The ruins of the Earl's Palace lie near St Magnus's Cathedral. Built by Patrick, Earl of Orkney, construction began in 1607 and was largely undertaken via forced labour. Earl Patrick is widely acknowledged to have been one of the most tyrannical noblemen in Scotland's history.

The palace was built after the Earl decided that the accommodation provided by the Bishop's Palace was inadequate for his needs. He decided to extend the complex by building a new palace on the adjoining land. This was complicated by the fact he did not actually own this property. He quickly acquired it by fabricating charges of theft against the unfortunate owner, trying him and having him executed. Upon his imprisonment at Edinburgh in 1609, his bastard son Robert began a rebellion on his behalf and seized the palace, along with nearby St Magnus's Cathedral and Kirkwall Castle. An army led by the Earl of Caithness laid siege, and the Castle was destroyed. Earl Patrick and his son were later executed for treason.

After the Earl's death the palace continued to be the residence of the Bishops of Orkney sporadically until 1688, when it became the property of the Crown, and fell into ruin in the 18th century. It is currently in the possession of Historic Scotland. The ruins, though roofless, still have much of their original French-influenced Renaissance elegance. Turrets and decorations carved in the sandy coloured stonework, give glimpses of the former splendour of this residence.

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Founded: 1607
Category: Ruins in United Kingdom

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Actovania (17 months ago)
Interesting, fun, and brought out the curiosity in me and my mates.
2495 Dave (2 years ago)
A place worth stopping at to some interesting ruins. The main building was closed when we went but you could still enter the grounds and Look from the outside.
2495 Dave (2 years ago)
A place worth stopping at to some interesting ruins. The main building was closed when we went but you could still enter the grounds and Look from the outside.
Karl 1974 (2 years ago)
The Bishop's Palace, Kirkwall is a 12th-century palace built at the same time as the adjacent St Magnus Cathedral in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland. It housed 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 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.
Karl 1974 (2 years ago)
The Bishop's Palace, Kirkwall is a 12th-century palace built at the same time as the adjacent St Magnus Cathedral in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland. It housed 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 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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