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.
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.
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 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.
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.
It had, until this point, remained dry. We saw the weather coming at us when we turned around to go home...
...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 route passes by The Cra's Nest, a restored turf-roof croft cottage and steading housing a Museum.
By tea time Rackwick was looking like another place entirely,
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.
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 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
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.