick

The Old Man of Hoy
The Old Man of Hoy

After two days we lost the sun. We needed the substantial Ferry Inn breakfast of porridge, fruit salad and mushroom omelette to give us the strength to carry our bikes and bags down a flight of steps to board the 10:00 passenger ferry to Moaness on the island of Hoy, still one of the Orkney islands. We stayed on deck for the crossing but Rowan would have been better in the saloon out of the wind because after landing he complained of being very cold. Luckily for him, there was a cafe near the port as there’s little else on the island, and he warmed up with hot chocolate and coconut cake. It was a short ride to the hostel at Rackwick, the misty scenery being reminiscent of the western highlands, quite different from mainland Orkney. We checked in to the hostel and lunched there, then donned our waterproofs for a lovely two mile walk to the Old Man of Hoy where we saw arctic and great skuas nesting. Puffins and kittiwakes were also present. The wet weather gear was principally to protect us from the fierce wind blowing the mist. I only just managed to squeeze the Old Man into the frame for a photo, while trying to brace myself against the gale.

A short way off the path is Craa House, a family crofting house abandoned in 1940 and now open to all as a museum demonstrating the hardships of such a way of life. The dark damp house was equipped with box beds and very basic furniture with contemporary photographs of farming life on the walls. We also discovered that the Rackwick hostel had formerly been the village school, while closer to the hostel was an earlier school building, again used as a museum to commemorate a lost way of life. Rackwick isn’t really a village, simply a collection of houses. There is no shop, we had to bring our provisions with us on the boat.

The hostel is tiny, its two rooms each containing four bunks. We had one room, the only other occupant being a young Californian woman who’d been staying there for a few days and returned with her shopping on a later boat.

Rackwick to Kirkwall for the ferry to Shetland