Ork Egilsay.jpg
OS grid reference HY470301
Gaelic name  ?Eaglais (see meaning)
Norse name Egilsey
Meaning of name Disputed - either Norse "Egil's island" or Norse "ey" + Celtic "eaglais" - "Church island"
Area and summit
Area 650 hectares (2.5 sq mi)
Area rank 67
Highest elevation 35 metres (115 ft)
Population 37
Population rank 58 out of 97
Island group Orkney Islands
Local Authority Orkney
Flag of Scotland.svg Lymphad3.svg
References [1][2][3]
If shown, area and population ranks are for all Scottish islands and all inhabited Scottish islands respectively. Population data is from 2001 census.
Egilsay seen from Rousay with St Magnus Church on the skyline

Egilsay is one of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, lying east of Rousay. The island is largely farmland and is known for its corncrakes.


St. Magnus Church

Extremely unusual for the Northern Isles, it has been suggested that Egilsay may have a partly Gaelic name.[1][2] While at first sight, it appears to be Egil's island, "Egil" being a Norse personal name, the Gaelic eaglais (Celtic "eccles") meaning church, may be part of the root, as the island is dominated by a church of pre-Norse foundation. The island of Kili Holm just to the north, may represent cille, a monastic cell.

The church itself has a highly unusual Irish style round tower, which itself is extremely rare in Scotland, and is unique in Orkney (though other examples are known to have existed in the past). The building is roofless and the tower has been slightly truncated, but it is otherwise complete. It is maintained by Historic Scotland as an Ancient Monument and Category A listed building.

Egilsay was the place where Saint Magnus was killed in 1117 by an axe blow to the head. While the church is dedicated to him, the foundation may be far older. For hundreds of years the story of St. Magnus, part of the Orkneyinga saga, was considered just a legend until a skull with a large crack in it, such as it had been stricken by an axe, was found in the walls of St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.


Orkney Ferries sail from the island to Tingwall on the Orkney Mainland via Wyre and Rousay.


  1. ^ a b Anderson, Joseph (Ed.) (1893) Orkneyinga Saga. Translated by Jón A. Hjaltalin & Gilbert Goudie. Edinburgh. James Thin and Mercat Press (1990 reprint). ISBN 0-901824-25-9
  2. ^ a b Haswell-Smith, Hamish. (2004) The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh. Canongate.
  3. ^ Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) Orkneyjar ok Katanes (map, Inverness, Nevis Print)

External links

Coordinates: 59°09′N 2°55′W / 59.15°N 2.917°W / 59.15; -2.917

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