The Earl"s Palace is a ruined 16th-century castle. It was built by Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney (1533–1593), illegitimate son of King James V and his mistress Euphemia Elphinstone.

The castle was constructed in two phases. The first phase of work, begun in the 1570s, consisted of the great hall located in the south range, above the main door. Beside this was Lord Orkney"s private chamber in the south-east corner tower. An inscription above the entrance, dated 1574, marks this phase. The second phase, completed in the 1580s, saw a new range containing a great hall and chamber built on the north side of the courtyard. The second phase probably followed Robert"s acquisition of the Earldom of Orkney in 1581. After the death of Robert Stewart, the palace was used only occasionally by later earls of Orkney, and was not occupied after the mid-17th century. By 1701 the palace had begun to deteriorate badly.

The two-storey palace was constructed around a central courtyard and well, with large stone towers at three of the four corners. It was as much a fortress as a residence. Only the palace"s upper floors had large windows; the accessible ground floors were equipped with small openings and an array of gun-holes, from which musketeers could cover every side of the building.

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Founded: 1570s
Category: Ruins in United Kingdom

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Dave Wilcockson (12 months ago)
Great historic ruin worth a visit when going to the island and lighthouse
Antoni Bald (12 months ago)
Good for a quick walk around, seems not much is known about the room layout and purpose
Michael Wilson (12 months ago)
Interesting site with informative displays at suitable points. A short walk to the Birsay causeway. There is a little shop nearby and spotless public loos. Well worth a visit
Heather Daley (13 months ago)
Really well presented ruins, with good visitor information. Adjacent to lovely village shop, free car parking and public loos. Recommend highly.
Duncan Meechan (13 months ago)
Intersting and informative, with some really helpful locals
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