Ruined Palaces, Churches, Maes Howe & Scenery

Kirkwall Travel Blog

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Window inside St. Magnus Cathedral

THURSDAY: DAY 28:  We were up at 8am since we had an early night. I had fruit & porridge for breakfast. Our day included 2 churches, 2 palaces, another Neolithic site, beautiful scenery & wildlife on Orkney. We headed south  to visit ST. MAGNUS CATHEDRAL and did our own self guided tour. This Cathedral was reddish in color being built from red and yellow sandstone. It was very pretty inside & out. It was started in 1137 by Norse Earl Rognvald and was continuously worked on for the next 875 years.  It had high ceilings with the colored windows. After here we walked to find a bathroom & found a sign for public restrooms on a side street & there was an attendant charging a fee. We refused to pay to use a bathroom so we walked away.

The Nave of St. Magnus Cathedral

It was a beautiful warm day for walking and touring. We then went to BISHOP'S & EARL'S PALACE'S which are actually around the corner of the Cathedral. Both of these are ruined and Earl's palace is larger & had more to explore. We did Earl's Palace first and it is mostly hidden by trees so it was difficult to get the entire palace in one shot. It was built in 1607 by Earl Patrick Stewart & was used until 1688 and then went into ruin. The walls and ground floors are intact but it's roofless. When we were on the top floor we saw some people on teams that loooked to be like bowling. They were hootin & hollering in a fun way. lol  BISHOP'S PALACE was built in 1150's for Bishop William the Old and then went into ruins & was rebuilt in 1540 & was then left for Earl's Palace in 1607.

Earl's Palace
It was smaller but it had a TOWER called BISHOP REID TOWER that we climbed and got wonderful clear views of St. Magnus Cathedral & the town of Kirkwall. We got chocolate Orkney ice cream at the ticket booth which had a good taste.

We drove southeast to the coast to where the Royal Navy moved a base here in 1914 and since there were no defences, Blockships were sunk to block the passages. 4 CHURCHILL BARRIERS were built and opened in 1945 to link the islands of the Mainland and SOUTH RONALDSAY. We stopped along the road & took pictures of the Sunken Ships. Then we stopped at this little white chapel that was built in 1943 by Italian Prisoners of War, hence the name ITALIAN CHAPEL.

Me in a window at Earl's
The interior was pretty and outside was a statue of ST. George killing a dragon. We drove across a couple of the barriers taking in the sights & stopped in the village of ST MARGARET'S HOPE in South Ronaldsay. We got out and walked around a little bit then started driving back to the mainland when crossing one of the Churchill Barriers we saw what we thought were dolphins jumping out of the water! We found a place to park & got out & a couple had also stopped to see them. We found out they were actually Red Nosed Purpoises and there were a few of them. We spent about half an hour here watching them and it was still warm outside! We crossed the causeway of Churchill Barrier #1 past LAMB HOLM, an island.

I wanted to see MAES HOWE & Suzi wanted to find more pottery so we split up.

The famous "Latrine"
This was the first time we did something separately this trip. Maes Howe is said to be the "Finest Chambered Tomb in North West Europe" and is Older than the Egyptian Pyramids and built around 2800BC. It was believed to be used as a calendar. This was a guided tour and you crossed the road from the visitor centre & walked a path to it & met the guide there who took us inside the 9m long passageway. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside. It was tall enough that we were able to stand straight. There was alot of graffiti carrved into the walls from the Vikings including a picture of a carved lion.  It was an interesting site. I bought some medieval knight figurines.

Suzi picked me up and then we drove north along the coast on the A966 taking in the sights of a Lighthouse (built in 1925) & the BROUGH OF BIRSAY in the distance.

Great Hall
It was occupied by the Picts and then the Norse. We wanted to see these closer but they can only be visited during the couple of hours of low tide so we did not chance it. We took far away pictures of it. We also drove past EARL'S PALACE OF BIRSAY that was in ruins built in 1569; not to be confused with the other Earl's Palace in Kirkwall. I know I was confused with the 2 of them. We then went back to Kirkwall and ate dinner at the ALBERT HOTEL where I had a good Burrito and chips. I know, Mexican food 2 days in a row on Orkney! lol We stayed in this night also but we got to see a beautiful sunset over our B&B. The first actual one this trip! We ended up having the warmest weather here even though we were north of the mainland.

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Window inside St. Magnus Cathedral
Window inside St. Magnus Cathedral
The Nave of St. Magnus Cathedral
The Nave of St. Magnus Cathedral
Earls Palace
Earl's Palace
Me in a window at Earls
Me in a window at Earl's
The famous Latrine
The famous "Latrine"
Great Hall
Great Hall
Suzi in the window at Earls Palace
Suzi in the window at Earl's Palace
Suzi taking a picture of me taking…
Suzi taking a picture of me takin…
Another part of Earls Palace
Another part of Earl's Palace
Some kind of bowling game
Some kind of bowling game
Inside Bishops Palace
Inside Bishop's Palace
Fireplace at Bishops
Fireplace at Bishop's
View of Kirkwall from atop the Tow…
View of Kirkwall from atop the To…
Cathedral view from the tower
Cathedral view from the tower
St. Magnus Cathedral
St. Magnus Cathedral
Italian Chapel on the east mainlan…
Italian Chapel on the east mainla…
Santuary of Italian Chapel
Santuary of Italian Chapel
St. George statue
St. George statue
Blockships to Scapa Flow
Blockships to Scapa Flow
Blockship
Blockship
Blockship
Blockship
Can you see the purpoises heads?
Can you see the purpoises heads?
Maes Howe
Maes Howe
Brough of Birsay with the lighthou…
Brough of Birsay with the lightho…
Brough of Birsay
Brough of Birsay
Earls Palace of Birsay
Earl's Palace of Birsay
Sunset in Kirkwall
Sunset in Kirkwall
Sunset in front of our B&B
Sunset in front of our B&B
Kirkwall
photo by: ariosa