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Charity Pilgrimage on St Magnus Way

March 30, 2019 @ 8:00 am - April 3, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

Birsay whalebone and Brough of Birsay

An Orkney pilgrimage

On Easter Monday, probably in the year 1117, the earl of Orkney, Magnus Erlendsson, was murdered on his cousin’s orders.

Magnus became Orkney’s eternal earl, enshrined in the magnificent Saint Magnus Cathedral. And astonishingly, his remains are still there, now safely hidden inside a pillar.

The pilgrimage is open to people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Emphasis will be on enjoying nature, history, literature and on contemplation and reflection.

In the footsteps of Saint Magnus

We follow the pilgrimage route, the Saint Magnus Way, from the tiny island of Egilsay where Magnus was martyred, along the stunning coast to Birsay where the first miracles happened at his initial burial place. We drink from the sacred Manswell.

Our next days take us along the route where the relics of Saint Magnus were carried on their way to a new home in the 12th century Saint Magnus Cathedral.

Along the way, we take time to enjoy nature and wildlife, and each other’s company, and reflect on what it means to be a modern day pilgrim. Your Orkney Green Badge guide and expert on Norse history, Ragnhild Ljosland, will share local tradition, folk stories and read from Orkney literature.

Charity pilgrimage 2019

This event is a free charity pilgrimage. That means I will not charge anything as the guide, but you are responsible for paying for your own transport. I am putting on this event because I would like us all to raise money for the St Magnus Way plus a charity of your own choice that means something to you.

Practical information

The pilgrimage is 4 days long, but spread over five days Saturday to Wednesday with a free day on the Sunday.

We will not spend the night anywhere along the way – The transport outlined below is based on the assumption that we are starting from and coming back to Kirkwall each day. You may of course stay elsewhere in Orkney, but I trust you to organise your own transport from there in that case.

Day 1: Saturday 30 March – Egilsay

Leg 1 of our pilgrimage takes us by ferry to the little island of Egilsay, where Magnus was martyred. We learn about what happened according to Orkneyinga Saga, visit the site of the action and the Norse harbour on the island.

Transport: The buses are infrequent in the morning (Bus 6 departs Kirkwall 06.55 am). However, I have arranged an 8 seater taxi from Garry’s Taxi Service. Garry is sponsoring us by giving us a good deal, so the cost will be £3.20 per person. We will depart Kirkwall Travel Centre at 8.00 am. If you want a seat reserved for you in the taxi, let me know.

We will then take the ferry from Tingwall to Rousay. You are responsible for booking yourself on as a foot passenger and paying for your own ferry ticket. Phone Orkney Ferries on 01856 872044

The ferry leaves from Tingwall at 08.40 am and returns to Tingwall at 14.40 pm.

There is then a bus which meets the ferry and takes us back to Kirkwall for arrival at 15.05 pm where our day ends.

St Magnus Church, Egilsay. This is the small island where Saint Magnus was martyred at Easter, 1117.

St Magnus Church, Egilsay. This is the small island where Saint Magnus was martyred at Easter, 1117.

Day 2: Sunday 31st March – Free time

We are not walking on Sunday due to the lack of buses. However, you may like to visit the St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

Day 3: Monday 1st April – Evie to Birsay.

Leg 2 of our journey takes us to Magnus’s home and first burial place in Birsay. Along the way we encounter stunning scenery and wildlife. (Clifftops – this day is not for you if you are scared of heights.) We visit the Norse archaeological remains of longhouses, monastic buildings and chapel on the tidal island Brough of Birsay. We drink from St Magnus’s holy spring.

Transport: Bus 6 departs from Kirkwall Travel Centre at 09.37 am for Newton Road End.

We walk through the stunning landscape from there to the Point of Buckquoy in Birsay, aiming to arrive around 2 o’clock. Please bring a packed lunch and drink.

From there, we go across to the tidal island Brough of Birsay while the tide is at its lowest, to see the Norse archaeological remains and hear stories from the Orkneyinga Saga about what happened here.

We then have a break in Palace Village, enjoying a hot cup of tea and lovely views at Birsay Bay Tearoom before having a look at the village, the St Magnus parish church, and a drink from Manswell: St Magnus’s holy spring.

Bus 6 departs from Birsay Palace at 18.00 and arrives back in Kirkwall at 18.50 pm.

This is the longest day and the longest walk of our pilgrimage, so please make sure you have enough food and drink and suitable clothes.

Brough of Birsay, Orkney. Birsay was the administrative centre of Thorfinn the Mighty's Earldom of Orkney in the 11th century.

Brough of Birsay, Orkney. Birsay was the administrative centre of Thorfinn the Mighty’s Earldom of Orkney in the 11th century.

Day 4: Tuesday 2nd April – Dounby to Finstown.

We are skipping a stretch between Birsay and Dounby because I don’t feel comfortable with guiding a group along the busy main road there. Instead, we will pick up the pilgrimage route from Dounby and go  on a pleasant walk through gentle agricultural landscapes. We stop by the lochside for a cup of tea at the Merkister Hotel.

Transport: There are no buses to Dounby in the morning, so Garry’s Taxi Service is again coming to our rescue. Let me know if you want to reserve a seat in the 8-seater. It is £3.20 per person. The taxi will leave Kirkwall Travel Centre at 9.30 am.

We end our walk in Finstown, where we can catch the X1 bus service to Kirkwall. Depending on how fast we walk and how long we stop at Merkister Hotel, we may catch the bus at 14.55 or 15.55 pm.

St Magnus Pilgrim

St Magnus Pilgrim

Day 5: Wednesday 3rd April – Finstown to Orphir + Scapa to St Magnus Cathedral

On the last day of our pilgrimage, we pick up the trail in Finstown where we left off. The pilgrimage route then takes us over the hills to Orphir, where we visit the remains of the Earl’s Bu and 12th century Round Church. Home of Hakon, St Magnus’s cousin who ordered his murder, this day is about repentance, remorse and forgiveness. In the afternoon, we skip a stretch of main road by taking the bus from Orphir village to Kirkwall. We will then walk the last stretch from Scapa Beach to the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral where our journey comes to an end.

Transport: Bus service X1 departs Kirkwall Travel Centre at 09.35 for Finstown.

We expect to arrive at The Earl’s Bu and Round Kirk in Orphir around 13.30 pm. Please bring a packed lunch, drink and suitable clothing. In Orphir, we will visit the Orkneyinga Saga Centre, have a look at the Norse archaeological remains, and enjoy storytelling, before returning to Orphir village.

The bus leaves Orphir village at 15.17 pm and will drop us off near Scapa Beach around 15.30. From there, we have an hour’s walk in to Kirkwall and St Magnus Cathedral – the culmination of our pilgrimage. The cathedral is open until 18.00 pm.

There are more detailed route descriptions on the St Magnus Way website.

Beautiful red and yellow sandstone and old hinges, St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. Pilgrimage on St Magnus Way

Beautiful red and yellow sandstone and old hinges, St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. Pilgrimage on St Magnus Way



March 30, 2019 @ 8:00 am
April 3, 2019 @ 6:00 pm
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