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 of his novels, Magnus (1973) dramatises the life of St Magnus, in honour of whom St Magnus Cathedral was founded.

Brown’s former home remains at Mayburn Court, Stromness. Other well known attractions described in his 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. Writer Edwin Muir also lived on a farm in Orkney for just 14 years, but the islands had a great influence on him and feature in his writing and thoughts over the years.

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.

The region is also the setting for a children's fantasy series, Legends of Orkney. Created by American author Alane Adams and based on Norse mythology, the adventure story sees the 12-year-old son of Odin travel to Orkney to rescue his friends. The books are accompanied by a tie-in mobile game, BattleKasters, which allows players to trade digital cards inspired by the story.

Find out more about the literature of Orkney at Writing the North, an ongoing project bringing together literary historians, museum professionals, schools and creative writers of Orkney and Shetland. Find more information, including details of upcoming events and readings, on their website.