Wyre, Orkney

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Cubby Roo's Castle.jpg
Cubbie Roo's Castle

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Grid reference: HY445262
Area: 768 acres
Highest point: 105 feet
Population: 18

Wyre, also formerly spelt Weir, is an island of Orkney, lying south-east of Rousay. It is 768 acres and reaches just 105 feet above sea level at its highest point. Wyre is one of the smallest of the county's inhabited islands.

Ferries sail from the island to Tingwall on Mainland, and on to 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 ("Cubbie Roo"):

[Bjarni] 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." [1]

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",[2] and commented that some of his happiest childhood years were spent here.[1]

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.[2]

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 treaty with them to get them out.[2]

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, notwithstanding their violent reputation, had a cosmopolitan cultural influence. It has been partly restored.[2]

Geography and geology

Like most of Orkney, Wyre is made up of Old Red Sandstone of the Devonian period.[2]

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. 1.0 1.1 Keay, J. & Keay, J. (1994) Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. London. HarperCollins.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. 

Outside links

Islands of Orkney

Inhabited islands:
Mainland  •
Auskerry  • Burray  • Eday  • Egilsay  • Flotta  • Gairsay  • Graemsay  • Hoy  • North Ronaldsay  • Papa Stronsay  • Papa Westray  • Rousay  • Sanday  • Shapinsay  • South Ronaldsay  • South Walls  • Stronsay  • Westray  • Wyre

Other islands:
Eynhallow  •
Helliar Holm  • Lamb Holm  • Switha  • Swona