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Bishop's Palace

Explore the ruined remains of this 12th-century palace and see the views from the top of its spiral staircase.

The Bishop’s Palace was the traditional residence of the Bishop of Orkney. Although little of the original 12th-century palace remains today, you can stroll through the remains of its Great Hall and climb to the top of its round tower for lovely vistas over nearby St. Magnus Cathedral and all of Kirkwall.

The Bishop’s Palace was originally built in the 12th century for William the Old, at the same time as St. Magnus Cathedral. The Norwegian King Haakon infamously died here in 1263 after returning from defeat at the Battle of Largs, marking the end of Norway’s rule over Sudreyjar (the Southern Hebrides). Much of the palace was rebuilt in the 16th century by Bishop Robert Reid, the founder of Edinburgh University. Look for the palace’s distinctive round tower, called Moosie Toor, one of the many additions made by Reid.

The two-story hall house you see today only comprised a small part of the building in its heyday. But after the final abolition of the Episcopacy in the late 17th century, the palace gradually fell into ruin. Walk around the ground level hall, which is still partially intact. Notice the narrow windows along the west wall, which feature alternating red and yellow stones. These windows match those found in St. Magnus Cathedral, which is located directly opposite the palace.

Climb the narrow spiral staircase leading to the top of the tower; the view from here is the highlight of any visit. The platform at the top is only protected by a low barrier, so you may want to skip this part of the tour if you’re uncomfortable with heights. From this angle, the spire of St. Magnus’ Cathedral seems to rise from the ruins of the palace. You’ll also enjoy a gorgeous perspective of the town of Kirkwall.

The Bishop’s Palace is just a 3-minute walk from the Kirkwall bus station. The palace is open from April to September, and there is an admission fee. Admission is also included in the Orkney Explorer Pass. Take in wonderful vistas over the surrounding region from the tower of Bishop’s Palace.


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Top Hotel Deals

See all 49 properties near Bishop's Palace
The Ayre Hotel £85
The Ayre Hotel

The Ayre Hotel

Ayre Road, Kirkwall, Scotland
     
    3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Situated in Kirkwall, this hotel is steps away from Mainland and Orkney Wireless Museum. St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney Museum are also within 10 minutes.

    The Shore £135
    The Shore

    The Shore

    Shore Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
       
      3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Situated in Kirkwall, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Mainland and Orkney Wireless Museum. St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney Museum are also within 10 minutes.

      Albert Hotel £148
      Albert Hotel

      Albert Hotel

      Mounthoolie Lane, Kirkwall, Scotland
         
        3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Situated in Kirkwall, this hotel is steps away from Mainland, Orkney Wireless Museum and St. Magnus Cathedral. Orkney Museum and Earl's Palace are also within 10 minutes.

        Kirkwall Youth Hostel £54
        Kirkwall Youth Hostel

        Kirkwall Youth Hostel

        Old Scapa Road, Kirkwall, Scotland
           
          2.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Situated in Kirkwall, this eco-friendly hostel is within a 15-minute walk of Mainland, Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace. Orkney Museum and St. Magnus Cathedral are also within 15 minutes.

          West End Hotel £85
          West End Hotel

          West End Hotel

          14 Main Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
             
            3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Situated in Kirkwall, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Mainland, Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace. Orkney Museum and St. Magnus Cathedral are also within 10 minutes.

            St Ola Hotel £95
            St Ola Hotel

            St Ola Hotel

            Harbour Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
               
              3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Situated by the ocean, this guesthouse is steps away from Mainland and Orkney Wireless Museum. St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney Museum are also within 10 minutes.

              The Orkney Hotel
              The Orkney Hotel

              The Orkney Hotel

              40 Victoria Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
                 
                3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Situated in Kirkwall, this eco-friendly hotel is steps away from Mainland, Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace. Orkney Museum and St. Magnus Cathedral are also within 5 minutes.

                Castleyards Apartment 12 £155
                Castleyards Apartment 12

                Castleyards Apartment 12

                12 Castleyards, Kirkwall, Scotland
                   
                  3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Situated in Kirkwall, this apartment building is steps away from Mainland, Orkney Museum and St. Magnus Cathedral. Earl's Palace and Orkney Wireless Museum are also within 5 minutes.