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Kirkwall

Travel Guide
St. Magnus Cathedral showing heritage architecture, a cemetery and a church or cathedral

Wander along the winding streets of this bustling market town, one of Britain’s most well-preserved ancient Norse settlements.

The capital of Orkney, Kirkwall, is a lovely town dotted with historic houses and independent shops. Look inside the town’s eye-catching sandstone cathedral, sip Scotch whisky and learn about the rich history of Kirkwall and the Orkney Islands at the local museum.

It’s almost impossible to miss St. Magnus Cathedral, which is easily Kirkwall’s most notable landmark. Dating back to the 12th century, this beautiful sandstone building features an interesting mix of Norman and early Gothic designs. Admire the early stained glass works, as well as the compelling 17th and 18th-century tombs housed inside.

Find the 17th-century ruins of Earl's Palace just across from the cathedral. Once the residence of despised leader Earl Patrick Stewart, the palace’s most significant feature is its elaborate 16-foot (5-meter) wide fireplace.

Your entrance ticket to Earl’s Palace also grants admission to neighboring Bishop’s Palace. Like Earl’s Palace, Bishop’s Palace mainly consists of roofless ruins. Make your way to the top of its tower staircase for magnificent views over St. Magnus Cathedral and all of Kirkwall.

Head to the Highland Park Distillery for samples of local single malt whisky. Informative hour-long tours of the distillery cover the entire process of producing the region’s smoky yet sweet malt. Learn about the processes of drying the barley in peat kilns, mashing and maturation of the product in oak casks.

The engaging Orkney Museum provides an overview of the islands’ history. Housed in a former merchant’s house, the museum includes Pictish carvings as well as intriguing exhibits dedicated to the islands’ social history. Don’t miss the pretty gardens located at the back of the residence.

Plan your visit in June to see the week-long St. Magnus Festival. One of the most acclaimed arts festivals in Britain, this event features a diverse program of literature, visual arts, dance, music and drama.

Kirkwall is one of Orkney’s main transportations hubs. Kirkwall Airport is serviced by flights from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Inverness. The town itself is located just west of the airport, where it’s accessible by bus. The harbor is connected to Shetland and Aberdeen via ferry. See the fascinating historic sites of this charming harborside town.

The Ayre Hotel
The Ayre Hotel
3 out of 5
Ayre Road, \N, Kirkwall, Scotland
Fully refundableReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is $166 per night from Aug 18 to Aug 18
Situated in Kirkwall, this hotel is steps from Mainland and Orkney Wireless Museum. St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney Museum are also within 10 minutes.
4.1/5Very Good! (18 reviews)
Can’t go wrong with this one
"Nice hotel, I’ve stayed a few times now and it’s my go to when I’m on the island"

Reviewed on Apr 30, 2021

The Ayre Hotel
The Orkney Hotel
The Orkney Hotel
3 out of 5
40 Victoria Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
The price is $172 per night from Aug 12 to Aug 12
Located in the heart of Kirkwall, this eco-friendly hotel is steps from Mainland, Bishop's Palace, and Earl's Palace. St. Magnus Cathedral and Scapa Distillery ...
4.3/5Excellent! (7 reviews)
"Very convenient. My room was a good size. The bed was comfortable."

Reviewed on Jul 9, 2021

The Orkney Hotel
Albert Hotel
Albert Hotel
3 out of 5
Mounthoolie Lane, Kirkwall, Scotland
The price is $186 per night from Aug 17 to Aug 17
Situated in Kirkwall, this hotel is steps from Mainland, Orkney Wireless Museum, and St. Magnus Cathedral. Orkney Museum and Earl's Palace are also within 10 ...
4.4/5Wonderful! (144 reviews)
"Very friendly staff. Room was spotless clean and good size bathroom with bath and overhead shower. Breakfast was lovely with a good selection Would highly recommend this hotel as a base for touring Orkney."

Reviewed on May 3, 2021

Albert Hotel
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.
Cosy, Modern Ground Floor Flat in Central Kirkwall
Cosy, Modern Ground Floor Flat in Central Kirkwall
Kirkwall, SCT
Situated in Kirkwall, this apartment building is steps from Mainland and Bishop's Palace. Earl's Palace and Orkney Museum are also within 5 minutes.
5/5Exceptional! (1 review)
Victoria St.
"We thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The only thing I found difficult was closing the key box! I would also like to let you know that there was no hot water. It wasn't really a problem for us as the shower was electric and I just boiled the kettle for the dishes. The location is perfect with parking close ..."

Reviewed on Jun 28, 2021

Cosy, Modern Ground Floor Flat in Central Kirkwall
Castleyards Apartment 12
Castleyards Apartment 12
3.5 out of 5
12 Castleyards, Kirkwall, Scotland
Situated in Kirkwall, this apartment building is steps from Mainland, Orkney Museum, and St. Magnus Cathedral. Earl's Palace and Orkney Wireless Museum are also ...
4.8/5Exceptional! (6 reviews)
Excellent facilities
"Excellent property. Very clean and well appointed. I was using it as a key worker during lockdown so the ability to cook my own meals was very useful. Washing machine also a useful addition. Good communication from the owners and the key safe system worked well. Good central location in Kirkwall ..."

Reviewed on Feb 7, 2021

Castleyards Apartment 12
Phyl's Flat
Phyl's Flat
3.5 out of 5
Flat 1, Stewarts Buildings, Junction Road, Kirkwall, Scotland
Situated in Kirkwall, this apartment building is steps from Mainland, Orkney Museum, and St. Magnus Cathedral. Orkney Wireless Museum and Earl's Palace are also ...
Phyl's Flat
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

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