Pilgrimage to Egilsay

Pilgrimage to Egilsay

Egilsay is a small, sparsely populated island in Orkney, where the people seem to be heavily outnumbered by the horse-flies. There are a few small farms which face an uncertain future as Brexit threatens the EU farming subsidies they depend on for survival. Part of Egilsay is a protected habitat for the Corncrake, and this has also received EU funding.

It was on Egilsay that the peaceful, kind Magnus Erlendsson was murdered by his violent cousin Haakon Paulsson in a power struggle over the Earldom of Orkney. Magnus was killed around 1116AD, and canonised in 1136AD – a short turnaround for sainthood. St Magnus Church was built in his honour sometime in the 12th Century, possibly on the site of an older church. With a distinctive round tower, it is the dominant landmark on Egilsay.

An obelisk marks the site of Magnus’ execution, on a grassy sward not far from the church which was supposedly a barren landscape before his death. It is surrounded by fields of nesting birds. Signposts bearing the symbol of the St. Magnus Way mark access. The majority of pilgrims have four legs.

Further reading:

Threat to Scottish Farming as the UK Government is Set to Take Back Control, via the Orkney News

The St. Magnus way website

Selected photo prints are for sale. Visit the online store here: https://martinlaird.scot/store/.