TWO SNAILS (plus a dog and a dragon)

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Hoy, 2015: Part III

Sunday, 16th August

Playing Tourist in the South of Hoy

Sunday dawned a glorious day and stayed that way until the very end. We were in no hurry to leave beautiful Rackwick and in many ways we both felt that we would just like to stay and put down roots.

I left the camera in the van while we took Nell for a final ramble around Burnmouth. The sun was very hot and I was wilting. Apparently Rackwick can be the warmest part of Hoy on a good day.

We were heading almost as far as it was possible to go on Hoy, to Hackness.

Hackness is in fact on the smaller island of South Walls, connected to Hoy by a causeway. South Walls has a very different character to Hoy and the contrasts were strong.

Not being in any hurry, I asked Mr Snail to pull up anywhere that looked feasible and desirable so that I could redress the lack of photos from Friday evening. In particular we wanted to investigate a lay-by that we had identified as a possible wild camping spot for the future.

Once again we were lucky not to meet oncoming traffic on the minor road - just a few cyclists, none of whom seemed very polite or friendly when we pulled over or slowed down for them. Once on the B road we pulled over so that a car following us could over-take. We were soon at the lay-by of interest and Mr Snail pulled in...

... and suddenly there were cars everywhere! We deduced that the ferry was in. It was a sunny Sunday and clearly Rackwick is a major destination at such times. Car after car sped by while I played chicken, crossing the road with my camera. Mr Snail wisely decided we should stay put until the traffic had all gone by. He spent his time surveying the ground and deciding where we might park in future.

On HoyChecking out a lay-by for future use, on the way to Lyness from Rackwick

The road should be quiet at night and there is a great view to wake up to - plus there is that useful picnic table.

Our next stop was at the Pegel Burn picnic site where I had spotted an interesting stone on Friday evening and wished to further investigate.

Thence to Hackness and the Martello Tower and Barracks. An interesting and very photogenic site, run by Historic Scotland.

Hackness Martello Tower and Battery

Snippets from the Battery

Bruni just squeezed through the cattle grid, with barely an inch to spare. Phew.

The knowledgeable and friendly curator made the entrance fee worthwhile. His tour of the Martello tower made the place come alive. I was unsure of the ladder to the first floor entry but managed to get up in one piece and even went up on to the roof, where the sun and a light breeze combined to make for a very pleasant experience and a marvellous view.

Despite the military order of the place, wild flowers still found a place to flourish and I was enchanted by the wild Thyme that I found clinging on here and there.

The buildings all carry plates identifying their original purpose. One building I was quite ready to find was the Latrine Block, still in use for its original purpose, though thankfully with updated facilities.

See More: The Hackness Album

External Link: Historic Scotland: Hackness Martello Tower and Battery

Scapa Flow Museum and Visitor Centre

We drove off to return to Lyness in order to visit the Scapa Flow Museum, stopping at a car park on the causeway back to Hoy for our lunch. This is another spot that will serve for wild camping in the future and there is a lengthy coastal walk that starts here. I failed to take a photograph and Google Maps Streetview is not up to date.

There was a very flash RV in the car park at the museum when we arrived. We parked next to it and looked like the poor relations. Mr Snail took this opportunity to illustrate his repeated point that Brunhilde really is not all that large.

Not as big as we thoughtBruni with a wealthier relative at the Scapa Flow Museum

The Scapa Flow Museum looks insignificant on first drive-by and nothing can quite prepare one for the scale of the place. What at first glance appears to be a sparsely-occupied scrap yard turns out to be a wealth of interest and treasure. It is also a rust-lover's Heaven and something of a Steampunk Nirvana.

There is rust!

There are knobs!

There are cogs!

There are gauges!

There are boats! and cranes!

... and there is rust.

A Romney Hut houses a number of historical boats from Orkney and wider afield

We visited the Romney Hut first, pausing along the way to chat with a family of ducks. The scale of the Romney Hut took me by surprise and the contents were surprising too. I had not read up on the museum before visiting and had no idea what to expect. It certainly was not this collection of historic boats. The Otter Bank was there and it was a real thrill to see her in the flesh, as it were. This gorgeous boat used to sail between Kirkwall and the outer islands. bringing the bank with it. These days our bank arrives by air.

A number of types of Orkney boats were on show, with their histories. There were boats from Shetland and Scandinavia too.

See More: Boathouse Album

From the boathouse we went to investigate the Oil Tank (And what did you do with your weekend? Oh, we went to look at an old oil tank....) This held another surprise. It was huge on the inside and dark and very, very atmospheric. It was reminiscent of a planetarium, with the bright daylight streaming in through the rust holes.

Informational films were being projected directly on to the wall of the tank and the voice-over track reverberated eerily.

Everything but the kitchen sink - including the old light from Cantick Head

The collection housed here - eclectic! I liked best the large collection of strategically-placed yellow buckets.

See More: Oil Tank Album

We spotted the sign to the Air Raid Shelter and headed off to look at that but deduced its distance and elected to save it for another visit and so we made our way to the Oil-pumping Station, where we managed to miss out on coffee and cake as the cafe closed during our debate on whether or no the coffee would be proper or not.

The Oil-pumping station not only houses the toilets and refreshments but a lot of brass and shiny knobby twisty turny things. It is glorious. As with the rest of the site, the display is eclectic and you may look up and see models of aeroplanes, or stumble over a bicycle.

PumphouseSnippets from the Oil-pumping station

See More: Pump Station Album

External Link: Scapa Flow Museum and Visitor Centre

There were random exhibits outside, which I had some fun with before we drove away to find a space to park up for the night. Against advice, we went to look at Wee Fea, where the access actually proved perfectly suitable for Brunhilde. The views were fantastic. The midge quotient was low.

View from Wee FeaLovely views when the mist was not rolling in.
At Wee FeaOn the hill above Lyness on Hoy

As we pulled up, we saw a car already parked there. The owner was out and operating this

and that caused much excitement as this drone was the very model that Mr Snail has contemplated buying. He engaged on conversation that was somewhat one-sided as the other half of it was extremely Orcadian and frankly the old man did not understand very much of it.

See More: Wee Fea album

Part I of this trip is here

Part II is here

Part IV is coming soon.

Topic: Hoy August 2015, Hoy South, Sunday 16th August, Hackness Battery and Martello Tower

Categories: 2015, Orkney, Trips

Tags: hackness, hoy, lyness, martello tower

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Hoy, 2015: Part II

Saturday 15th August


Rackwick BayCar Park site on Hoy formally allowing Campers and Caravans
Still alone in the car park. Still in fairly dismal weather, though the clouds were less impressive than on Friday. The Horrible Hoy Midges were in evidence but by no means as numerous as when we arrived last night.

The sea appeared from this distance to be calmer and less impressive too.

Rackwick BayCar Park site on Hoy formally allowing Campers and Caravans

Mr Snail assured me that the forecast promised dry sunny weather by lunchtime and so we strapped on our boots and prepared for the walk to The Old Man of Hoy. There was just the slightest hint of rain when we left but the anticipation of better weather meant that we left waterproof gear behind, taking only our Tilley hats as sun/midge protection.

RackwickLow cloud not as impressive as when we arrived last night but the rain had stopped and the midges were less numerous and enthusiastic.

The initial part of our route took us past a house for sale. We were already smitten by Rackwick and it would be the easiest thing in the world to succumb - well, apart from the practicalities of selling up on Sanday, that is.

We crossed the cattle grid and Nell had to go on leash due to the sheep. We set off for the hillside, meeting on the way a local who remarked on how bad the midges were today. I asked how they manage to live with them and was told that they rarely see them these days. I guess we just got lucky...

The Old Man of HoyVertiginous

The walk to The Old Man is a 5.5 mile return journey, skirting Moor Fea and topping out at a height of about 170 metres. The path is very well maintained, especially the section through the RSPB reserve. There are wild flowers all about among the heather and Bonxies everywhere.

I was using a walking pole to assist my climb and this combined with the promise of better weather led to my leaving my camera in my backpack with the intention of taking photos on the return. I took no  photos until we reached The Old Man itself.

Two Old Men (and a dog)My old man at The Old Man

Once there, I took plenty. We stopped on the cliff top to eat our packed lunch and engaged the attention of a young Herring Gull.

Herring GullA very bold young gull, anxious to share our sandwiches

It had, until this point, remained dry. We saw the weather coming at us when we turned around to go home... 

Rackwick BayThe view on the way back home to Brunhilde's base camp

...and we got quite wet but that did not stop the camera action. I loved being up on the hill. It has been many years since I was at such an elevation. Looking down on the way home, Brunhilde was just a tiny splodge in the far distance

The way homeYou can just about see Bruni parked up at the car park if you blow this up as big as it will go... It gives some sense of what a sensational location this is for wild camping

The route passes by The Cra's Nest, a restored turf-roof croft cottage and steading housing a Museum.

The Cra's NestHeritage Museum

By tea time Rackwick was looking like another place entirely,

Rackwick BayCar Park site on Hoy formally allowing Campers and Caravans

with the cloud lifting and clearing and a hot sunshine developing. A slight breeze came up and helped to keep the midges at bay so that they were far less troublesome than the evening before. We walked out with Nell to explore the bay once more and this time I took my camera with me. Unfortunately the sea was looking far more tame by now.

We were joined by a Hymer van for the night but it is a large car park with plenty of room for a decent separation. We cooked our steak supper in peace and quiet and settled down to another early night, this time with a nice bottle of run to hand.

More photos in the associated album.

Part III follows soon.

Part I is here

Topic: Hoy August 2015, Rackwick Friday 14th to Sunday 15th August 2015, Rackwick and The Old Man Saturday 15th August 2015

Categories: Orkney, Site, Trips

Tags: hoy, rackwick

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Hoy, 2015

14th - 17th August

Part I

We left home on the midday ferry on Friday, with a booking for Hoy via Houton on the final ferry of the day. All went smoothly and we found ourselves in the queue at Houton with 90 minutes in hand.

It began to rain.

Houton Ferry Terminal


We bought our tickets from the friendly lady in the office. I took a handful of photographs and we walked the dog, then settled in to listen to the radio until the boat came in.

Loading was a fast and friendly business.

See the page on Orkney Ferries for further detail on the service from Houton.

This was our first visit to Hoy and I was eager to sit out on deck and to take photographs. Unhappily, the weather did not play ball and the rain became heavier, the visibility more poor. We settled for travelling in Brunhilde, although we could have used the downstairs lounge it seemed not worth the effort as the crossing takes only half an hour or so. We passed the time by amusing ourselves with the GPS lady and were delighted to find that the GPS unit knew that we were on board the Hoy Head and sailing for Hoy.


Disembarking at Lyness was similarly fast and friendly and we set an immediate course for Rackwick Bay, noting as we passed by the remnants of war-time Hoy. Hoy is a magnificent place for those of us who love pointing our cameras at a bit of beautiful decay. It is a positive rust heaven

Lyness to Rackwick

I was unprepared for the beauty of Hoy. I knew that there were hills there, the highest hills on Orkney but had not registered in my mind the fact that they are gorgeous hills. The combination of the stunning landscape, adorned as it is with endless swathes of wild flowers, with the adjacent beauty of Scapa Flow and the remaining Orkney islands beyond... well, I don't have the words to do it justice. Nor, alas, do I have the photos of our initial impressions because of that damned rain. Yes, even in the rain and increasing gloom, it was wonderful. 
I had been unprepared also for the stab of homesickness that came with the hills and the heather - I managed to miss both Yorkshire and the Southern Uplands at the same time. As for the flowers - they came as a complete surprise. We have them here too but on Hoy, they are simply everywhere, and in such numerous variety as to be entirely startling. 

It would be difficult to imagine a place more different to Sanday and yet Hoy is only a short distance away as the crow flies. We can see the Hoy Hills from here when conditions are right.

There is one main road that runs up to the North end of Hoy. It is a numbered B road that passes over a cattle grid just outside Lyness and then becomes a single track with passing places (B9047). Such roads do not endear me to our old Brunhilde, being as broad in the Teutonic beam as she is. I breathed in and I fretted. You see, I knew that we turned off this road to get to Rackwick and had yet to follow an un-numbered road for four and a half miles. Oh, my.

In the event, the sheer beauty of the twelve mile journey overcame my nervousness. We were fortunate to meet no oncoming traffic for the whole distance and were able to pull over to allow the one car behind us to pass. Progress was very slow in places as it became far too bouncy if we put on any speed.


Rackwick SignageSee large for house names

Rackwick took our breath away. The scenery was stunning, with low cloud draped around the shoulders of the hills and big Atlantic breakers rolling in to the bay. It was dark and brooding and very much like our Yorkshire home turf.

I was itching to take photographs. Luckily I was not the first to disembark and it was in fact Mr Snail who detected the presence of the Horrible Hoy Midge. Great clouds of the devilish things were clustered around Brunhilde's door. Between the insect life, the rain and the poor visibility it seemed madness to venture forth with camera. I decided that location shots could wait until tomorrow and we cooked tea instead.

The weather improved a little so when we donned hats, long sleeves and midge repellent in order to walk the dog we were at least able to do so without the added discomfort of being wet. We set off on the local walk with the intent of finding the beach

Rackwick SignageWe did two and saved the third for next time

Nell enjoyed her exploration and so did we. The waves were spectacular. We stood for a while, watching two young men engaged in photographing the scene and I wished that I too were smoothing the waters. I knew however that I could not manage the camera and fight off the midges at the same time.

We walked back to Brunhilde and an early bedtime and were very happy with our new mattress topper. A good night's sleep was had by all.

Part II is here.

Topic: Hoy August 2015, Houton departure Friday 14/8/15

Categories: 2015, Orkney, Trips

Tags: hoy, rackwick

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