3 January 2018

The Old Man of Hoy, a sea stack in Orkney

Posted by Callan Bentley

This prominent sea stack, on the west coast of the island of Hoy in the Orkney Islands, is “the Old Man of Hoy.” There are lots of Old Men in Scotland; some are pinnacles, and some are castles and some are sea stacks, and some of the sea stacks are Castles but not “old men“. Very confusing. I took these photos from a ferry boat deck, en route from Stromness in mainland Orkney to Scrabster on the Scottish mainland the summer before last.

The sea stack and the wave-cut cliffs behind it are made of Devonian-aged Old Red Sandstone, as further to the north at Yesnaby, though you can see a textural and geomorphic change at the base, which is apparently a “plinth” of basalt. As at Dore Holm in Shetland, you can see the influence of prominent bedding-perpendicular joint sets in controlling the shape of the sea stack.

The west coast of Hoy is likely subject to the same monster storm waves that chew into the western rocks of Orkney and Shetland, producing features like storm beaches and the bonkers Grind of the Navir. I wish I’d had more time to visit the Old Man of Hoy in person, up a bit closer than the ferry would allow, but better to have seen it from a distance than to never have seen it at all…