I don’t know why everyone is infected with this wanderlust, even sensible Mr Knightly. 1

Between 21 – 30 May 2018 I walked the St Magnus Way pilgrimage on Orkney (55 miles (88.5 kms) over 5 days), and made a visit to the Isle of Egilsay where St Magnus is supposed to have been murdered and initially buried.

I have written about each day’s visit or trek – the route highlights and difficulties; there are pages on the practicalities of getting there and back, accommodation and what I took with me (or wished I had or had not taken!), and there’s a section on how to find the path, and my final reflections on making pilgrimage. In a few days I will add the links to the list below.

map
The route which the St Magnus Way pilgrimage takes on Orkney, Scotland.

The St Magnus Way is a pilgrimage that was opened in 2017. It is not known how many backpackers have walked it since then, but it has been extremely popular with Orcadians, and attracted a great deal of press attention.

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The St Magnus Way sign, found along the route to indicate the path.

The path respects the traditions of Orkney’s medieval pilgrims and particularly of the Earl Magnus (c. 1080 – 1118), whose bones were supposed to have been taken around the mainland after he died. I visited the places associated with his history, death, and with Haakon who ordered his murder and got an incredible sense of the history and storytelling associated with these islands.

St Magnus, Earl of Orkney, was a man of extraordinary distinction, tall, with a fine, intelligent look about him. He was a man of strict virtue, successful in war, wise, eloquent, generous and magnanimous, open-handed with money, sound with advice and altogether the most popular of men.            

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My one-woman tent weighing 1.6 kilos, which I carried in my backpack.

I am a 54 year old woman and made the trip alone, travelling 294 miles (473 kms) from my home in Edinburgh. I like to offer Shiatsu in return for board and lodging, both as a way to get to know local people and to recognise their kindness. For 3 out of the 9 nights on the island I make this exchange, and the rest of the time I camped.

Starting with a trip to the tiny island of Egilsay, my journey encompassed the communities of Evie, Birsay, Dounby, Finstown, Orphir and Kirkwall, moving along stunning coasts and through isolated moorland.  I had adventures and learned some fantastic lessons along the way.

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RSPB beach, Egilsay, Orkney, Scotland.

Like the other pilgrimages and long-distance walks I have completed, I took the opportunity to think and reflect. Pilgrimage, by its very nature, raises some ‘big questions’ and allows me time to think about them.

‘To choose silence is to be quiet with intent.’ 3

Many of the resources on the St Magnus Way website were really useful. A book will be published soon, and I am sure it will be a valuable resource. I particularly enjoyed the focus topic for each day, and the initial selection and distribution of stones.

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The peaceful, wide open moorland spaces of The St Magnus Way, Orkney, Scotland.
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The harbour at Stromness, Scotland. I took the return ferry between Scrabster and here.

I would like to thank the following people for bed, board and friendship: Meg and Frank (Evie), Kiersty (Evie), and Ragnild, Christopher and the boys (Kirkwall). It was a pleasure to spend time with you all and I am most grateful for your hospitality.

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The spot where the young Magnus was slain.

The St Olav’s Way in Norway is also connected with Viking tales. It is much longer, but would be a good follow-up to this if you are interested in Norse tradition. St Olav’s Way blog

1 Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

 The Orkneyinga Saga, Chapter 45.

Choose Silence blog

Links:

Introduction

 

Transport – how I got there

Accommodation – where I stayed

Day 2 – Evie to Birsay

Day 3 – Birsay to Dounby

Day 4 – Dounby to Finstown

Day 5 – Finstown to Orphir

Day 6 – Orphir to Kirkwall

Resources – what I took with me

The Last Day

Resources – shops, cafes, pubs etc

Finding your way

Reflection

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