Local News

Another Step on the St Magnus Way: Guidebook Launched

By Mike Robertson

the logo of St Magnus way a cross on a wavy line

The addition of the St Magnus Way Guidebook is another step in steady improvement of the St Magnus Way since its beginning in 2015.  It accompanies the website where you can plan your route and the smartphone app which can use while following your plan. Over the years the St Magnus Way has developed into a significant tourist attraction appreciated by locals and visitors alike.  And it’s not just for feet,  there is also a cycle route.  (More on cycling later.)   The guidebook covers all aspects of enjoying St Magnus Way including accommodation, public transport and local amenities.

The Birsay Hall impressed with its huge kitchen, comfortable committee room and particularly the good sized hall with comfortable chairs.  A great choice to launch the new St Magnus Way guidebook being at roughly the half-way point of the cycle tour (I’m coming to the cycling).  The event featured the author, David Mazza, the publisher, Jacquetta Megarry and a patron, the Lord Lieutenant of Orkney, Elaine Grieve in the capacity of chair of the council of the Society of Friends of St Magnus Cathedral.  All calmly orchestrated by the St Magnus Way leader, Stuart Little.

Elaine Grieve holding the St Manugs Way Guidebook

Elaine started things off by explaining the purpose of the Friends of St Magnus was not just to preserve and improve the cathedral but to educate people about the building and St Magnus.

Image © Mike Robertson

What they heard about the St Magnus Way was an education about the final journey of St Magnus and a pilgrimage culminating at the cathedral it was an obvious project for them to assist.

Images of David Mazza and Jacquetta Megarry © Mike Robertson

Jacquetta took everybody by surprised by trying to break the back of the new guidebook and spraying it with water to prove it was, in fact rugged and rainproof.  She also managed to prove David Mazza was rainproof into the bargain!  She was inspired to start her publishing company, Rucksack Readers while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 1999 after being disappointed by the quality of other walking guides in Britain.  They now publish 27 guides to walks across Britain and others in Ireland and the world.  Jacquetta finished by praising the author David  Mazza who was writing his first guidebook and coped admirably with Jacquetta as a perfectionist and slave-driver.

David with his wife, Rose, had only walked the St Magnus Way about 2 years previously.  They had been surprised how much they were affected by the idea of a pilgrimage and the different themes of the route sections.  They had learned a lot from the website and the accompanying app which gave them much to think and talk about.  Having completed the walk at the magnificent cathedral they decided more people should know about this.  So, emailed Stuart to thank the St Magnus Way Trustees for setting it up and somehow, and he still doesn’t quite know how this happened, he ended up writing the guidebook.  This led him to Rucksack Readers who were a great driving force to get things done.

A big feather in the St Magnus Way cap is that it is the first pilgrim route in Scotland to be accredited with the gold standard by the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum.  The formal announcement of this is to be made at their AGM in September.  

Orkney cycling club lined up outside the Birsay community Hall
© Pete Bentley

Now, about those cyclists!  Last year the Orkney Cycle Club helped to launch the cycle route for St Magnus Way and enjoyed it so much they asked if they could make it an annual event.    So this year they left from the Cathedral and divided into two groups to take different routes around the West Mainland to Birsay.  There was also bicycles to try out including an amazing three-wheeler that you rode lying down.  After the presentations a family bike run from the Birsay Hall took the participants to  the RSPB reserve at Loons where they had a packed lunch and watched some birds before returning to the hall.

The family cyclists of all ages are sitting at the RSPB special listening curved wall at The Loons
© Stuart Little

The guidebook and the gold accreditation being two more big steps forward in the life of the St Magnus way.   It is already attracting visitors from all over the world and these steps will no doubt enhance that further.

St Magnus Way Website: https://www.stmagnusway.co.uk

Video about the new guidebook: https://youtu.be/AzTn5l8w5-s

Leave a Reply