Rucksack Readers has long represented the gold standard for long distance walking guides. Their guides are always bright, attractive, light, water resistant and comprehensive, containing between their covers pretty much everything you really need to tackle the walk in question: from clear mapping to route descriptions to background features to sources of additional information. They are also large enough for the mapping and other information to be readily usable "in the field".
The St Magnus Way is a challenging and rewarding 60 mile or 96km walk around and across, for most of its length, Orkney's West Mainland. This main walk is preceded by an excursion by ferry to the small island of Egilsay. For those who prefer two wheels to two feet, there is also a 67 mile St Magnus Cycleway, which is also covered in this excellent guide.
You can if you wish look upon a walk along the St Magnus Way as a pilgrimage. It begins at the site of St Magnus's martyrdom and concludes at the cathedral built in his memory, taking in numerous sites associated with Earl Magnus/St Magnus en route. For those whose view of the world is more secular, you can think of the St Magnus Way was an exploration of one of the rich strata of Orkney's history. It's been said that if your scratch the surface of Orkney, it bleeds archaeology. This is true, and what really makes the archipelago unique is the range of history on view. This extends from the wealth of Neolithic structures, remains and entire landscapes to the very many reminders of Orkney's key role in both of the world wars of the last century. Somewhere between those two ends of the historical spectrum lies the Norse era - which held sway in both Orkney and Shetland for the better part of six centuries.
The guide begins with an introduction to Orkney and to the St Magnus Way, including practical information from "how long does it take" to "navigation and waymarking". We then move on to the historical background before taking in the geology and wildlife. Much of the book is, as you would expect, a practical guide to walking (or cycling) the St Magnus Way. This is divided into stages and excellent large scale maps are accompanied by detailed and illustrated route guides that look to be all you will really need to complete the walk. It concludes with a reference section that includes everything from tides to flights and ferries. The book fully lived up to our expectations of it as a Rucksack Readers guide and we'd strongly recommend it: not just to someone specifically intending to walk or cycle the way - obviously - but also to anyone wanting a means of linking together elements of Orkney's Norse heritage.