COVID-19 UPDATE FOR 2021: The cathedral is open Sunday 14.00-17.00 and Monday to Thursday, 10.00-12.00 and 14.00–16.00.
Numbers are currently restricted, and visitors should be prepared to wait for entry if asked to do so. Please limit your visit to 15 minutes. Access is restricted to the nave only and there are no public toilet facilities available, and no upper levels tours. Building works mean that there may some noise and disruption at times.
St Magnus Cathedral, 'the light in the north', is one of Orkney's most iconic buildings.
This stunning Romanesque cathedral, made from striking red and yellow sandstone, was founded in 1137 and took around 300 years to complete. It was dedicated to Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney. He shared the earldom with his cousin, Haakon Paulsson, but jealousy and greed culminated in Magnus being martyred on the island of Egilsay.
Built by Magnus’s nephew, Rognvald, the cathedral has been the spiritual heart of Orkney for nearly nine centuries. It is the only complete Medieval cathedral in Scotland, and the only church in the country known to hold the bones of its original saint.
Today, as well as being a place of worship, St Magnus Cathedral is used for concerts, talks, art exhibitions, and acts of national remembrance. It is the most-visited site in Orkney, with over 200,000 visitors in 2019.
You can take a tour of the hidden upper levels of the cathedral and unlock the secrets of this beautiful building. Guided tours allow visitors to walk up the narrow, spiral, stone staircases to see galleries and collections of artefacts, the clock mechanism, the huge bells and the base of the spire, before getting the chance to take in a bird’s eye view of Kirkwall. Tours are available all year round, although the days and times vary according to the season. Contact the cathedral on 01856 874894 for more information. Booking is essential.