Wyre, Orkney

Wyre, Orkney
Wyre is located in Scotland
Wyre shown within Scotland
OS grid reference HY445262
Norse name Vígr
Area and summit
Area 311 ha (1.20 sq mi)
Area rank 85
Highest elevation 32 m (105 ft)
Population 18
Population rank 66 out of 97
Island group Orkney Islands
Local Authority Orkney
Flag of Scotland.svg Lymphad3.svg
References [1][2][3][4]
If shown, area and population ranks are for all Scottish islands and all inhabited Scottish islands respectively. Population data is from 2001 census.

Wyre, also formerly spelt Weir, is one of the Orkney Islands, lying south-east of Rousay. It is 311 hectares (1.20 sq mi) and 32 metres (105 ft) at its highest point. It is one of the smallest inhabited islands in the archipelago.

Orkney Ferries sail from the island to Tingwall on the Orkney Mainland, Egilsay and Rousay.



Wyre's history is still very apparent, and it has two ancient monuments maintained by Historic Scotland, Cubbie Roo's Castle and St Mary's Chapel.

Bishop Bjarni grew up on Wyre, and was the son of Kolbein Hruga (see Cubbie Roo's Castle below), Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland says of him that he:

"composed the only significant work of Norse poetry to have survived in the [Orkney] islands, his Lay of the Jomsvikings. He also played an important part in securing the canonisation of Earl Rognvald." [5]

The poet Edwin Muir (1887–1959), known for his prominent part in the Scottish Renaissance, born in Deerness on Mainland, Orkney [1], spent much of his childhood on Wyre. In his autobiography he said of himself - "I'm an Orkneyman, a good Scandinavian",[6] and commented that some of his happiest childhood years were spent here.[5]

Cubbie Roo's Castle

Cubbie Roo's Castle

Cubbie Roo's Castle, built in about 1150, is one of the oldest castles in Scotland and was mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga. It takes its name from Kolbein Hruga who was said to have lived there.[6]

In King Haakon's saga, it is mentioned that after the last Norse Earl of Orkney, Earl John, was murdered in Thurso, his killers fled to Wyre. They took refuge in the castle, which was so strong that the besiegers had to thrash out a deal with them to get them out.[6]

St Mary's Chapel

In the centre of the island is the roofless, but largely complete, twelfth century St Mary's Chapel. Its architecture is Romanesque and demonstrates that the Norsemen, best known for their Viking raids, also had a cosmopolitan cultural influence. It has been partly restored.[6]

Geography and geology

Wyre (highlighted red) within Scotland

Like most of Orkney, Wyre is made up of Old Red Sandstone of the Devonian period.[6]

The island is low lying, and is shaped like an isosceles triangle on its side. It is generally low lying, and is separated from Rousay by Wyre Sound.

Rousay is to the north, Gairsay to the south, Mainland to the south west and Shapinsay to the south east.


Wyre is also known for its grey and common seals, and for birdlife including divers and ducks.


  1. ^ 2001 UK Census per List of islands of Scotland
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey
  4. ^ Pedersen, Roy (January 1992) Orkneyjar ok Katanes (map, Inverness, Nevis Print)
  5. ^ a b Keay, J. & Keay, J. (1994) Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. London. HarperCollins.
  6. ^ a b c d e Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. 

External links

Coordinates: 59°07′N 2°58′W / 59.117°N 2.967°W / 59.117; -2.967

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