Over fifty walkers turned out in the midst of rain showers to open the penultimate section of the St Magnus Way. Forty six completed the whole route from Firth Kirk to Orphir Kirk, via Cuween, Lyradale, Naversdale, with another nine joining for shorter parts.

The day began with a fine pair of talks from Sarah Jane Gibbon on Hakon and Fran Frett Hollinrake on Rognald. And the complexity and interest of their characters and environment was brought to life.

It was soon time to set off and it quickly became clear that the weather was wetter than forecast. Coming across Cuween could only be described as air drops – discrete pockets of air in a midst a sheet of water. But spirits were undampened and conditions improved to give views of Damsay and the Bay of Firth, Scapa Flow and the lochs of Harray and Stenness.

The accidental murder at Oback of the only Orcadian killed at the battle of Summersdale in 1529 was contrasted with the intentional murder of Svein Breast-Rope by Svein Asleifson. Asleifson fled in the opposite direction to our route, from Orphir to the island of Damsay. This gave plenty of historical fodder for the theme of forgiveness which was explored in a series of reflections along the route.

Another heavy shower greeted us in Orphir and the extent of the damage from flooding the previous day at the Bu was clear to see – the bridge over the burn is in urgent need of repair, having had one foundation nearly washed away by the force of the water. The skies cleared again as we heard of Hakon’s pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem, standing in the circle of the Round Kirk it is likely he built on his return. Perhaps in a hundred years, others will gather to celebrate the first century of the St Magnus Way – time certainly seemed to telescope as the past came to life to inform our present.

The day finished in celebration as Orphir Kirk had the kettles on and a welcome spread to greet some tired legs. The bunting that was a gift from Evie Kirk was out again, and will be kept at Orphir until the launch of the last leg to Kirkwall on the 7th September as the opening event of the Orkney Science Festival. Tickets for breakfast and a talk by travel writer Christopher Somerville are available now from www.oisf.org or 01343 540844.

Published on August 23rd 2017

This project is being part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014 – 2020 Programme

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