St Magnus’ Way – 51 miles – 5 days – Egilsey to St Magnus’ Cathedral. A pilgrimage route across mainland Orkney, inspired by the life and death of Magnus, Orkney’s patron saint. Orkney was formed by ancient glacial activity, and a typical landscape is flat with gentle hills leading you to the high cliffs of the west coast. You can see for miles around you and up to a huge sky wherever you are on the island.
The route follows the procession of Magnus’ body after his mother pleaded for it to be returned from Egilsay for a Christian burial in Birsay, as well as its later journey to Kirkwall Cathedral. The island of Egilsay marks the place where Magnus was martyred, and getting there by ferry, walking the pilgrimage route and getting back takes a day. The first stage of the continuous walking route, from Evie to Birsay, follows the journey of Magnus’s body via coastal routes with breathtaking views. ‘Mansie’ or Magnus Stones once marked where Magnus’s coffin had rested along the way. These stones provide the logic of the pilgrimage route as far as Finstown. Be warned, the coastal walking along this section can be affected by storms and tides- Orkney is subject to the full force of Atlantic weather! The Magnus Way website recommends planning extra days into your schedule in case of unpredictable weather one day to the next.
The second stage follows the journey of Magnus’s bones to Kirkwall Cathedral twenty years later. At Finstown the focus of the journey shifts to Magnus’s cousin, Hakon, who ordered Magnus’ death so that he could rule the Earlship. From the Round Kirk of Orphir (maybe inspired by Hakon’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem) the final leg to Kirkwall Cathedral follows the gentler coastal waters of Scapa Flow, the largest natural harbour in the northern hemisphere. Eventually, after the harbour, you reach the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral.
Remote route even on a remote island
Open sky and plains
Fruitful introversion almost guaranteed
Holy Places along route listed in our book Britain’s Pilgrim Places: Kirkwall; Egilsay.