Orphir walk

Mentioned in the 1136 Orkneyinga saga the Orphir circular Kirk is the last remaining circular church in Scotland. The plan is said to be inspired by the rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem which was increasingly visited by pilgrims following the capture of the Holy Land in the first Crusade. One of these was Earl Hakon who traveled there to atone for ordering the death of St. Magnus on Egilsay in about 1116. The Orphir Kirk may have been built after his return and before his death in about 1123.

Orphir round kirk Orphir round kirk

The St Magnus trail follows the coast round the north shore of Scapa Flow.

Shoreline near Orphir

The wall round the edge of the field has a heavy covering of lichen.

Lichen on a stone

Further along the headland are a pair of fishermans’ cottages.

Fishermen's huts

The tip of the headland looks out onto the stretch of water where on 5th August 1917 Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning became the first person to land a plane on a moving ship.  Taking off from Smoogro in a Sopwith Pup he landed on the flying off deck of HMS Furious dodging the funnels and the turbulence they produced.  Well before the invention of arrester wires a grappling party of the ship’s deck hands grabbed hold of ropes that had been attached to the plane in order to restrain it.  Unfortunately five days later he died attempting to repeat the feat when, despite the best efforts of the grappling party, his aircraft fell off the side of the deck and he drowned.

Shoreline near Orphir

Continuing along the path the coast line flattens out and there is now a fish farm close to the shore.

Shoreline near Orphir Shoreline near Orphir and fish farm offshore

Returning to the fishermens’ cottages and heading inland near Gyre farm there is a small area of woodland, very unusual for Orkney.

Gyre farm woods Gyre farm woods

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