Kirkwall

Travel Guide
St. Magnus Cathedral featuring a church or cathedral, heritage architecture and a cemetery

Wander along the winding streets of this bustling market town, one of Britain’s most well-preserved ancient Norse settlements.

The capital of Orkney, Kirkwall, is a lovely town dotted with historic houses and independent shops. Look inside the town’s eye-catching sandstone cathedral, sip Scotch whisky and learn about the rich history of Kirkwall and the Orkney Islands at the local museum.

It’s almost impossible to miss St. Magnus Cathedral, which is easily Kirkwall’s most notable landmark. Dating back to the 12th century, this beautiful sandstone building features an interesting mix of Norman and early Gothic designs. Admire the early stained glass works, as well as the compelling 17th and 18th-century tombs housed inside.

Find the 17th-century ruins of Earl's Palace just across from the cathedral. Once the residence of despised leader Earl Patrick Stewart, the palace’s most significant feature is its elaborate 16-foot (5-meter) wide fireplace.

Your entrance ticket to Earl’s Palace also grants admission to neighboring Bishop’s Palace. Like Earl’s Palace, Bishop’s Palace mainly consists of roofless ruins. Make your way to the top of its tower staircase for magnificent views over St. Magnus Cathedral and all of Kirkwall.

Head to the Highland Park Distillery for samples of local single malt whisky. Informative hour-long tours of the distillery cover the entire process of producing the region’s smoky yet sweet malt. Learn about the processes of drying the barley in peat kilns, mashing and maturation of the product in oak casks.

The engaging Orkney Museum provides an overview of the islands’ history. Housed in a former merchant’s house, the museum includes Pictish carvings as well as intriguing exhibits dedicated to the islands’ social history. Don’t miss the pretty gardens located at the back of the residence.

Plan your visit in June to see the week-long St. Magnus Festival. One of the most acclaimed arts festivals in Britain, this event features a diverse program of literature, visual arts, dance, music and drama.

Kirkwall is one of Orkney’s main transportations hubs. Kirkwall Airport is serviced by flights from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Inverness. The town itself is located just west of the airport, where it’s accessible by bus. The harbor is connected to Shetland and Aberdeen via ferry. See the fascinating historic sites of this charming harborside town.

The Ayre Hotel
The Ayre Hotel
3 out of 5
Ayre Road, \N, Kirkwall, Scotland
Fully refundableReserve now, pay when you stay
The price is £90 per night from 2 Oct to 2 Oct
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.
4.1/5Very Good! (21 reviews)
"Great location. Good food."

Reviewed on 17 Sep 2021

The Ayre Hotel
The Shore
The Shore
3 out of 5
Shore Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
The price is £144 per night from 1 Oct to 1 Oct
Located in the heart of Kirkwall, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Mainland and Orkney Wireless Museum. St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney Museum are also ...
4.4/5Wonderful! (84 reviews)
"We stayed in the Shore hotel which is an annexe of the Kirkwall hotel. Rooms were clean and spacious."

Reviewed on 3 Jun 2021

The Shore
Albert Hotel
Albert Hotel
3 out of 5
Mounthoolie Lane, Kirkwall, Scotland
The price is £132 per night from 1 Oct to 1 Oct
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 ...
4.4/5Wonderful! (145 reviews)
Good hotel to use as a base for Orkney.
"Pleasant friendly hotel in a good central position Room and particularly bathroom could have been a bit bigger. Breakfast was very good. Bed was comfortable."

Reviewed on 15 Jun 2021

Albert Hotel
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.
Castleyards Apartment 2
Castleyards Apartment 2
3.5 out of 5
2 Castleyards, Kirkwall, Scotland
Located in the heart of Kirkwall, this apartment building is steps away from Mainland, Orkney Museum and St. Magnus Cathedral. Earl's Palace and Orkney Wireless ...
4.8/5Exceptional! (9 reviews)
Perfect location & well equipped & comfy apnt.
"Perfect location right in the heart of Kirkwall. All the main eateries and pubs are within a 2-5 min walk, however, it is quiet at night, so a good night sleep on the very comfortable bed is no issue at all. David emailed and text in advance to advise arrival procedures/keys etc & made sure we knew ..."

Reviewed on 28 Sep 2020

Castleyards Apartment 2
Castleyards Apartment 12
Castleyards Apartment 12
3.5 out of 5
12 Castleyards, Kirkwall, Scotland
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 ...
4.8/5Exceptional! (6 reviews)
Excellent facilities
"Excellent property. Very clean and well appointed. I was using it as a key worker during lockdown so the ability to cook my own meals was very useful. Washing machine also a useful addition. Good communication from the owners and the key safe system worked well. Good central location in Kirkwall ..."

Reviewed on 7 Feb 2021

Castleyards Apartment 12
Cosy, modern ground floor flat in central Kirkwall
Cosy, modern ground floor flat in central Kirkwall
86 Victoria St, Flat 1 Ground Floor, Kirkwall, SCT
Situated in Kirkwall, this apartment building is steps away from Mainland and Bishop's Palace. Earl's Palace and Orkney Museum are also within 5 minutes.
5/5Exceptional! (3 reviews)
Excellent, walking distance for all shops
"Absolutely loved it,and so central in kirkwall"

Reviewed on 3 Sep 2021

Cosy, modern ground floor flat in central Kirkwall
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Popular places to visit in Kirkwall

Top things to do in Kirkwall

Cities near Kirkwall