The Old Man is probably the most famous feature of Hoy. Western Hoy is a wild open space of moorland and hill and the path to the Old Man leads off into this wilderness. Heather and bearberry was dotted with heath spotted orchids, lousewort and vivid blue milkwort; on the cliff edge pale blue spring squill was just coming into flower.
The Old Man itself stands uncertainly just off the high sandstone cliffs. Out over the sea heavy showers passed by but Hoy was, for the most part in sun.
Back at Rackwick we happened upon the small museum split between an old turf roofed croft and the old school: a scatter of artefacts and links to Rackwick in the wider world, such as the fact that two Rackwick men invented suspenders!
Down the road by the Dwarfie Stane path was a van and telescope set up. Here an RSPB volunteer was watching a white tailed sea eagle nest. The mother was hunkered down so there was nothing to see but as we chatted about wildlife conservation the male made an appearance in the sky above, mobbed briefly by a peregrine, before disappearing out of sight again.
Lunch was in Emily’s cafe where we had also stopped for a hot drink when we emerged from the early ferry. It sits in a wooden building set off from the road, slightly Scandinavian in style. The outside seats were enticing in the sunshine but it was a little chilly.
With a little over an hour before the last ferry we headed south to look at South Walls, now solidly linked by a causeway it no longer counts as an island in its own right. There was little time to do more than a drive round, Hackness Martello Tower amongst other things will have to await another visit.