Europe | United Kingdom (UK), Great Britain | Scotland | Western Isles, Orkney Islands And Shetland Islands | Orkney Islands – Day 10 – to Hoy
Braving the incessant fog and leaving my bike behind I took the 10am ferry to Hoy, the second largest island in Orkney after the mainland.
6.5 whole hours of rambling…. I started off for Rackwick bay … after a short distance on the road past a small herd of Shetland ponies I entered the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) reserve and followed the track through moorland, my only company the chattering and tweeting of birds. The air is fairly crisp and fresh and I stop occasionally to take pictures of flowers, beetles and butterflies… no point in taking pics of anything further away… fog! Towards the end I stopped and chatted to David from Lancashire… discovered that he was also taking a break from his bike and was soon to head to Shetland… further on took the turn out to the Old Man of Hoy… couldn’t see much… yet again!
After about an hour I arrived at the cliffs and perched myself on the edge to watch the nesting birds below. I finally saw my first puffin! Funny looking little things with their small black wings beating madly, orange feet spread akimbo out behind their squat little tail. Despite what my guidebook says about only continuing the walk in fine weather (it’s not raining… that’s fine by me!) I carry on with the cliffs on my left… can hear but not see the ocean pounding against the rocks below… gulls make an eerie sound like an old creaking chain that echoes up out of the mist… feeling pretty confident after an hour or so until suddenly the tack veers away from the cliffs and then vanishes to practically nothing… oh oh! I can see nothing but fog… can’t hear the sea or the gulls – decide to try and find the cliffs again and using the wind as my compass, head into it… traipse across moorland, my feet getting soaked, trousers wet up to my thighs… Great Skauas (big brown birds!) divebombing me from out of the mist… I start to panic!
After 20 minutes of this, trying to calm myself I finally find the cliffs again… feeling a little better I follow them until the ground drops away in front of me in what looks like a steep, grassy hill… I decide to keep going, mindful of the fact that the hill could turn to cliff at any moment, I try to keep my footing but end up on my ass many times… finally I am below the clouds and can see a couple of houses and another walker… my relief is amazing and I get this HUGE adrenaline rush… and wow! This IS a steep hill! I plot my course in case the cloud covers my view again and head down… with all that adrenaline I dont notice how tired I am and keep forging on… at one of the house I ask the way to the ferry and head off down the road… 10 min later the woman from the house pulls up in her car and offers me a lift because she realised that I wasn’t going to make it!
Once back in Stomness, I decided after that ordeal I deserved a beer… no! several beers! So David and I headed down to the Flattie Bar by the Stromness Hotel and tried the Red McGregor as well as the Dark Island…. mmmm!