• Kirkwall harbour - image by Colin Keldie

Kirkwall & St Ola

Orkney’s vibrant capital remains a Viking town at heart, with a skyline dominated by the magnificent 12th century Norse cathedral of St Magnus.
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Kirkwall & St Ola

Orkney’s vibrant capital remains a Viking town at heart, with a skyline dominated by the magnificent 12th century Norse cathedral of St Magnus.

The Norse adventurers who founded the settlement 1,000 years ago called Kirkwall ‘Kirkjuvagr’, meaning ‘Church on the bay’.

Officially a Royal Burgh since 1486, Kirkwall has retained that independent Viking spirit and identity. It is now home to around 9,000 people.

In addition to fascinating historical sites, such as St Magnus Cathedral, the Bishop’s and Earl’s palaces, and the Orkney Museum, you’ll find a town centre supporting an incredibly diverse and distinctive range of businesses. Independent retailers form the heart of the town, while national supermarkets sit just outwith the historic centre. The town officially has Scotland's Most Beautiful High Street too, winning a public vote in 2019 as part of a national competition run by Keep Scotland Beautiful and Scotland’s Towns Partnership.

Kirkwall is a cosmopolitan and friendly place, with a wide choice of hotels, restaurants and cafes to enjoy Orkney’s excellent food and drink, and where you can sit and plan your own Orkney saga, or just watch the world go by.

Kirkwall is also home to the Pickaquoy Centre, a first-class sports, arts and leisure facility where you can enjoy all sorts of indoor activities.

The town also a transport hub for bus routes across mainland Orkney and the port for ferries to Aberdeen, Shetland and the North Isles.

Win a Three-Night Holiday to Orkney!

This unforgettable three-night experience for two adults will take you to the spectacular Orkney Islands where you’ll explore the fascinating Heart of Neolithic Orkney, experience breathtaking natural landscapes, admire traditional craftsmanship and learn about the world-famous whisky.