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Egilsay is an island within the Orkney Islands, to the east of Rousay.
It is a 20-minute ferry journey from Rousay or Wyre. Orkney Ferries provides regular sailings to and from the island, 7 days a week during the Summer months (May - September),
although there are no Sunday sailings during the Winter months.
Egilsay has a population of approximately 15. Despite its small population, the island features a Post Office, as well as a Community Hall, where many events are held, such as the
annual Egilsay Summer Dance. The
Egilsay Community Association is responsible for the organising of many events on the island.
School children on the island travel daily to the Primary School on Rousay, and secondary school
(Kirkwall Grammar School
or Stromness Academy)
on the mainland of Orkney.
The island is known for its Corn Crakes - a small bird which is very rare throughout the rest of Orkney. Egilsay is an excellent place to view several different species of bird,
including Eider, Lapwing, Skylark, and Snipe, as well as the Corn Crake. The RSPB has a base (Onziebust) on the island.
Egilsay appears to take its name from the Norse "Egilsey" (meaning "Egil's island"), however, due to a domination by a church of pre-Norse foundation, it has been suggested
that the island's name may actually, unusually for the Northern Isles of Scotland, be partially Gaelic - "eaglais" ("Church island").
In 1117, Saint Magnus was killed in Egilsay, by a strike to the head with an axe. He was buried on the spot where he died, but his body was later moved to Birsay, on the
mainland of Orkney, at the request of his mother. Legend has us believe that the rocky area on which Magnus was originally buried, miraculously became a green field.
Saint Magnus' remains were kept in Birsay for 20 years, before being moved to Saint Olaf's Church, Kirkwall, and were then finally, some years later, moved to Saint Magnus Cathedral,
also in Kirkwall, which was built in his honour. Egilsay's church was dedicated to Saint Magnus, and still stands to this day.
The Irish-style round tower at Egilsay's St. Magnus Church (photo taken by A. Boyes):
St. Magnus Church (photo taken by A. Boyes):
Inside St. Magnus Church (photo taken by A. Boyes):
Egilsay from Sourin, Rousay - the church can be seen in the centre: