The Bishop's Palace, Kirkwall was built at the same time as the adjacent St Magnus Cathedral. It was built for the cathedral's first bishop, William the Old of the Norwegian Catholic church who took his authority from the Archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim). The ruined structure now looks like a small castle.

Originally it is thought to have been like a typical Royal Norwegian Palace, with a large rectangular hall above store rooms and a tower house as the Bishop's private residence. King Haakon IV of Norway, overwintering after the Battle of Largs, died here in 1263, marking the end of Norse rule over the Outer Hebrides. The neglected palace had fallen into ruins by 1320.

In 1468 Orkney and Shetland were pledged by Christian I of Denmark and Norway for the payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret, betrothed to James III of Scotland, and as the money has never since been paid, their connection with the crown of Scotland has been perpetual. In 1526 the palace came briefly into the possession of William, Lord Sinclair, before he was ordered to return it to the Bishop of Orkney. When King James V of Scotland visited Kirkwall in 1540 he garrisoned his troops in the Palace and in Kirkwall Castle. Soon afterwards' extensive restoration was begun by Bishop Robert Reid, the last and greatest of Orkney's medieval Bishops who also founded the University of Edinburgh. Reid added a round tower, the Moosie Toor.

Ownership passed to Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney, in 1568, then to his son Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney who planned to incorporate it into his Earl's Palace, Kirkwall, but debts forced him to return it to Bishop James Law. Earl Patrick's son Robert seized both palaces in 1614, and a siege followed, though it is not known if this caused damage to the structures, both of which are now ruins.

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Founded: 12th century
Category: Ruins in United Kingdom

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Lynne Hurley (3 years ago)
Very wet and unable to go round-closed until April!
Liam (4 years ago)
The buildings are very interesting, but it was closed when i got there. You can view them from outside but i would have enjoyed to go inside and have a look around. Be aware of the season and the open times, and phone ahead.
Mark Huvenaars (4 years ago)
This was our first historical stop on Orkney. We were able to pick up or Discovery Pass here. The person that was working at the ticket office was exceptionally helpful and gave us the full run down on his recommendations for the short two days that we would be on Orkney. The castles themselves were interesting because we were able to explore all of it - no ropes or “no-go” zones - the entire place is open for exploration. We spent about an hour here. Very much recommend a visit!
Simon Lidwell (4 years ago)
Well preserved and presented ruins. Great interpretation boards to communicate what it might have been like to live there, and telling the stories of their most famous (or infamous) owners. They are just ruins, but they provide a great framework which you can fill in with your imagination.
Frank Martin (4 years ago)
Cool old ruins can be seen quickly.
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Lorca Castle

Castle of Lorca (Castillo de Lorca) is a fortress of medieval origin constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries. It consists of a series of defensive structures that, during the Middle Ages, made the town and the fortress an impregnable point in the southeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Lorca Castle was a key strategic point of contention between Christians and Muslims during the Reconquista.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the site of the castle has been inhabited since Neolithic times.

Muslim Era

It has not been determined exactly when a castle or fortress was first built on the hill. The first written documentation referring to a castle at Lorca is of Muslim origin, which in the 9th century, indicates that the city of Lurqa was an important town in the area ruled by Theudimer (Tudmir). During Muslim rule, Lorca Castle was an impregnable fortress and its interior was divided into two sections by the Espaldón Wall. In the western part, there was an area used to protect livestock and grain in times of danger. The eastern part had a neighbourhood called the barrio de Alcalá.

After Reconquista

Lorca was conquered by the Castilian Infante Don Alfonso, the future Alfonso X, in 1244, and the fortress became a key defensive point against the Kingdom of Granada. For 250 years, Lorca Castle was a watchpoint on the border between the Christian kingdom of Murcia and the Muslim state of Granada.

Alfonso X ordered the construction of the towers known as the Alfonsina and Espolón Towers, and strengthened and fixed the walls. Hardly a trace of the Muslim fortress remained due to this reconstruction. Muslim traces remain in the foundation stones and the wall known as the muro del Espaldón.

The Jewish Quarter was found within the alcazaba, the Moorish fortification, separated from the rest of the city by its walls. The physical separation had the purpose of protecting the Jewish people in the town from harm, but also had the result of keeping Christians and Jews separate, with the Christians inhabiting the lower part of town.

The remains of the Jewish Quarter extended over an area of 5,700 square m, and 12 homes and a synagogue have been found; the synagogue dates from the 14th century and is the only one found in the Murcia. The streets of the town had an irregular layout, adapted to the landscape, and is divided into four terraces. The synagogue was in the central location, and around it were the homes. The homes were of rectangular shape, with various compartmentalized rooms. The living quarters were elevated and a common feature was benches attached to the walls, kitchens, stand for earthenware jars, or cupboards.

Modern history

With the disappearance of the frontier after the conquest of Granada in 1492, Lorca Castle no longer became as important as before. With the expulsion of the Jews by order of Ferdinand and Isabella, Lorca Castle was also depopulated as a result. The castle was abandoned completely, and was almost a complete ruin by the 18th century. In the 19th century, the castle was refurbished due to the War of Spanish Independence. The walls and structures were repaired or modified and its medieval look changed. A battery of cannons was installed, for example, during this time. In 1931 Lorca Castle was declared a National Historic Monument.

Currently, a parador (luxury hotel) has been built within the castle. As a result, archaeological discoveries have been found, including the Jewish Quarter.