Saints Journeys: Orkney St. Magnus Sites.

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This journey takes in three sites on two different isles associated with the patron Saint of Orkney, St. Magnus.

Sites to be Visited

St. Magnus Church (Egilsay)
St. Magnus Church (Birsay)
St. Magnus Cathedral

Journey to Orkney's St. Magnus Sites - Day 1: Egilsay

Prior to Leaving Kirkwall, the traveller needs to find out the times of the Orkney Ferry to Egilsay. The Orkney Ferry offices are located in Kirkwall on Shore Street.

This two-day journey visits three sites. Starting in Orkney's largest town, Kirkwall, our base for this journey located at NGR HY449109, drive to the Orkney Ferries port of Tingwall, located 13.1 miles (21.1km) away at NGR HY4022. Board the ferry for the isle of Egilsay. As our destination is walkable, there is no need to bring a car to Egilsay. Detailed Driving Directions Map.

Once the ferry lands on Egilsay, it is a short walk to St. Magnus Church. Egilsay was the place where Earl Magnus Erlendsson (later St. Magnus) was killed in 1117 A.D. by an axe blow to the head from his cousin and rival. St. Magnus Church on Egilsay is unique in Orkney and in Scotland as a whole in that it has a highly unusual, for Scotland, round tower attached to the structure. It is located at NGR HY4660930393.

Before leaving Egilsay, visit the memorial erected to mark the spot where St. Magnus was martyred on Egilsay. It is a short distance from the church. According to the Egilsay Community Association, "In 1938 a Cairn was built of local stone on Egilsay. It stands 12 feet high and is 6 feet broad at its base. The memorial was dedicated on 7th September 1938 and a bronze inscription on the monument reads, 'erected by the Rector and Congregation of St. Magnus the Martyr by London Bridge and the Minister and Congregation of St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall to commemorate the traditional spot where Earl Magnus was slain, AD circa 1116 and to commemorate the Octocentenary of St Magnus Cathedral 1937'."

Return to Kirkwall via the same route from Tingwall Ferry Port.

Journey to Orkney's St. Magnus Sites - Day 2: Orkney Mainland The next site is St. Magnus Church in the small village of Birsay, located 19.7 (31.7 km) away at NGR HY248277. Built in 1064 A.D., the site is the location where, after Earl Magnus was killed on Egilsay on the orders of his cousin, Earl Hakon, his body was brought for burial. Magnus was canonized in 1135 A.D. In 1137, his remains were transferred to the St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, newly built to celebrate Magnus' sainthood by his nephew Earl Rognvald. Detailed Driving Directions Map.

Return to Kirkwall to visit the last site on this journey, St. Magnus Cathedral, located at NGR HY4488710914, the most northerly cathedral in the U.K. When completed, St Magnus's remains were brought from Birsay and interred in a column. After his death and subsequent sainthood, St Rognvald, too, was also interred here.

Visitors Information

General tourist information may be found at the Orkney.Com website.


As of the date of this posting, road directions and conditions are correct. Please check local road conditions, however, for possible changes prior to venturing forth on this journey. A helpful resource for road changes and possible trip interruptions if you are travelling in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland is the AA-UK Route Planner. Another map source that this website uses and that may be useful to you on your journeys is Streetmap UK.

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