Rousay, Egilsay, Eynhallow & Wyre
Amidst the great tides of the Atlantic and the North Sea lies a group of islands that encompasses the unique heritage of Orkney. From the Stone Age to the present, the seas have brought to Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre a blend of peoples who have left a calendar of their lives for all to see. With over 166 sites of archaeological interest and an important crofting history, the three islands provide as rich a spectrum of settlement as can be found anywhere in Northern Europe. The approach by modern car ferry provides the visitor with a first and most impressive memory of the islands.
Rousay, the largest of the group is an unusually hilly island scarred by glacial terracing. It contains some of the richest and best preserved monuments in the North of Scotland and in the west the 'Great Ship of Death', as Midhowe has been called, lies along a famous route of cairns and brochs. They are freely open to the public, enabling the visitor to wander through 5000 years of history. The Trumland Orientation Centre/Visitors Centre and Waiting Room contains detailed information and interpretation of many ancient sites as well as natural history, modern and historical Rousay. Much of Rousay has been officially designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The northwest coast in particular has a range of exciting cliff formations as well as a rich variety of wild flowers. Special seaspray-covered soils harbour a wide range of plants.
The uninhabited island of Eynhallow with its twelfth century monastic settlement can be reached from Rousay by boat. It's an island of beauty, mystique and legend with spectacular tidal roosts on either side. An annual visit to the island goes out from Tingwall each summer for bird and archaeological based walks around the island.
The spearhead-shaped island of Wyre features strongly in Viking history, and according to the Orkneyinga Saga, Kolbein Hruga (the giant Cubbie Roo of legend) built the castle here about 1150 and it is the oldest dated square keep castle in Scotland. Close by the castle is the beautifully preserved St. Mary's Chapel which was founded either by Kolbein or his son Bjarni, Bishop of Orkney at the time.
Although only 5km long by 2km wide, the islandfigures prominently in Orkney's history and is dominated by the fine 12th century kirk. The Norse church of St Magnus in Egilsay stands silhouetted against the sky, a constant reminder of the Vikings and their heritage which still lives on in the farm and place names of the islands. Egilsay secured its place in history when in 1117 Earl Magnus met his cousin Earl Haakon to discuss peace terms. Haakon came with evil intent and had Magnus murdered.
Trumland Visitors Centre and Waiting Room - Exhibition on all aspects of this group of islands, with waiting room, toilets and picnic area. Just above the ferry terminal.
Trumland House - The Jacobean-style mansion of the then laird, General Sir Frederick William Traill-Burroughs, was designed by the architect David Bryce and finished in 1876. The house is privately owned and is undergoing some major restoration work at present. The recently restored grounds and gardens are open to the public from May to October (there is a small charge). There is public access to some parts of the house and as restoration work continues more of the house will become available to view.
R.S.P.B. Reserve - The reserve has a marked circular nature trail on the Trumland Reserve. Contact the warden in Egilsay for more info: 01856 821395
Taversoe Tuick - This unusual two-storied cairn is situated near the pier. On excavation several skeletons as well as cremations and a large amount of pottery was found.
Blackhammer Cairn - An easily accessible stalled cairn which was in use about 3000BC.
Knowe of Yarso Cairn - A stalled cairn in good condition. It contained the remains of at least 21 people, mostly in the inner chamber. The highest situated of the famous Orkney tombs with spectacular views over Eynhallow Sound and south towards the Orkney Mainland and Hoy.
Westness House - Historic Laird's House (17th century) Private House, not open to public.
Westness Walk - Described as the most important archaeological mile in Scotland it spans settlements from the first Stone Age settlers, the Pictish Iron Age, the Viking invaders, the period of the Earls and the troubled crofting times. There is a separate Rousay, Egilsay & Wyre walking guide leaflet that features the Westness Walk and is available locally.
Midhowe Broch & Cairn - A fine example of a fortified dwelling built during the Bronze / Iron Ages; the Stone Age cairn is the largest known of its kind and is protected by a modern building. It was occupied between the 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD. The finds from the site included items of Roman origin.
Quandale Viewpoint - A landscape frozen during the Clearances with traces of runrig farming and the ruins of Tofts, the oldest-known two-storied building in Orkney Loch.
Wasbister Loch - This attractive loch at the north side of the island is the site of two crannogs or Iron Age fortified settlements built on artificial islands.
Saviskaill Beach - A sheltered sandy beach with a nearby seal haul-out.
Green Gairsty - A rare example of the ancient earth dykes found across the islands.
Leean Viewpoint - Panoramic views from the hillside across to Westray and the Atlantic.
Faraclett Head Walk and Yetnasteen - This 4km excursion covers several different habitats and early settlements and offers some stunning views towards the outer isles.
Yetnasteen or Giants stone, is a large monolith which reputedly takes a drink in the loch each Hogmanay!
16. St Magnus Kirk - One of only two remaining examples of the distinctive round towered churches built by the Vikings. The unique tower is now 15m high and may derive from Irish influence but more probably from Northern European or Norwegian designs.
17. Martyrdom of St Magnus: Cenotaph - A cenotaph was erected in 1938 to mark the spot where Earl Magnus was murdered.
18. R.S.P.B. Reserve (Three Sections) - You may hear and possibly see the rare Corncrake and it’s well worth a visit in late Spring or summer for its wealth of breeding species such as Redshank and Skylark.
19. Loch of the Graand - A quiet place to watch waders and seals.
20. The Taing - Ideal viewing place for both Common and Grey seals. Arctic Tern, waders and Eider nest here in the summer and the Loch of the Taing can be good for migrating waders and waterfowl. It is also botanically rich with a diverse range of plants in a variety of habitats.
21. Cubbie Roo's Castle - The stronghold of the Viking chieftain (Kolbein Hruga) was built around the year 1150. The castle is one of the oldest and best preserved for its age in Scotland.
22. St Mary's Chapel - This beautifully preserved chapel founded by either Cubbie Roo or his son Bjarni (who was Bishop of Orkney) lies next to Cubbie Roo’s Castle and is also 12th century. It is a typical Romanesque chapel and would have served the Christian Norse family.
23. Wyre Heritage Centre - Exhibition about the life of Wyre, with photographs and memories of bygone years. Special selections on Cubbie Roo and Edwin Muir. Small craft area
24. The Bu - Home for a time of Edwin Muir (1887-1959), recognised as one of the great Scottish writers of the 20th century.
25. Monastery - Remains of a beautiful 12th century religious settlement.
26. The Lodge - Designed by the architect Lethaby this building is the base for a long-term research project studying Fulmar Petrels.
27. Monkerness - Three prehistoric houses.
Visit the Orkney Ferries website for a comprehensive list of the latest published island ferry timetables. Alternatively you can call the free Orkney Ferries travel hotline on +44 (0)800 011 3648 for up-to-date sailing information.
Download the Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre island guide here - 358kb