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Hoy Cliffs.jpg
Cliffs on the Atlantic coast of Hoy
Main settlement: Lyness

{{{map caption}}}

Grid reference: ND263961
Area: 55 square miles
Population: 272

Hoy is an island of Orkney. Unique amongst those island, it is moutainous, reaching a height of 1,572 feet at Ward Hill, the highest point in Orkney. It is also, at 55 square miles, Orkney's second largest island. Hoy is connected by a causeway called The Ayre to South Walls.

The name "Hoy" is from the Old Norse Háey meaning "high island".


The dramatic coastline of Hoy greets visitors travelling to Orkney by ferry from the mainland of Great Britain. It has extremes of many kinds: some of the highest sea cliffs in Britain at St John's Head, which reach 1,150 feet, the impressive and famous sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy; some of the most northerly surviving natural woodland in the British Isles and the most northerly Martello Towers, which were built to defend the area during the Napoleonic Wars, but were never used in combat.

The main naval base for the British fleet Scapa Flow in both the First and Second World Wars was situated at Lyness in the south-east of the island. Some rather incongruous art deco structures nearby date from this period.

An unusual rock-cut tomb, the Dwarfie Stane, lies in the Rackwick valley in the north of the island. It is unique in northern Europe, bearing similarity to Neolithic or Bronze Age tombs around the Mediterranean. The tomb gets its name as it is very small and was said to be carved by dwarves.

In Norse mythology, Hoy is the location of the never-ending battle between Hedin and Högni.

Orkney Ferries serve the island with two routes. One links Lyness on Hoy and Longhope on Walls with the island of Flotta and Houton on the Mainland. The other links Moaness in Hoy to the island of Graemsay and Stromness on Mainland.


The northern part of the island is an RSPB nature reserve due to its importance for birdlife, particularly great skuas and red-throated divers. It was sold to the RSPB by the Hoy Trust for a minimal amount.[1] Anastrepta orcadensis, a liverwort also known as Orkney Notchwort, was first discovered on Ward Hill by William Jackson Hooker in 1808.[2][3]

Picture gallery


  1. Haswell-Smith, Hamish (1996). The Scottish Islands. Canongate. p. 283. ISBN 0 86241 579 9. 
  2. "Bryology (mosses, liverworts and hornworts)" Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Retrieved 15 May 2008.
  3. "West Highland Mosses And Problems They Suggest" (January 1907) Annals Of Scottish Natural History 61 p. 46. Edinburgh. Retrieved 11 June 2008.

Outside links

Islands of Orkney

Inhabited islands:
Mainland  •
Auskerry  • Burray  • Eday  • Egilsay  • Flotta  • Gairsay  • Graemsay  • Hoy  • North Ronaldsay  • Papa Stronsay  • Papa Westray  • Rousay  • Sanday  • Shapinsay  • South Ronaldsay  • South Walls  • Stronsay  • Westray  • Wyre

Other islands:
Eynhallow  •
Helliar Holm  • Lamb Holm  • Switha  • Swona