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Kirkwall, Scotland

Kirkwall is the largest town and capital of the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of islands some 10 miles off the north coast of Scotland. 

Situated on the northern coast of Mainland Orkney and with a population of about 9,000, Kirkwall is a port with ferry services to Aberdeen and Lerwick, as well as the principal north islands in the group. At the heart of the town stands St. Magnus Cathedral, which was founded in memory of Saint Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney 1108–1117 by Earl (later Saint) Rögnvald Kali. Next to the Cathedral are the ruins of the former Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace. The town has two museums, the larger being Tankerness House Museum, which contains items of local historical interest within one of Scotland's best-preserved sixteenth-century town-houses. The prehistoric, Pictish and Viking collections... Read more

Kirkwall, Scotland

Destination:

Kirkwall is the largest town and capital of the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of islands some 10 miles off the north coast of Scotland. 

Situated on the northern coast of Mainland Orkney and with a population of about 9,000, Kirkwall is a port with ferry services to Aberdeen and Lerwick, as well as the principal north islands in the group. At the heart of the town stands St. Magnus Cathedral, which was founded in memory of Saint Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney 1108–1117 by Earl (later Saint) Rögnvald Kali. Next to the Cathedral are the ruins of the former Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace. The town has two museums, the larger being Tankerness House Museum, which contains items of local historical interest within one of Scotland's best-preserved sixteenth-century town-houses. The prehistoric, Pictish and Viking collections are of international importance. The other museum is the Orkney Wireless Museum, dealing with the history of radio and recorded sound. Apart from the main historical buildings mentioned above, Kirkwall has many 17th–18th-century houses and other structures in the local vernacular style. The 'Kirk' of Kirkwall was not the Cathedral (which was originally at Birsay), but the 11th-century church of Saint Olaf of Norway. One late medieval doorway survives from this church, and an aumbry from the original church survives within the late 19th-century structure of the present-day Saint Olaf's Church (Episcopal) in the town's Dundas Crescent. Kirkwall also once had a medieval castle, which was destroyed in the 17th century.

On the west edge of the town, surrounded by Hatston Industrial Estate, is a prehistoric ancient monument, Grain Earth House (Historic Scotland), a short low stone-walled passage deep underground leading to a small pillared chamber. This is the form of earth house or souterrain characteristic of the Northern Isles (although Grain is unusually deep below ground). It was originally connected to a surface dwelling, which has since disappeared, and the original purpose of these Iron Age structures remains unknown. Further west towards Grimbister is the similar Rennibister Earth House.

One of the major annual events in the town is the Ba Game, held each Christmas Day and New Year's Day between the Uppies and the Doonies, each team representing one half of the town. Kirkwall also has the most northerly of the world's Carnegie libraries, which was opened by Andrew Carnegie and his wife in 1909. The building survives, although the library has since moved to a larger building on Junction Road.


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Kirkwall, Scotland: Port Information


Cruise ships often visit the Orkneys. They either berth at Hatston Terminal with a shuttle-bus to town, or anchor out in the bay with tenders bringing passengers ashore.
Hatston Terminal is two miles north of town on the main road to Stromness. There’s complimentary shuttle bus service.
Smaller cruise liners also can dock at Kirkwall Pier within walking distance of the main attractions.

Get around Kirkwall, Scotland


Taxi

  • Bob's Taxis +44 1856 876543
  • Cragie's Taxis +44 1856 878787

Bus

  • Stagecoach Buses X1 to Stromness and St Margarets Hope

 

What to see in Kirkwall, Scotland


  • St Magnus Cathedral

    . Founded in 1137, this impressive red sandstone cathedral has an atmospheric interior, dominated by red circular columns and multi-colored textile hangings.
  • Bishop's Palace

    & Earl's Palace Opposite the cathedral, these red ruins are a worthwhile visit.
  • Orkney Museum on Broad Street opposite the cathedral.
  • Orkney Wireless Museum 

    - at the Kiln Corner in the Harbour area of the town. Contains a vast collection of radios from Orkneys past. Worth a visit and truly a unique museum.
  • Highland Park Distillery, Holm Road +44 1856 874619. Ten minutes walk from the center. Regular tours during the spring and summer around the distillery, including a free sample.

What to eat and drink in Kirkwall, Scotland


Eat

Cafe

  • Strynd Tearoom The Strynd +44 1856 871552. A cozy tearoom in an alley beside the cathedral, good cakes.
  • St Magnus Cafe Broad St +44 1856 871552. Popular cafe opposite the cathedral.
  • Trenabies A coffee shop on Albert Street favored by school children at Kirkwall Grammar School.
  • Cafe Lolz Cafe on Albert Street
  • Pomona Cafe
  • The Reel Coffee and Music shop
  • The Garden Center Wellpark Garden Center, Very busy as food is of exceptional quality

Restaurants

  • Kirkwall Hotel, Harbour St, KW15 1LE, ☎ +44 1856 872232. Good selection of food beside the harbor.
  • Dil Se, 7 Bridge Street, KW15 1HR, ☎ +44 1856 875242. Great Indian food.
  • Orkney Hotel
  • Ayre Hotel
  • Busters Diner
  • Empire Chinese

Chip Shops

Most Very Busy During Lunchtimes on weekdays due to school children

  • Harbour Fry Chip Shop, 3 Bridge Street, ☎ +44 1865 873170. Tasty fish & chips.
  • The International Chip Shop Bridge Street
  • Willows Chip Shop and Chinese

Supermarkets / Grocery Shops

  • Tesco Pickaquoy Road
  • The Cooperative Food Pickaquoy Road and Albert Street
  • Lidl Pickaquoy Road
  • The Frozen Food Centre
  • Bruce's Stores
  • Rendalls Bakery

Shopping in Kirkwall, Scotland


Kirkwall has a good range of craft shops, One of Orkney's specialties. Also look out for the local Orkney Fudge.

  • Ortak Jewellery a Local Jewellery shop
  • Longship - a good crafts shop.
  • The Orcadian a bookshop and newspaper

Safety in Kirkwall, Scotland


In any emergency call 999 (or 112) and from a land-line if you can and ask for Ambulance, Fire, Police, Mountain Rescue or Coast Guard when connected.

To contact the Police on Non-emergencies you should dial 101.

Scotland is generally a very safe country to visit. Like England and Wales, violent crime is a problem in some inner city areas, however, much of it occurs amongst hooligan-type, normally unarmed gangs, thus violent crime against tourists is rare. Petty crimes such as thefts and pickpocketing are lower than many other European countries, but vigilance at all times is required, especially in crowded areas. 

Language spoken in Kirkwall, Scotland


English is the main language.

LOCAL TIME

11:16 am
May 27, 2020
Europe/London

CURRENT WEATHER

9.75 °C / 49.55 °F
light rain
Thu

10.71 °C/51 °F
overcast clouds
Fri

11.05 °C/52 °F
overcast clouds
Sat

10.64 °C/51 °F
scattered clouds
Sun

10.2 °C/50 °F
overcast clouds

LOCAL CURRENCY

GBP

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Loch of Stenness, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 10 (10 votes)

The Loch of Stenness is a large brackish loch on Mainland, Orkney and is named for the parish of Stenness. It is 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of the town of Stromness, lies immediately to the south of the Loch of Harray and is close to the World Heritage neolithic sites of the Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar. In Old Norse its name was...
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Average: 9.6 (10 votes)

Scapa distillery is a Scotch whisky distillery situated on The Mainland of Orkney, Scotland on the shore of Scapa Flow near the town of Kirkwall. Scapa is the second most northern whisky distillery in Scotland, being half a mile farther south than the Highland Park Distillery. The distillery has one wash still and one spirit still producing a...
St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 10 (10 votes)

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall dominates the skyline of Kirkwall, the main town of Orkney, a group of islands off the north coast of mainland Scotland. It is the most northerly cathedral in the British Isles, a fine example of Romanesque architecture built for the bishops of Orkney when the islands were ruled by the Norse Earls of Orkney. It is...
Orkney Wireless Museum, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 9.5 (10 votes)

The Orkney Wireless Museum in Kirkwall, Orkney houses a collection of domestic and military wireless equipment. It developed from the private collection of the late Jim MacDonald from St Margaret's Hope and marks the importance of wireless communications in Orkney during World War II.   Museum The Orkney Wireless Museum is located at...
Earl's Palace, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 9.9 (10 votes)

The ruins of the Earl's Palace lie near St Magnus's Cathedral in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney. Built by Patrick, Earl of Orkney, construction began in 1607 and was largely undertaken via forced labour. Earl Patrick is widely acknowledged to have been one of the most tyrannical noblemen in Scotland's history. The palace was built after the Earl...
Ness of Brodgar, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 9.4 (10 votes)

Ness of Brodgar is an archaeological site covering 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site near Loch of Harray, Orkney, in Scotland. Excavations at the site began in 2003. The site has provided evidence of housing, decorated stone slabs, a massive stone...
Bishop's Palace, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 9.8 (10 votes)

The Bishop's Palace, Kirkwall was built at the same time as the adjacent St Magnus Cathedral in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, was being constructed, and housed the cathedral's first bishop, William the Old of the Norwegian Catholic church who took his authority from the Archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim). The ruined structure now looks...
Ring of Brodgar, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 9.3 (10 votes)

The Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar, or Ring o' Brodgar) is a Neolithic henge and stone circle about 6 miles north-east of Stromness on the Mainland, the largest island in Orkney, Scotland. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. General information The Ring of Brodgar (or Brogar, or Ring o' Brodgar) is...
Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 9.7 (10 votes)

Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn (grid reference HY364127) is a Neolithic chambered cairn on Mainland in the islands of Orkney about 6 miles west of Kirkwall. Cuween Hill dates to around 3,000 BCE. It is cairn of similar design to Maeshowe, but on a smaller basis. Cuween Hill was constructed as a burial place by a group of Neolithic farmers....
Loch of Harray, Kirkwall, Scotland
Average: 9.1 (10 votes)

The Loch of Harray is the largest loch of Mainland Orkney and is named for the nearby parish of Harray. It lies immediately to the north of the Loch of Stenness and is close to the World Heritage neolithic sites of the Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar. In Old Norse its name was Heraðvatn. Hydrology The loch was surveyed on 21 August...

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