Newest Review: ... the many that have been preserved and are on display within the Cathedral are some of the finest - and the earliest - I have seen. But as... more
St. Magnus' Cathedral - the bits you don't normally see!
St Magnus Cathedral (Orkney, Scotland)
Member Name: excavator
St Magnus Cathedral (Orkney, Scotland)
Advantages: Fascinating tour of the upper galleries and tower. History and architecture up close and personal
Disadvantages: Tight passageways and very steep spiral staircases.
St. Magnus' Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney is a must-see when visiting these wonderful islands. Its magnificent red sandstone presence dominates the town making it hard to miss.
Now, I'm not a religious person, nor am I at all knowledgeable on Church history or architecture, but a building of this beauty and stature just cries out to be investigated more closely.
And so I found myself drawn through it's doors on a recent (September 2010) visit to the island.
Though not large in Cathedral terms, I was immediately impressed by the magnificent interior, and some of the wonderful stained glass windows. I love looking through Churchyards and reading the tombstones - but the many that have been preserved and are on display within the Cathedral are some of the finest - and the earliest - I have seen.
But as I left, I could not help noticing a sign advertising guided tours to the upper levels of the Cathedral, subject to pre-booking, at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each tour accommodates just five people, costs £5.50 each and takes around 1 1/4 hrs. I could not possibly leave the island without booking myself onto one of these tours.
I was not to be disappointed. Meeting prior to commencement of the tour, we were first shown a series of photographs depicting some of the rather tight, narrow, and very steep passageways and spiral staircases that we would encounter, and asked to sign a form to declare our physical wellbeing, I guess a disclaimer in case that any unfortunate accident should befall us!
The subsequent tour was absolutely fascinating, and the tour guide a fountain of knowledge. Along a gallery on the first level a varied and extensive array of early stone carvings, structural fixtures, fittings, and other artefacts from throughout the history of the site were displayed, the guide bringing them to life with his informed narrative.
Ascending through further galleries we would see at close quarters the magnificent stained glass windows, unique architectural features, and have explained to us the extensive history and development of the building, and would see birds-eye views of the splendid interior from on high.
In the tower we saw the magnificent clock mechanism wind into action as the bells on the floor above chimed out the hour. Also here, a much earlier clock mechanism, and a chance to peer through into an 'attic space' over the original arched stone roof, long since hidden from view beneath the later pitched roof.
And then upwards again to see the bells themselves, before venturing outside onto the top of the tower, with it's magnificent views across the town, harbour, and beyond. An opportunity for some great scenic photos (though photos are permitted throughout the tour)
Truly a unique and fascinating insight to the 'hidden' side of this magnificent building and it's extensive history - worth every penny and thoroughly recommended!
Summary: Fascinating tour of the upper galleries and tower. History and architecture up close and personal
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