Towering 1,571.5 feet (479 meters) above sea level on Hoy’s northeastern coastal fringe, Ward Hill is the tallest mountain in Orkney. Climb to the top of this hill for incredible views over the entire archipelago and stop to inspect the wildlife and historical sites found en route.
There are a number of ways to summit Ward Hill, but most visitors follow the circuit that begins at Moaness Pier. Allow about 4 to 5.5 hours to complete the trail, which stretches for 7.5 miles (12 kilometers). The path is not always well-marked, making it best suited for experienced hikers with some navigation skills.
Don’t miss the fascinating Dwarfie Stane, which is located near the beginning of the route. The only Neolithic rock-cut tomb in Britain, Dwarfie Stane dates back more than 5,000 years. Amazingly, this huge sandstone boulder was hollowed out using primitive tools, such as antlers and stones. Look for a stone slab on the tomb’s west side, which was once used to block its entrance.
The path up Ward Hill is covered in heather and is particularly lovely when it’s blooming in the autumn. Watch for guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes and other seabirds as you make the steep climb. You might also spot mountain hares. These can be identified by their coats, which are gray-white in spring and brown in summer. Try to spot skuas, a seabird known to breed near the hill’s summit.
You’ll know you’ve reached the summit when you see a large cairn as well as a survey pillar housed inside a circular stone shelter. Pause here to rest and admire the wonderful views. You can see virtually every island in Orkney here, as well as Duncansby and Dunnet Heads on the Scottish mainland.
To get here, take the ferry to Moaness Pier from Stromness. Follow the road inland from the pier, and take the first left after the café. In the summer, it’s also possible to take a bus to Dwarfie Stane and begin your climb from there. Challenge yourself to conquer Orkney’s highest peak.