After exploring the Broch of Gurness I made my way to Kirkwall, the largest town in Orkney. It was just a short drive along the coastline.
Officially a Royal Burgh since 1486, Kirkwall’s name comes from the Norse ‘Kirkjuvagr’, meaning ‘Church on the bay’, and a Viking spirit still runs through the town, focused on the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral. (Orkney.com)
Kirkwall has a lovely town centre filled with independent shops and cafés. Stroll around the harbour and take a peek into Orkney Museum, where some of the finds from the Broch of Gurness are exhibited.
The Bishop´s Palace and Earl´s Palace
The ruins of two remarkable buildings are site by site next to St. Magnus Cathedral.
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. (Orkney.com)
The ground floor of the quite simple two-storey hall house is quite intact and offers an interesting view of former times.
St. Magnus Cathedral in the back.
Across the road is Earl´s Palace built in 1603 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. (Orkney.com)
St. Magnus cathedral
St. Magnus Cathedral, the light of the north, dominates Kirkwall’s skyline, it is one of the most iconic buildings in Orkney.
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. (Orkney.com)
Magnus’s bones are held at the Cathedral, the only church in the country known to hold the bones of its original saint. And the only complete Medieval cathedral in Scotland.