Literature in Orkney

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  • Fishing in front of the Merkister Hotel, Loch of Harray
    Fishing in front of the Merkister Hotel, Loch of Harray
  • Ring of Brodgar, Orkney
    Ring of Brodgar, Orkney
  • St Magnus Cathedral, Orkney
    St Magnus Cathedral, Orkney
  • Victoria Street at Graham Place
    Victoria Street at Graham Place

In the 20th century, Orkney was home to three well known writers, George Mackay Brown, Eric Linklater and Edwin Muir. Explore the literary connections of these islands and appreciate the scenery that inspired their works.

Brown wrote many stories, poems and novels about the Orkney Islands, working in his younger life as a reporter and after studying, solely as a writer.

One novel, Magnus, written in 1973, dramatises the life of St Magnus, and you can find out more about him at St Magnus Cathedral, which was founded in his honour. You can also see Brown’s former home in Mayburn Court, Stromness. Other well known attractions described in Brown’s works are the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, Maes Howe and Skara Brae.

The novelist, Eric Linklater once lived at Merkister House in Harray, now a hotel, and is buried beside his wife at St Michael’s Churchyard nearby.

Edwin Muir was a writer who lived in Orkney for just 14 years but the islands had a big influence on him and features in his writing and thoughts over the years. He lived on his farmer’s farm, the Bu, on the island of Wyre.

Orkney's connections to literature stretch much further back in history and many ancient stories have survived. Orkney's folklore is a mixture of tales from Norse, Scottish and Celtic myth. Ernest Marwick, an Orcadian scholar who specialised in folklore, local history and poetry wrote a book in 1975, The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland.

Find out more about the literature of Orkney at Writing the North, a project bringing together literary historians, museum professionals, schools and creative writers of Orkney and Shetland, with events and readings throughout the year.

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