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The construction of the cathedral began in 1137 - initiated by Earl Rognvald. The Islands were Norse at that time.
It has been added to over the centuries, and is an interesting combination of red and yellow sandstone.
Really the jewel of the town, and at its heart - go see.
Updated Jul 24, 2010
Address: Broad St, Kirkwall
Phone: 01856 874894
The Bishop's Palace was built in the 12th century when Orkney was still a Norse earldom, as a residence for the bishop of St Magnus Cathedral.
The Earl's Palace was built around 1600, by which time Orkney was part of Scotland.
Both are now ruins.
Worth a visit, none the less, as they are key historical relics.
Both are Historic Scotland sites, and much more info is on its website.
Updated Jul 20, 2010
Website: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_032&PropName=Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, Kirkwall
The dominant monument in Kirkwall is the cathedral, commenced in 1137 by the Norse earl of Orkney. The dedication is Norse and a Norwegian flag still hangs in the nave of a church which is nearer to Oslo than it is to London. Unusually for a Scottish cathedral, it has remained intact over the centuries and even has a roof! The monumental Romanesque nave is the characteristic feature although this style is not quite so obvious from the outside of the building, parts of which are built in later Gothic style. The whole thing is a remarkable survival in a remarkable location.
Written Mar 21, 2010
Kirkwall feels quite industrial (quite rightly given its location near to oil) so in terms of tourism it's not exactly a picturesque principal town. You will probably end up here at some point if coming by ferry and there are a few things to see. The main attraction is St Magnus cathederal, with also the Earl's court and Earl's palace to explore. A few shops and couple of good eating places make it a good place to visit and stop for a night or two. I don't reccomend staying here any longer as there's not much to do and eating options are very limited. Head fro Stromness or maybe look at hiring a cottage somewhere else.
Once you've seen Kirkwall (which should take a day or less) head off to other parts of the mainland and if you can, other islands.
Updated Sep 16, 2007
Just took a chance and dived in here one night...
Ordered a burger on the strength of the menu's promise that it would be 100% Orkney beef. Well I can't tell you where the cow came from (unlikely to be imported from the mainland since the island is full of beef cattle) but it was definitely a real burger - not some processed c**p.
Cost £11 with a glass of OK red.
I was lucky to get a table - best to book.
Favorite Dish: Burger - no surprise there...
Updated Jul 22, 2010
Address: 17 Albert Street, Kirkwall KW15 1HP
Phone: 01856 879 293
A real eye opener...
It is stylish and cool. The staff don't grovel, but serve well. Mind you the (otherwise) lovely girl 2 tables away did have tattooed arms.
The food was really good.
I'd expected somewhere low key and low grade, but just fancied curry...
I had chicken achari, steamed rice and a chapati, then jamun. With a dash of Cobra.
Enjoyed watching a French family at the table opposite trying to figure out the menu...
£29 for 1.
Favorite Dish: The chicken - really lovely sauce.
Updated Jul 20, 2010
Address: 7 Bridge Street, Kirkwall
Phone: 01856 875 242
One of the dissapointing things about Kirkwall, maybe even Orkney, is the lack of decent eating options. They are a few cafes but when you think about all that the wonderful beef & seafood they produce you wonder why there aren't more places that serve it. If you want to have a proper meal in Kirkwall you really need to look at hotels (same applies for bars, in some ways). We drank at the Kirkwall Hotel and decided to have a meal there on the last night. Booking is highly advisable.
We finally had some of the excellent seafood and roast beef!
Favorite Dish: Roast beef from local cows
Written Sep 20, 2007
Address: Kirkwall Hotel
Phone: 01856 872232