St Magnus Way upgrade and virtual experience

by Alasdair Flett in St. Ola, Scotland, United Kingdom

We did it
On 16th July 2020 we successfully raised £4,774 ( + est. £394.25 Gift Aid ) with 127 supporters in 42 days

The project is to upgrade specific sections of the St Magnus Way, to make it more accessible to all, and to create a virtual experience.

by Alasdair Flett in St. Ola, Scotland, United Kingdom

8th place in the Calor Rural Community Fund - £2,500 Category

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The St Magnus Way: increasing accessibility for all


The St Magnus Way is a pilgrimage route through Mainland Orkney, following the story of St Magnus. It is a challenging long-distance (55 miles) walk, which can be broken up into different sections. We plan to add new gates in three locations and move fences. This will widen the section of the population who can enjoy accessing the route. We will also create a virtual experience using drone footage, 360-degree images and other website resources for those who cannot visit in person.

Support from the local community


When the St Magnus Way was launched in April 2017, 170 people turned up to the launch and 100 walked the first four miles of the route. Since then guided walks have been led over each of the six sections in both 2017 and 2019, with typical attendances of 40-50, and many more have walked some or all of the route on their own or in small groups. Our Facebook page has 1,514 likes and has regular posts from people looking forward to walking the route once travel restrictions ease sufficiently and locals rediscovering their island home in a new light.

Pilgrims cross the bridge at Naversdale

Who benefits from our project?


The project will benefit not only the 17,000 population of Mainland Orkney that has direct access to the St Magnus Way but also the many visitors to the county and it will enable those who cannot visit to have a virtual experience of the Way.

How the project will benefit our community


When the St Magnus Way was launched in 2017 as a long-distance pilgrimage route, it was done so in the knowledge that many parts of the route were challenging to walkers and could benefit from improvement. This project plans to add new gates which will improve access and to move fences in two areas to make the route safer. Trustees have been in initial contact with the landowners on each section to discuss the planned improvements and will finalise agreements once the funds are secured and the COVID-19 lockdown lifted. We plan to commission drone footage of the Way and integrate this into our website and app so that those who cannot visit in person can have a virtual experience of the Way from their home.

Breakdown of the project costs

  • 3 gates: £1500
  • Moving fences: £500
  • Drone footage and integration into website and app: £2,000
  • Total cost: £4,000

Any money received from Calor will be spent on the project

In the event we receive £2,500 from Calor, we will spend £1,500 of money from the community on the project and the remaining £606 raised will enable us to commission further drone footage to expand the virtual St Magnus Way. If we only receive £500 from Calor, then all the money raised from the community will be spent on the project and the balance of the project costs will be funded from other fundraising and/or internal resources.

Testimonials

Walking the St Magnus Way is no stroll but it engaged me in imaginative, challenging and diverse ways. I glimpsed God in history, creation and people, through getting to know more about St Magnus, being blown away by the landscapes and wildlife, and getting an insight into Orkney life today including generous hospitality. I’m looking forward to returning!

- Caro Penney

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I walked the St Magnus Way during the summer of 2019, and it was a real joy from start to finish. The mobile app was really helpful with navigation and also in giving interesting information. I found the range of resources for reflection, contemplation and prayer on the website valuable, to the extent that they served as a starting point for a series of services for a ‘virtual pilgrimage’! The paths are well maintained by volunteers who, I understand liaise closely with landowners where needed. There are a few places along the way that might reasonably be described as ‘mildly perilous’ with narrow paths adjacent to sheer drops onto rocks or into the sea, so it was certainly an adventure in the fullest sense! If these areas could be fenced, I am sure even more people would be able to enjoy this wonderful pilgrimage route.

- Catriona, Hillhead Baptist Church Minister

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Catriona (left) and Jean (right)

In August 2019 along with a friend, I walked the St Magnus Way. It was a beautiful and blessed time walking through varied and sometimes challenging terrain. Long-distance walking along national trails can sometimes be frustrating when way markers and reflective material are missing and it is easy to become disorientated and confused, this, however, was not the case due to the clear way markers and with the additional help of the app the experience was very enjoyable. There were a few hitches along the way when the mobile signal was lost, and in a couple of places, the route was difficult to negotiate as it was narrow between barbed wire and a sheer drop. Finding a safe way to cross this area without injury to self or damage to clothing was challenging. Thankfully these incidents were minimal but could well be considered a factor to put families off exploring this tranquil trail.

- Jean Booth, classroom assistant from Warrington

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I have been visiting Orkney for 30 years now and have a small home of my own there, where I intend to spend a lot of time after retirement. For me, there is no landscape (or seascape!) that I know that surpasses Orkney in beauty and spirituality. I am interested in Orkney's history and have read quite a lot about it. Watching mass tourism slowly seeping into the islands, I rejoice in ventures like this which help people with time to spend in your islands find less well-trodden paths to walk.

- Elisabeth Sidler

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The St Magnus Way is an excellent scheme which brings a lot of pleasure to residents and visitors alike. It promotes walking and safe enjoyment of the countryside.

- Sue Bright 

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Pilgrimages have once again become popular in recent years The St Magnus Way ticks a lot of boxes for us: access to dramatic coastal scenery, wilder heathery moors and, depending on which part of the Way you’re on, wide views of the northern isles, or south to Hoy and Flotta with the hills of the mainland on the far horizon. Birdlife and wildflowers are in abundance in June/July and the sense of following a Way with so many historical and spiritual connections can lend a deeper meaning - if that’s what the Walker wants. Our thanks for the many voluntary hours the originators of the Way must have put in. Long live the right to roam (responsibly) in Scotland. 

- Donella Kirkland

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The St Magnus Way project is an imaginative, inspiring venture. Set amidst the breathtaking scenery of Orkney, it has the power to change lives. 

- Ronald Ferguson

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