If you really want to enjoy the great outdoors in Orkney then tackling the first multi-stage walking route in the islands might be just the thing for you.
The St Magnus Way, a 55-mile pilgrimage trail, features six separate stages, taking in spectacular cliffs, rolling farmland, bustling villages and the serene coastline of Scapa Flow.
The Way was put together as part of Orkney’s ‘Magnus 900’ commemorations in 2017. It marked the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of Magnus, the patron saint of the islands. The route follows part of the journey his body was taken on following his death in the island of Egilsay. It also takes in other sites that play a major part in the St Magnus story.
The route is waymarked and the excellent St Magnus Way website has a wealth of information on each section, including history, audio guides and imagery. There is even an app for your smartphone to help you en-route.
It’s a perfect opportunity to see some of Orkney’s beautiful sites and countryside. It’s also a chance to reflect, with nothing but awe-inspiring scenery and fresh, island air around you.
Take a look at some of our St Magnus Way highlights below before tackling the route yourself.
The St Magnus Way begins with an island hop to Egilsay. Magnus was martyred here and the short, easy route visits the three main historical sites - the Magnus memorial, beach and St Magnus Kirk. Depending on the ferry times, you can spend some time at the beautiful RSPB reserve here, or visit some of the amazing archaeology in neighbouring Rousay to round off your day.
This is a spectaclar section of the St Magnus Way. The route starts at the Iron Age Broch of Gurness and takes in the beautiful Sands of Evie, before heading up Costa Head to some of Orkney's most dramatic coastline. The route ends at the tidal island of the Brough of Birsay. Expect sea-stacks, seabirds and stunning views out over the Atlantic Ocean.
This section takes you into the village of Palace, past the remains of the Earl's Palace and to the St Magnus Church. The inland walk winds its way through some of Orkney's finest farmland, close to Kirbuster Museum, before coming to a an end in the village of Dounby.
This part of the St Magnus Way offers a rare woodland experience in Orkney. Binscarth is found at the end of section four after passing through farmland and over the banks of two local lochs, Harray and Wasdale.
The penultimate part of the St Magnus Way leads you back towards the sea, heading south from Finstown over the hills towards Orphir. En-route you'll pass the Neolithic chambered cairn at Cuween before taking in the view of Scapa Flow. You final destination is the fascinating Round Kirk - thought to have been built by Earl Hakon, the man responsible for the martydrom of Magnus - and the Earl's Bu, the remains of a Norse drinking hall.
This is one of our favourite stretches of the St Magnus Way. Follow the shoreline of Scapa Flow from the beautiful beach at Waulkmill, through the RSPB reserve at Hobbister, and onwards to Scapa beach. A short, flat walk takes you into Kirkwall before your journey ends at the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral.