We keep reading reviews on various travel and hiking sites of the trek to the Old Man of Hoy. This is how indecisive we are. But when half of the reviews swear it’s a 30-minute heavy-breathing uphill followed by an easy overland romp, and the equally adamant other half report a challenging slog over rough terrain all the way, you can understand our reluctance to commit. And as far as we know, the Old Man is pretty much the only reason to make the journey to Hoy. In fact, we read there are people — and we question their sanity — who take the morning ferry, hike from the dock to the start of the trail, hike up the trail to the Old Man, then hoof it all the way back in time for the mid-afternoon ferry, a distance of about 14 miles and 2500 feet of elevation gain. AllTrails calls this “moderately challenging” and warns to stay well back from the cliff edges and not to attempt in wet weather, high winds, or low visibility. It’s Scotland. Rain, wind and fog are a given. But Jack’s remaining OEM knee is starting to complain about too much hiking, and I’m always mindful of what a misstep on a rocky path could do to my trick ankle. Old people problems, I know.
On the other hand, we’re so close and it calls to us. We know we’ll kick ourselves later if we don’t do it. We still regret not crossing the scary swing bridge to climb the wonky ladder and sit in a 600-year old kauri tree in New Zealand back in 2016. We both chickened out and we feel bad about it to this day.
While we play “will we or won’t we?” with the Hoy question we continue our drive around the East Mainland. There’s less focus on the Neolithic here and more on WWII. It’s also less populated, less developed, and certainly less touristed. We have the place largely to ourselves. Even the honesty boxes are mostly empty of homebakes and just stocked with convenience store snacks.
We had high hopes for the pretty village of St. Margaret’s Hope, but it didn’t satisfy our café craving.
After a couple of quiet nights in peaceful parkups we ran out of ideas for this side of Orkney and turned back to Kirkwall to see if we can book a ferry to Hoy. Yes! We’ve decided to go!