SPA description
(information as published 2001)


image: SPA location map 


Hoy is one of the most southerly of the major islands of the Orkney archipelago in northern Scotland. The Hoy SPA covers the northern and western two-thirds of the island, which is formed of Old Red Sandstone and contains Orkney's highest hills. Most of the island is moorland, drained by numerous streams with diverse vegetation. The site supports an extremely diverse mixture of mire, heath and alpine vegetation, and also Britain's most northerly native woodland. The highly exposed nature of the vegetation results in an arctic-alpine character to the summit of Ward Hill at only 479 m. The low intensity of burning and grazing on Hoy has allowed scrub regeneration to a much greater extent than on most British moorlands. On the west coast, Old Red Sandstone cliffs reach 339 m in height and include a number of notable stacks and crags. These cliffs provide important breeding sites for a number of seabird species, especially gulls and auks, whilst moorland areas support large numbers of breeding birds, in particular Great Skua Catharacta skua. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata nest on the numerous small lochans found on the moorland. The divers and seabirds feed in the rich waters around Hoy, outside the SPA. 


Qualifying species

For individual species accounts visit the Species Accounts section

This site qualifies under Article 4.1 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive:
During the breeding season;
Peregrine Falco peregrinus, 6 pairs representing at least 0.5% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Mid-1990s)
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata, 56 pairs representing at least 6.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (1994 National Survey)
This site also qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following migratory species:
During the breeding season;
Great Skua Catharacta skua, 1,900 pairs representing at least 14.0% of the breeding World population (Seabird Census Register)
Assemblage qualification: A seabird assemblage of international importance
The area qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by regularly supporting at least 20,000 seabirds
During the breeding season, the area regularly supports 120,000 individual seabirds including: Puffin Fratercula arctica, Guillemot Uria aalge, Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla, Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus, Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus, Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis, Great Skua Catharacta skua.


Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.
Note that sites selected for waterbird species on the basis of their occurrence in the breeding, passage or winter periods also provide legal protection for these species when they occur at other times of the year.