The launch begins with a free concert in the Milestone Kirk at 10am, introduced by Council Convenor Harvey Johnston and featuring excerpts from Dounby Community School’s production of Magnus and classical music from some of the Trondheim Soloists, who are in Orkney for the St Magnus International Festival.
Dounby School will then walk the first couple of miles of the route around North Bigging and anyone wishing a three mile walk is welcome to join them. Those walking the 10.5 miles to Finstown (route available here) will continue to Howaback and Conyar on the old Drover’s Track, then along the lochside and over to St Michael’s Kirk where the views afford a panorama of the route so far and the route to come. From there we journey past Howe to Refuge Corner, the Loch of Wasdale then through Binscarth Wood and on to Finstown, where refreshments will be available at Firth Kirk. The route is very gentle walking with few inclines and mostly on minor roads before the rare Orkney treat of a woodland walk through Binscarth.
The Mans Stone traditions are again explored by Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon who says:
“The route of the St Magnus Way is partly determined by a series of stones, locally called Mans or Mansie Stones that are said to have been raised as resting places for the body and shrine of Magnus as he was carried from his place of death to his first place of burial in Birsay and later when his shrine was moved from Birsay to Kirkwall. The stones set up to rest the shrine on were said to have been blessed with oil and thereafter considered sacred.
Ernest Marwick, the historian who first looked into these places wrote:
There may have been a time when pilgrims, following the processional route and praying at these stones, were a familiar sight.”
In Harray this gets more intriguing as there are traditions associated with a ‘high road’ past Nisthouse and Kingshouse and a ‘low road’ past Conyar. The relative merits of each are discussed in material developed by Dr Gibbon and pilgrims are invited to draw their own conclusions. This material is available on the website and smartphone app, which was part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014 – 2020 Programme.
David McNeish, Chair of Orkney Pilgrimage, said “We are delighted to be reaching past the halfway point with the St Magnus Way route and looking forward to another rich and varied walk through Orkney’s stunning landscape. Thanks are due to the landowners who have worked with us to ensure the route can be waymarked and we’re grateful to them for their co-operation. It’s especially good to be welcoming both professional musicians and primary children to help us celebrate this latest launch as it really is a pilgrimage route intended for all, young and old, visitor and local.”
As before, those wishing to lift share should meet at the Finstown Car Park beside the toilets by 9.30am, filling up cars to head to Milestone Kirk. Lift sharing back to Milestone from Finstown to pick up cars there will also be possible afterwards.