Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall

Watergate, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1PD

01856 871 918
 

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
Historic Scotland

Opening times

We recommend booking online in advance to guarantee entry.

1 Apr to 30 Sept: 
Sun to Fri, 9.30 to 5.30pm
Last entry 5pm

Sat, 10am to 5pm
Last entry 4.30pm

Closed for lunch 12 noon to 1pm.

Facilities

Download our visitor app

Discover more on the go – the Historic Scotland app lets you find out about Scotland’s most iconic places wherever you are.

Plan your visit

More than 20 of our sites are now open. Please book your tickets in advance.

Become a member

Join Historic Scotland to visit our properties free of charge for a full year and support our work at the same time.

Hire a site for filming

Use one of our fantastic locations on your next shoot for an awe-inspiring backdrop to your work.

Learning visits

Our 300+ historic places serve as creative inspiration for all sorts of learning activities – and for learners of all ages.

Search our events

See the past brought to life by the imaginative year-round programme of events at our properties.