Orkney: Pubs, Bishop’s Palace, St Magnus Cathedral and Broch of Gurness

In Kirkwall, the main town in Orkney, there is a plethora of visitor attractions – the harbour, the tree lined streets, and pubs such as The Reel (great fiddle music) and The Bothy (lovely pint of Corncrake Ale). In the town centre, the Bishop’s Palace and the Earl’s Palace stand side by side. The Bishop’s Palace (see photos 1 and 2) is an extensive building originally erected in the 12th century. It has a fascinating history, about which you can read as you go through the numerous rooms. You can get a real feel for how life might have been lived 7-800 years ago and one thing that you quickly learn, is that being born to the nobility rather than the servant class, was a distinct advantage. The walls are very thick and the windows very small. Many of the rooms are tiny but the main rooms where the bishop entertained, ate and slept are much bigger. There are also many fireplaces and some very long chimneys.

Across the road from the 2 palaces is the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral originally built in the 12th century (see photos 3,4 and 5). This is an inspiring building both for the humanist and the religious, with its high ceilings, towering columns and intricate woodwork. Along the walls, there are many plaques to local notables – you have to be important to have a stone or plaque on the inside of churches – and some with interesting wording e.g. “He lived beloved and died regretted”and “She lived regarded and died regretted”. What is most remarkable about the cathedral, from a construction point of view, is that each stone was handled by a mason – no machines pouring concrete in the 12th century.

Our final visit on this trip to Orkney was on a wild, windswept and rainy day, when we went to the Broch of Gurness (photo 6). A broch is a fort which also contains houses. This broch was built c200 BC and is in an ideal position for defence, as it sits at the edge of the shore and has a double moat. There is some quite intricate stonework in the fort. It would be better to visit the broch on a day when it was not rain-lashed. There is an interesting visitor’s centre and a friendly and helpful guide.

 

Bishop's Palace

Bishop’s Palace

Bishop's Palace

Bishop’s Palace

Inside St Magnus Cathedral

Inside St Magnus Cathedral

Wood carving on the choir of St Magnus Cathedral

Wood carving on the choir of St Magnus Cathedral

St Magnus Cathedral through the trees

St Magnus Cathedral through the trees

Broch of Gurness

Broch of Gurness

 

 

 

 

 

 

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