Kirkwall Port Guide

Kirkwall Port welcomes cruise passengers who want to see and visit the largest town and capital of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Kirkwall comes from the Norse word “Kirkjuvagar” which literally means “church bay”.

The harbor town is considered to be one of the best preserved ancient Norse towns in the world. Kirkwall’s characteristics are more Scandinavian in nature, rather than Scottish. It was acquired by Scotland in 1468 and was the center of Norse culture until the end of the first millennium.


Bridge and Albert Streets are the shopping districts in Kirkwall. The town is known for its authentic handicrafts. Several craft shops to look out for are Ortak Jewelry and the Longship Store.

The Orcadian bookshop offers a wide variety of books at retail prices. If you plan to spend more time in town and would like to stock up on provisions, you can drop by at the Somerfield Supermarket.

Things to See

Kirkwall’s main attraction is the St. Magnus Cathedral. It was built by the Norse Earl Rognvald and was dedicated to his uncle, Earl Magnus of Orkney. The church’s glory is a result of the workers who constructed the church using red and yellow sandstone that are found near the harbor and island of Eday. They were used in an alternating fashion like the chessboard squares. Major renovation of the church was done in the early 1900s and one of the major changes includes replacing the stone pyramid atop the tower with a taller spire made of copper. You can see the whole of Orkney when you are on top of the Cathedral tower.

A few meters away from the Cathedral are the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces. The Bishop’s Palace was built for Bishop William the Old in 1150 and was known among the locals as the Palace of the Yards. On the other hand, the Earl’s Palace is considered to be the finest Renaissance building in England. It was built by Earl Patrick Steward who found the Bishop’s Castle distasteful.

The Tankerness House is now the Orkney Museum and is situated opposite the St Magnus Cathedral. Admission to the museum is free but donations are accepted. The 300-year old house contains most of Orkney’s past and present. You can find artifacts and relics that stretch back to the Neolithic Age. One particular display that is worth noting is a collection of grave goods that were excavated from a Viking Boat. The goods include a whalebone plaque believed to be used for smoothing linens.

Restaurants and Bars

Just beside the great Cathedral is the Strynd Tearoom where you can order the best cakes in town. The St. Magnus Café is located across the Cathedral and serves snacks for weary tourists.

The Dil Se Restaurant offers Indian food at its finest in a Scottish town. Fish and chips are Harbour Fry’s menu bestseller.

Seafood dishes and roasted beef are best served at the Kirkwall Hotel, located right in front of the Kirkwall port of call.

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