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Overview

Centuries before Orkney joined Scotland, Kirkwall was a bustling Norwegian port. Discover the town’s oldest surviving domestic building – part of the medieval cathedral complex at its heart.

Along with St Magnus Cathedral itself, the Bishop’s Palace is one of the best-preserved buildings from this era. Kirkwall also retains its distinctive medieval street plan.

The ornate Earl’s Palace was added much later, in the early 1600s. Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney, had the ambitious plan to make the Bishop’s Palace part of a splendid palace complex, ‘The Palace of the Yards’.

What to see and do

  • Enjoy being at the heart of medieval Kirkwall, right beside the wonderful St Magnus Cathedral
  • Imagine the Bishop’s Palace back in 1263 when the great Haakon IV of Norway died there – a momentous event
  • Admire the façade of the Earl’s Palace, with its oriel windows, corbelled turrets and elaborate entrance
  • Spot the statue of St Rognvald on the outside of the Reid Tower
  • Complete our quiz while you explore the palaces. Also available on site
Historic Scotland

Opening times

The Bishop's Palace is closed until Spring 2021, but you can still visit the exterior of the Earl's Palace.

We’re working hard to gradually reopen the places you love while making sure the experience is safe for everyone.

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