Earl's Palace

Birsay, United Kingdom

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.



Your name


Founded: 1570s
Category: Miscellaneous historic sites in United Kingdom


4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ron Pomerantz (4 months ago)
Sorta preserved remains of a castle. Little restoration. Overall footprint of prior castle is well defined as are some walls. A worthwhile stop while touring the Orkney coast.
Michiel Belmans (5 months ago)
A former 16th century palace, now a nice place to explore for free.
Steven Redmond (7 months ago)
Large sprawling Palace ruins. Neat to walk around the ground floor and learn about what each room was designed for. Plenty of parking. 30 minutes to complete this attraction.
SARAH BANCROFT (9 months ago)
Roam the ruins of the residence of Robert Stewart, half brother of Mary Queen of Scots, who became Earl of Orkney in the late 1500's. The Earls Palace. Free to enter and walk around. The tall ruins are arranged around a central courtyard which contains a well. It must of been a magnificent residence. There is also a lovely honesty box nearby, with checking out also.
Tara Sanders (18 months ago)
An interesting place to stop if you're in the area. Free entry. Not much parking around, so you need to find somewhere on the road in the village to park and thrn walk to it. Noticeboards around to give you information and show pictures of how it would have looked when it was standing as a completed fortified Palace. Wall notices to show you what each room would have been. Impressive sized rooms, high walls and big windows. I bet it would've looked beautiful before it was left to ruin.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

La Hougue Bie

La Hougue Bie is a Neolithic ritual site which was in use around 3500 BC. Hougue is a Jèrriais/Norman language word meaning a \'mound\' and comes from the Old Norse word haugr. The site consists of 18.6m long passage chamber covered by a 12.2m high mound. The site was first excavated in 1925 by the Société Jersiaise. Fragments of twenty vase supports were found along with the scattered remains of at least eight individuals. Gravegoods, mostly pottery, were also present. At some time in the past, the site had evidently been entered and ransacked.

In Western Europe, it is one of the largest and best preserved passage graves and the most impressive and best preserved monument of Armorican Passage Grave group. Although they are termed \'passage graves\', they were ceremonial sites, whose function was more similar to churches or cathedrals, where burials were incidental.