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  Kolbein Hruga - The original Cubbie Roo?

"Vigr was the homeland of that famous Orkneyman Kolbein Hrúga. In the traditions of the natives, Kolbein became a fabulous personage, a giant who cast stones at rocks at churches."
P A Munch 1845

Kolbein Hruga: Illustration by Sigurd TowrieKolbein Hrúga was a Norse chieftain who settled in Orkney some time around 1142. Described by the Orkneyinga Saga as "most outstanding of all men", Kolbein was born in Sunnfjord, Norway.

Around 1145, shortly after arriving in Orkney, Kolbein was responsible for the construction of a stronghold on the island of Wyre.

"At the time there was a very able man called Kolbein Heap farming on Wyre in Orkney. He had a fine stone built fort, a really solid stronghold."
The Orkneyinga Saga - Chapter 84

Kolbein's fort, the remains of which are now commonly known as Cubbie Roo's Castle, is one of the earliest stone built castles in Scotland and is certainly regarded as the best preserved. It obviously saw some action in its time as it gets a mention in the pages of Haakon's Saga. It recounts that Kolbein's stronghold was a difficult place to attack.

Kolbein was undoubtedly a large, powerful man, attested by the fact that "Hrúga" means "Heap" in Old Norse.

From the few mentions he gets in the Orkneyinga Saga, we can see that he was a man of some influence. Indeed, it was with Kolbein's help that King Eystein gained his kingship.

One of Kolbein's sons, Bjarni, became Bishop of Orkney and may have inaugurated the Kirkwall Grammar School.

Born in 1188, Bjarni was responsible for the relocation of the remains of the murdered Earl Rognvald from Caithness to their final resting place in the St Magnus Cathedral.