Flotta means ‘flat’ in old Norse, and Hoy means ‘high’. So that gives you some idea about the relative topography of the islands of Flotta and Hoy….
It is just 10 minutes by ferry from Flotta to Hoy, but because of the way the boats run, you can only go from Flotta on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. As Anna only got to Flotta on Wednesday, that meant Thursday was The Day.
The weather could not have been better. Full, glorious sun. OK, it was a tad nippy, but we could cope with that! Anna has been to Orkney three times now, and knows it really is ESSENTIAL to have a good, windproof coat!
The ferry docks at Lyness, in the middle of the north coast. It is the west end of Hoy which is high, and that is the way we went first, stopping a couple of times en route to visit Betty Corrigal’s grave (sad story, details here) and for pix.
The right along to the west, to see all the ‘hundreds of seals which can be found any day near Moaness’. Yeh, right. They obviously knew Anna wanted to see them, and there wasn’t a single one in sight. It was a pretty place, though…
As we were nosing about the small roads, we came across these ladies, in the lea of the almost sheer hills:
Then it was across to the south of the island, to Rackwick. This ‘village’ was once a thriving community, but now only 4 of the houses are inhabited all year round. There is also an outdoor centre, and a bothy, but the place is perhaps best know as the start of the walk over the hills to the sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy. This involves a good bit of steep walking, and several miles, so was off my agenda. Instead, we walked to the shore of Rackwick Bay.
Then it was east again, back the way we had come, and down towards Longhope. We had our picnic near the old lifeboat station, where they still occasionally launch the old lifeboat from the shed….
Then it was on in to Longhope village itself, to see the current lifeboat, the Helen Comrie, at her berth in the harbour.
A mile or two east and a couple of centuries back in time. This is one of the Martello towers, built in the early 1800s to defend the country from an invasion by Napoleon. There are two on South Walls, and this was the one we found!
Then, after a wrong turning, we followed the tiny road right along to the lighthouse at the very east end of the island to another place you ‘always see seals’. And, that’s right, not a single one in sight…
Turing west again towards Lyness and the ferry home, we stopped at the Osmondwall graveyard near the lighthouse. This area has a long history, going back to the Vikings. But I wanted to see a memorial to an event in 1969. It was in that year that all 8 members of the Longhope lifeboat were drowned going out to try to save a boat in trouble in terrible weather in the Pentland Firth. The lifeboat was hit by a gigantic wave, reckoned to be 100 feet high, and capsized. All her crew were lost.
The memorial stands in the centre of a line of the graves of the men who lost their lives. He fact that so many came from a couple of families shows how close knit the community was and still is. The figure of the lifeboatman, in all his gear, is beautifully worked, and he looks out to the waters of the Firth where the men and womaen of the Longhope lifeboat still risk their lives when called to do so.