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The Needle, Hoy
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The Needle, Hoy

The Needle, Hoy - Orkney's second tallest rock-stack, probably about 300 ft. Unfamiliar, rarely seen in photos. With binoculars, you can usually just make it out on a routine 'Hamnavoe' ferry crossing, but it tends to be lost against the cliffs behind.
I shot the original of this poor-quality picture from Berry Head, September 1988 (lying flat with my wife hanging on to my ankles). Twenty-one years on, I don't think I'll be trying it again. Someone out there will have a better shot, perhaps taken from a boat below the cliffs.
Picture added on 03 October 2009 at 18:51
The more I look at this pic the more ashamed I am of its quality, and its obvious signs of manipulation - mercilessly exposed by the inordinate image-size on screen. Somebody submit a better one, quick! If you must look at mine, try zooming out on it to 50% or so. Small is, if not actually beautiful, at least not so ugly.
Added by Ian Hourston on 07 October 2009
Please don’t worry about the quality of this photo.
Just showing us that this stack exists is wonderful.
When I come home next summer I’ll be scanning the cliffs to try and see it as I have never ever in all my life (54 years) seen this stack.
Where is it from Rackwick please?
Thank you.
Added by Barbara on 09 October 2009
When I was at school I was told that a gent called Will Johnston climbed the stack and left his pocket knife on the top, probably had a premonition that it would become illegal to carry one in a hundred years.
Added by Stewart Taylor on 09 October 2009
Thanks for your kind remarks Barbara. The Needle is quite a distance from Rackwick - about 6 miles as the crow flies, over challenging terrain. The easiest way to get to it is to walk west from Melsetter towards the south slope of The Berry hill and then on to the coast, less than 2 miles in all, and not particularly hard going. The stack is very close to the cliff, which is what makes it hard to see. From the northbound ferry, you have to start looking out for it very soon after coming abeam of the southwest extremity of Hoy (Tor Ness), but as I said, it's quite hard to make out, even with good binoculars on a clear day.
Added by Ian Hourston on 09 October 2009
Stewart the story as I heard it was that the Johnston man (I think a relatave of your own ) climbed to the top and after going home found he had left his pipe lid at the top and said "Damn it I will have to go back!!"
A relitive o yirs widno tell a lie noo wid they !! Stewart!.
Added by John Budge on 09 October 2009
I went on to Google maps and I imagine I can see it or at least where it could be. Fingers crossed for a good clear day next summer when I’ll be crossing the Firth to come home for a blink. I do plan to go over to Hoy so I now know where I’ll be heading. Would you be willing to act as a guide? Happy 79th birthday when it comes around!
Added by Barbara on 10 October 2009
I thought it was your grandfather Big Geordie who climbed it Stewart and left his knife and pipe on the top. I do not remember him, but he was an exceedingly strong man, with nerves of steel.
Added by Fred Johnston on 10 October 2009
Hello again Barbara. (Must stop meeting like this - people will talk.) Don't know if the old legs would relish the exercise, but you could contact me next summer and find out. Perhaps you could do the ankle-holding bit? Failing me, I'm sure plenty of others would oblige - and with a decent map you don't really need a guide (though a companion is always wise from the safety angle).
Cheers. Ian
Added by Ian Hourston on 12 October 2009
Must have left his wallet there as well.
Added by Stewart Taylor on 12 October 2009
If still interested have a look at www.orkney-seastacks.co.uk/needle.htm for additional info. Too scarey for me!
Added by Stuart A on 01 November 2010
Set out with my son to walk to the Needle from Melsetter Farm this afternoon, as part of a day visit (11.00 - 16.40) to Hoy, which included Rackwick in the morning, the Interpretation Centre and the RN Cemetery. Unfortunately I overestimated the ability of my 82-yr-old legs to cover the ground in the time available and we had to turn back just before reaching the western coastline. So my visit of 25 years ago will almost certainly be my one and only. A pity, because the above photo badly needs an update. But at least we escaped the miserable downturn of the weather a little later.
My advice to others would be to give it twice as much time as you think you'll need, and do it before considering other attractions. Only snag - do it too early in the day and the rockstack will be in (probably deep) shadow and photography will be problematic.
Added by Ian Hourston on 30 August 2013
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