This 16th century courtyard castle was built by Earl Robert Stewart, half-brother of Mary, Queen of Scots.

If you're visiting this site during the COVID-19 pandemic, please continue to follow physical distancing and government guidance to help keep everyone safe. Avoid touching surfaces and if a site is likely to be busy and you think that it may be difficult to maintain physical distancing, please consider visiting another nearby location or visiting at another time instead.

Although now only a shell of what came before, it's not hard to get a glimpse into what this structure would have looked like in its heyday. The palace was designed in a Renaissance style, with towers, a turnpike staircase and four wings surrounding the large central courtyard.

It's thought it was a place of relative opulence, with painted ceilings and brightly coloured wall-hangings. But it was also a fortified residence, featuring gun holes in every wall, suggesting the earl was no stranger to trouble.

The palace was only in use for a short time. It's estimated it was built between 1569 and 1574, but the overthrow of the Stewart earls in 1615 saw its story come to an end. By 1700, the roof was missing and the once grand palace was in ruin.

Nowadays, it's a fascinating place to visit, providing a real hands-on experience. It's free and open all-year-round.

The parish of Birsay has been at the centre of some of the most important moments in Orcadian history, from the Iron Age to the Picts, Norse and more. In the village, just along the road from the Earl's Palace you'll find the St Magnus Church. A predecessor of the current church could have been the first burial place of St Magnus, Orkney's patron saint.