Kirkwall

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

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 AU$138 per night from 5 Nov. to 5 Nov.
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.
4.1/5 Very Good! (27 reviews)
"Great location. Good food."

Reviewed on 17 Sep. 2021

The Ayre Hotel
The Orkney Hotel
The Orkney Hotel
3 out of 5
40 Victoria Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
The price is AU$193 per night from 29 Oct. to 29 Oct.
Located in the heart of Kirkwall, this eco-friendly hotel is steps away from Mainland, Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace. St. Magnus Cathedral and Scapa Distillery ...
4.1/5 Very Good! (19 reviews)
"Very convenient to everything in the city center"

Reviewed on 20 Aug. 2021

The Orkney Hotel
The Shore
The Shore
3 out of 5
Shore Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
The price is AU$145 per night from 29 Oct. to 29 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 ...
4.4/5 Excellent! (85 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
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.
Ivyhouse - Flat1 -1-bed Apartment in Kirkwall
Ivyhouse - Flat1 -1-bed Apartment in Kirkwall
3 out of 5
Flat 1, Bridge Street, Kirkwall, Scotland
Situated in Kirkwall, this apartment building is steps away from Mainland and Orkney Wireless Museum. St. Magnus Cathedral and Orkney Museum are also within ...
5/5 Exceptional! (1 review)
Totally recommended
"The flat is a delight. It is close to shops takeaways and pubs yet we found it quiet and relaxing. We loved the place. The only minor issue we had was getting blocked in by an inconsiderate neighbour. Choose your parking spot to ensure that can't happen and you'll be fine."

Reviewed on 10 Aug. 2021

Ivyhouse - Flat1 -1-bed Apartment in Kirkwall
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.
5/5 Exceptional! (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
Bright, modern one bedroom flat in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney
Bright, modern one bedroom flat in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney
Laing St, Kirkwall, SCT
Situated in Kirkwall, this historic apartment building is steps away from Mainland and St. Magnus Cathedral. Orkney Wireless Museum and Orkney Museum are also ...
4.8/5 Exceptional! (6 reviews)
Great location and great apartment
"Very good the owners were very helpful and replied very quickly giving us all the information we needed."

Reviewed on 18 Oct. 2020

Bright, modern one bedroom flat in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney
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 activities in Kirkwall

Cities near Kirkwall