Pilgrimage along St Magnus Way, Orkney

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.

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 guide will share local tradition, folk stories and read from Orkney literature.

Leg 1: Egilsay

Leg 1: 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.

Brough of Bisay Chapel

Leg 2: Birsay

Leg 2 of our journey takes us to Magnus’s home 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.

Leg 3 Dounby to Finstown

Leg 3: Dounby to Finstown

Leg 3 Dounby to Finstown is a pleasant walk through gentle agricultural landscapes. We stop by the lochside for a cup of tea at the Merkister Hotel.

Leg 4 Orphir to St Magnus Cathedral

Leg 4 Finstown - Orphir - St Magnus Cathedral

Leg 4: The last day of our journey starts from Finstown and goes 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. At the end, we take the bus to Kirkwall and walk the last stretch from Scapa Beach to the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral where our journey comes to an end.