Hobbister to Scapa – Or Maybe Not

By Bernie Bell

Pics by B&M Bell

We’ve walked at the RSPB Hobbister Reserve many times.

But, as explained here….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/03/24/following-the-arrers-at-obbister/ , we always head to the right, in the general direction of Waulkmill Bay. 

We have noticed a sign post for the St. Magnus Way heading left towards Scapa, and thought we‘d try that sometime.


It was a lovely, sunny Sunday – though very windy – well, it is March in Orkney!  We decided to  try the left-hand path for a change.  Starting on the walk, you’ll come to a ‘Y’ junction where the track to the left looks more promising as it’s wider and is surfaced, but the path to the right, though muddy and rutted, is the actual start of the walk.

Bear in mind my mentioning the ‘better’ path – it turned out to be a God-send later.

The next signs to look out for are two posts close  together – one which points the way, and one which shows that it’s The St.  Magnus Way……………

You now follow a path which takes you across two very good, not-too-difficult to get over stiles….

I’m afraid it also takes you across land which has quite a lot of  gullies running down it.  Fine if you are hale & hearty – a trial if you have a bad back and a tendency to be a bit wobbly on your pins.

I persevered and was rewarded when, after crossing a small section of boardwalk over the Burn of Vam  and turning round, we saw two sycamore trees growing up from the gully, and a little mossy waterfall and pool – a magicy place…

In a tree-less landscape, these two sycamores were a fine sight, as were the views all around….

The path then pretty much disappeared and the walk turned into a ‘yomp’ across the heather from one St. M’s post to the next. They are visible, and do mark the way, but the way became too much for me.  We got to a point where we could see the posts leading us round the edge of the hill, and the view ahead …

I realised I couldn’t manage it, so we turned back  the way we had come until we reached a point at which we could cut across onto the wider, surfaced track we had seen at the beginning of the walk, guided by a view across to Keelylang Hill with it masts…

This track is easy walking, so – back to the car where we sat, out of the wind, with a fine view of the Orphir Hills…..

….eating egg mayonnaise rolls made with eggs from our neighbour’s chickens, and the first snipping’s this year from the chives in our garden.

We didn’t manage Hobbister to Scapa – if you’re a strong,  striding sorta person, it would be a good walk – otherwise, it’s heavy going and the way isn’t clear enough for someone who likes a path to follow.  Hmmmm – could relate that concept to the Magnus Way itself….

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