Explore the enchanting city of Kirkwall

Capital of the Orkney Islands, Kirkwall is a stunning place filled with history. It has been around for many hundreds of years and was perhaps first mentioned in the Orkneyinga saga in the year 1046. The name Kirkwall is loosely derived from the old Norse name ‘Kirkjuvagr’ which meant ‘Church bay’. It is a harbor town situated on the northern coast of Mainland Orkney. Kirkwall is the one of the few places in the area which offers ferry services to most of the other islands in the archipelago.

Although Kirkwall is Orkney’s largest town, it is still small when compared to other Scottish towns. There is a lot to see and do here, such as visiting the St Magnus Cathedral or the ruins of Bishop’s Palace and Earl’s Palace. To better showcase the rich Norse heritage of the place, there is a museum dedicated to items of local historical interest. There is also a small Wireless Museum which is quite interesting to visit.

Other popular attractions are the Highland Park Distillery, Scotland’s most northerly whisky distillery and the Scapa Bay distillery. The Kirkwall Ba Game which is held each Christmas and New Year’s Day is a very popular event that locals enjoy participating in. Shopping is a popular activity which is every bit more enjoyable for the historical setting which surrounds it. Most shoppers head to Bridge and Albert Street.

While Kirkwall may seem a bit out of the way to the average visitor to the country, it was very much the center of Norse culture near the end of the first millennium. It proved to be a link to all surrounding archipelagos and landmasses and was the home the sea-fearing Norsemen would return to in winter. Indeed, many of the characteristics of Kirkwall are more Scandinavian in nature than they are Scottish. Orkney only became Scottish when it was acquired in 1468. Kirkwall has seen many tumultuous years but it has also seen long periods of peace which have slowly carved it into the beautiful and homely place it is today.

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