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Kirkwall is the largest town and capital of the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of islands some 10 miles off the north coast of Scotland. Kirkwall has two faces, depending on where you have just come from. If arriving from a large city such as Edinburgh or Glasgow, it is a small, quiet town, with a gentle pace of life. On the other hand, if you arrive from a more remote area, such as the outer islands of Orkney, Kirkwall seems like a buzzing metropolitan centre with shops, cafes, bars, traffic and areas of housing and industry sprawling south, east and west from it's busy harbour.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and the Shetland Islands from Kirkwall's airport. International flights to Bergen, Norway.

Local routes also connect the other Orkney Islands to Kirkwall.

By boat[edit]

Northlink Ferries[4] travel several times a week during the night between Kirkwall and Lerwick and Aberdeen. The Northlink terminal is about 20 minutes walk from the town centre, although there is a connecting bus for the sailings.

Orkney Ferries[5] link Kirkwall at least daily with Eday, Sanday, Stonsay, North Ronaldsay and Westray. Several ferries a day go to and from Shapinsay, but only a couple a week to Papa Westray. The ferry port is right in the town centre.

By bus[edit]

Stagecoach in Orkney is the main operator of buses in and around Kirkwall. All bus routes focus on the Travel Centre, which is located on West Castle Street, just off Broad Street. This is where the tourist information centre is also located. Buses operate to most areas of the mainland, with buses goin to the main historic sites in the Summer months. Buses also operate to the linked South Isles and to ferry terminals which are not located in Kirkwall. A daily bus service has also recently started, which allows travel from Kirkwall to Inverness on the same bus, as the bus comes on the ferry too. Timetables and routes or all public transport services are available at [6]

By car[edit]

Kirkwall has numerous car parks located in the town centre and harbour area. Parking around the harbour is free and mainly unlimited time, so it is the best place to park if you are exploring the town for a whole day. However, there can be a lack of parking in the town, even in the pay car parks.

Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]

  • St Magnus Cathedral. Founded in 1137, this impressive red sandstone cathedral has an atmoshperic interior, dominated by red circular columns and multi-coloured textile hangings.
  • Bishop's Palace & Earl's Palace £2. Opposite the cathedral, these red ruins are a worthwhile visit.
  • Orkney Museum on Broad Street opposite the cathedral.
  • Orkney Wireless Museum at the Kiln Corner in the Harbour area of the town. Contains a vast collection of radios from Orkneys past. Worth a visit and truely a unique museum.
  • Highland Park Distillery Holm Road 01856 874619, £3. Ten minutes walk from the centre. Regular tours during the spring and summer around the distillery, including a free sample.

Do[edit][add listing]

Buy[edit][add listing]

Kirkwall has a good range of craft shops, One of Orkney's specialities. Also look out for the local Orkney Fudge.

  • Ortak Jewllery
  • Longship - a good crafts shop.

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Strynd Tearoom The Strynd 01856 871552. A cosy tearoom in an alley beside the cathedral, good cakes.
  • St Magnus Cafe Broad St 01856 871552. Popular cafe opposite the cathedral.
  • Harbour Fry 3 Bridge Street 01865 873170. Tasty fish & chips.
  • Kirkwall Hotel [7], Harbour St, KW15 1LE, 01856 872232. Good selection of food beside the harbour.
  • Dil Se [8], 7 Bridge Street, KW15 1HR, 01856 875 242. Great indian food.

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • The Auld Motorhoose (MoHo), 26 Junction Road, +44 1856 871422. Mon - Wed: 11:00 - 00:00 Thu - Sat: 11:00 - 01:00 Sun: 12:30 - 00:00. An old petrol (gas) station converted into a pub. It has a classic car theme decorated with old license plates, old petrol pumps and various other car themed stuff. On tap it has Tenants, John Smith, Guinness, Fosters and Strongbow. It has a varied selection of bottled Orkney beers, spirits, cans and a small wine selection.  edit
  • St. Ola Hotel (Ola), Harbour Street, KW15 1LE Kirkwall (At the pier front), 44 (0)1856 875090. Mon - Wed: 11:00 - 23:30 Thu: 11:00 - 00:00 Fri: 11:00 - 01:00 Sat: 10:00 - 01:00 Sun: 10:00 - 00:00. Probably the cheapest pub in Kirkwall. Front bar is cheaper than the back bar. A favourite pub for the locals  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]


  • Kirkwall Youth Hostel, Old Scapa Road, +44 (0) 1856 872 243, [1]. 10 minutes walk from the centre, the hostel buildings are showing their age (wartime prefabs), but good facilities and small rooms.  edit
  • Orcades Hostel, Muddisdale Road, +44 01856 873745, [2]. A high quality, family-run hostel within 5 minutes walk of all the supermarkets and close to town centre. All of the rooms are en-suite and the kitchen and living room are stylishly decorated. Especially nice double rooms.  edit


  • Avalon House, Carness Road, KW15 1UE,, +44 01856 876665, [3].  edit

Get out[edit]

  • Shapinsay - take a boat across the harbour to the peaceful island, with a good restaurant
  • Stenness - the heart of neolithic Orkney.
  • Stromness - atmospheric old fishing port.
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