Centuries before Orkney joined Scotland, Kirkwall was a bustling Norwegian port.

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Step inside the spectacular ruins of two remarkable residences in the heart of Kirkwall.

The medieval Bishop’s Palace was built around the same time as St Magnus Cathedral, in the early 1100s. The builder may well have been Bishop William the Old, crusader and friend of Earl Rognvald, St Magnus’s nephew and patron of the new cathedral.

It is essentially a simple, two-storey hall house and, although little of the first-floor hall remains, the ground level is largely intact. You can also climb to the top of the tower, known locally as the 'Moosie Toor', for views over Kirkwall. It's a building full of history - King Hakon of Norway died within its walls after an indecisive battle with the Scots at Largs in 1263.

Across the road you'll find the Earl's Palace, which was constructed around 1606 by Patrick, Earl of Orkney - one of Orkney's most notorious rulers. His Renaissance palace was built to impress and featured a first-floor hall with elaborate staircase, inner, outer and guest chambers and accommodation for staff. Huge fireplaces dominated the main hall. The Earl's Palace incorporated the Bishop's Palace into a larger complex in the heart of this old Viking town.

You can visit both palaces by purchasing tickets from the visitor centre in the grounds of the Earl's Palace.

Opening hours:

1 Apr to 30 Sept: 

Sun to Thur, 9.30 to 5.30pm
Last entry 5pm

Sat, 10am to 5pm
Last entry 4.30pm

Closed for lunch 12 noon to 1pm.

1 Oct to 31 Mar: Closed

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