Kirkwall, United Kingdom

Kirkwall, Scotland

You are here

About Kirkwall

About Kirkwall

Why Go to Kirkwall, Scotland

Kirkwall, is a Scottish town with a Norse heart. Although no one knows for sure when the town was founded, the first mention of Kirkwall goes back to 1046. It was the Vikings who founded a small settlement that they later called "Kirkjuvagr". The town's original name can be translated as "The Church on the Bay", and although Kirkwall became one of the Scottish burghs in the 15th century, it never forgot its origin, and you still can feel the indomitable spirit of the early northern adventures there.

There is a lot to see and place on a Kirkwall itinerary, and you should start with the main landmark, the St. Magnus Cathedral. Its construction started in the 12th century and it took approximately 300 hundred years to finish this Romano-Gothic cathedral, nowadays known as the "Light in the North". The doors of St. Magnus are open for anyone who wants to connect with God, seeks inspiration or just wants to enjoy the quietness and the impressive interiors.

There is another sight around St. Magnus's age nestled in the heart of Kirkwall, the Bishop's Palace. At first, it was home of William the Old, the cathedral's first bishop. They say King Hakon of Norway died within the walls of the palace after the Battle of Largs in 1263. Now the building is partly ruined, but it's still possible to have a look inside.

Near the palace, you can find one more sight you shouldn't miss, the ruins of the Earl's Palace. Dating back to the 17th century, this Renaissance-style building was built after the Earl of Orkney Patrick, one of the most vicious and despotic men in Scotland's recorded history. He decided that the Bishop's palace can't meet his growing needs anymore and demanded to build a new, bigger and better palace on the adjoining land.

The Orkney Museum is one more place you can check out during your Kirkwall trip. It offers to explore the history of the Orkney Islands of Scotland through the museum's collection of various archaeological artifacts, some of which are recognized as being national treasures.

One more thing distinguishing Kirkwall from the rest of the Scottish towns is its wonderful location. People from all over the world come to Kirkwall to enjoy the magnificent views of the Scottish countryside and to take advantage of the unique hiking opportunities. To spice up your Kirkwall travel experience, take a ferry to the Rousay Island, also known as the "Egypt of the north".

The island area is only 49 sq km (18.8 sq m), but there are over 100 archeological sites scattered throughout Rousay. The most important are the Iron-age Midhowe Broch and the Neolith-age Midhowe Chambered Cairn. The Ring of Brodgar, located on the small piece of land between the Stenness and Harray lakes, is also a good hiking destination. This is the 3rd largest stone circle on the British Isles, its diameter is 104 m (341 ft). Originally, it consisted of 60 stones but there are only 27 that remained standing nowadays. The Marwick Head, the biggest cliff housing a nesting seabird colony, and the Gloup, a partially collapsed sea cave on the territory of the Mull Head Nature Reserve, are worth adding to your "must-see" list as well. We can promise that you won't be disappointed!

What to Do in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

  • Explore the St. Magnus Cathedral
  • Visit the Rousay Island
  • Take a picture of the Ring of Brodgar
  • Enjoy the endless hiking opportunities of the Orkney Islands
Best Tours to Kirkwall
More About Kirkwall