Bishop's and Earl's Palaces

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Important notice

On Sunday 16 June, the palaces will be closed but the grounds remain open.  

 

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
  • Discover nearly 5,000 years of Orkney’s history and prehistory, including Bishop's and Earl's Palaces, with our Orkney Digital Guide. Purchase as an Add-On when booking your ticket, or buy the Orkney Digital Guide from our online shop

Opening times

1 Apr to 30 Sept: Daily, 10am to 4.30pm (last entry 4pm)
Closed for lunch 12.30 to 1pm

1 Oct to 31 Mar:
Closed

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