What I took with me
I walked the St Magnus Way on Orkney between 21st and 30th May 2018. Below, you can find links to all the other blogs in this series (introduction, transport, accommodation, resources etc). The overall walk is 55 miles (88.5 kms) long and I trekked it over 5 days which included a visit to the island of Egilsay where St Magnus was said to have been murdered and, initially buried.
There is a companion blog post here: What to pack in your rucksack. That is a list for Spain (and elsewhere on mainland Europe).
Each time I leave for a walk, I make a rather last, last-minute trip for necessaries, and this time was no exception. I purchased a blow-up-itself mattress (an orange one, I am very fond of it), a one-person tent (although I do not know how a large man could possibly fit in), an Ordnance Survey map of Orkney (also orange), a solid fuel stove and blocks to put in it.
This is what I took with me:
- Walking boots (the Austrian ones are still going strong (thanks to S) and walking sandals (thanks to Alice) with plasters
- Rucksack, bum bag (also known as a fanny bag), hard wearing John Lewis carrier bag, my coquille Saint Jaques shell to show I had walked the Spanish Camino
- Baton or walking stick to steady myself when tottering on the edge of cliffs or falling down holes!
- Tent (I didn’t take a mallet and was OK with stones and my hands to push in the tent pins), sleeping bag, ground mat, said orange mat which luckily had a repair kit, saucepan (see photo below), 2 water bottles, stove frame and blocks
- Matches (see below), spork, camping knife, cup (plastic ones are light but be careful if you have it tied to the outside of the rucksack and then repeatedly thrown that rucksack over barbed wire fences as it will break. It can, however, be replaced by a lovely new red one at Baikies Stores in Finstown), blow-up neck cushion
- Passport (I took it just in case. In fact I didn’t need it – but who knows for how long?), bank card, money
- Travel towel (a quick-dry one) and by a stroke of luck also a travel flannel which I popped in at the last minute not knowing why. It transpired that it was invaluable for drying the tent (wet from dew or rain) before packing it up
- Knickers x 2, bra x 2, quick-dry trousers that can be made into shorts x 1, quick-dry walking T-shirt, vest top, blouse (a long sleeved cotton top to protect from the sun made of light material for the evenings and to be used for layers of warmth), one pair of light trousers with elasticated waist and butterflies on them (bought in Seville with J – I love them, but my daughter says they look like pyjamas), leggings x 1,socks x 2 pairs plus 1 single double-layered one (the other one disappeared from the drying rack in Salamanca).
I needed it: When I dropped one of my pair of walking socks down the loo on day 4 in Orkney, I realised why I had packed that one double-layered sock. It seemed such a silly thing to take, but that was because I couldn’t see into the future. Or did I in fact know? Was this in fact, as the Quantum physicists are discovering, an example of time being in layers rather than linear?
- Hoodie (fleece), 3 hats (1 for sleeping, 1 for warm weather and another for the sun), scarf (for warming, as a pillow, to sit on etc), gloves
- I used my phone torch and of course, being May, it was very bright until late at night
- Needle and thread for blisters and mending, pegs for hanging wet things on guylines
- Soap for washing clothes and self, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, disposable razor, foot cream, suntan lotion (also doubles as moisturiser), panty liners (they keep knickers cleaner if you cannot find a way to dry them after washing, but aren’t good for the environment)
- Rain trousers and jacket, rain cover for the rucksack
- Specs and sunglasses with cleaning cloth (and carrying case), phone, charger, wrist watch (which I did need because my phone kept running out of battery, but which I sadly lost on Egilsay), notebook and pens, reading material (not the Kindle this time due to the short length of the walk and being sure I would find a replacement to the book I took with me en route and finished part way through. In fact there aren’t any bookshops outside Stromness or Kirkwall as far as I could tell, though see Betty’s Reading Room)
- Ordnance survey map 463 (doesn’t include Kirkwall). See the Finding Your Way section
What was lent to me while I was there – thank you Kiersty:
- Thermal vest and long-sleeved top (M&S underwear)
- One of those bright, neon-yellow jerkins for being seen in the dark. I used it once. I needed it in Spain in April when the weather was dreadful and I was walking beside the road in the weak daylight and during thunderstorms – which could happen on Orkney of course too, but thankfully didn’t
Bought on the island:
- Antiseptic cream (the accident happened on the first day of walking), mini vaseline (Orkney is windy and my lips got dry with that and the sun), newspaper (inspiring to read, useful for sitting on and soaking up the wetness if it rains), food and water, more plasters
What I wished I had taken in retrospect (always a glorious thing):
- There were two particularly important things: a warmer sleeping bag (it gets really cold at night, even when the day-time temperature is very warm); and I definitely should have printed off the route descriptions and maps for each day before I left home instead of relying on my phone which once again let me down – do not depend on technology!
- a winter jacket; a light cardigan
- a lighter instead of matches because they got wet and so I could not have my morning tea that day; a head torch (which I could not find before I left, but did immediately on my return – isn’t it always like that?
- hot water bottle (there are kettles at the campsites), thermal underwear
- maybe a silk sheet to go inside the sleeping bag – I have never used one, but I imagine it would make it much warmer
- a pair of earings, although in fact I found the 2 which I picked up in a hostel in Spain in April which were still in my bag! Not, of course absolutely necessary, just a nod to some sort of self-decoration
- A compass. I got a new one for my birthday so that will be in my luggage from now on, whichever direction I go in!
Washing and drying:
- It was not warm enough to dry things outside most of the time and because the route is not long I admit that I didn’t wash my clothes. You will be glad to hear, however, that I did go to some trouble to clean myself in washrooms and public toilet facilities all around the island. This meant that I frequently entered a cafe in walking gear with my carrier bag, ordered a cup of tea, sought out their (toilet), and emerged 10 minutes later dressed differently! I expect there are launderettes in some places, but in order to wash in a machine you either need to take more clothes with you, or you have to wash and immediately dry one set at a time which is not practical, or go naked while they wash and dry….
What I didn’t need:
- The washing line. I did use it to tie up various things, but it was too long
- The extra mobile phone because it had a Spanish SIM card in it!
- Passport (see above)
- The extra water bottle (It is not necessary to have two if you are careful to fill up whenever possible)
Credential: All the Spanish Caminos provide a credential. This is a card which is stamped at every stop. By the end you have a record of where you have been and proof that you have been there (which in the case of Spain means you can get a compostella (certificate) in Santiago). It would be nice to have a similar thing in Orkney.
The shell: I was pleasantly surprised to find that, on presentation at the cathedral in Kirkwall, I was given a similar shell with a St Magnus Way sticker on it (warning: look after it carefully so that the sticker doesn’t come off).
The St Magnus Way website: The St M Way team have set up bluetooth sites and launched an app with all sorts of good things on it. Unfortunately neither were available when I was there, but they have since been reinstated. You can download and use many of the resources offline (ie when you don’t have a wifi signal).
Resources – what I took with me