Earl's Palace, Birsay

  • Birsay, Orkney



Roam the ruins of the residence of Robert Stewart, half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots, who became Earl of Orkney in the late 1500s. The Earl’s Palace is a fine courtyard castle, and remains in a remarkable state of completeness.

One of the illegitimate sons of James V, Robert Stewart was a notoriously harsh earl, and the gun holes at ground level in every wall of the palace may suggest that he expected trouble.

The palace’s use was short-lived, however: built between 1569 and 1574, its story effectively ended with the overthrow of the Stewart earls in 1615. An inventory drawn up by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1653 suggests neglect had already set in, and by 1700 the palace was roofless and decaying.

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Opening times

Open year-round.

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