Scotland's Viking Capital Walking Tour
- St. Magnus Cathedral: This landmark took three centuries to complete, but was worth the wait. Vestiges of the ancient Norse faith literally line the walls within.
- Bishop's Palace: Built in the mid-12th century to house the original St. Magnus bishop, William the Old. Catch a bird's-eye cathedral view from the tower.
- Earl's Palace: A marvelous ruin with a dark history. High vaulted windows and carved decorations made its Great Hall one of the finest staterooms in all of Scotland.
About this Kirkwall tour
Founded in 1035, Kirkwall is more a Viking town than a Scottish one. Within easy reach of Norway via longship, the fertile northern Orkney Islands were a tempting target for Viking settlers (a nicer term than "marauders"), and their influence never quite left.
Your GoBe guided walk leads through historic Old Town – where a winding network of streets and narrow lanes immerses you in the texture of ancient days. You'll pass the old Ramparts on Harbour Street, once providing defense from powerful seas and enemies, and stroll thoroughfares now lined with shops of all types.
The town "Mercat Cross" appears – marking the spot where the right to hold a regular market was granted by the authorities is 1621. This was also the place where verbal contracts were agreed to in an age when written ones were rare. The Cross was sometimes used as a pillory, presumably for those who broke those agreements.
Nearby is St. Magnus Cathedral, begun in 1137 and completed some 300 years later. No wonder its first bishop's name was William the Old! This majestic red sandstone structure dominates the skyline for miles, and is one of Scotland's finest medieval cathedrals. The adjacent Bishop’s Palace dates from the same period, but was rebuilt in the 1500s – with the sporty round "Moosie Toor" (tower) addition you see today.
Then there are the ruins of the Earl's Palace, an outstanding example of French Renaissance architecture – but with a truly sinister backstory. Over-the-top in design, it was built using forced labor in the early 1600s, on land stolen from its rightful owner by trumped-up theft charges fabricated by the Earl, one of the most tyrannical noblemen in Scottish history. He never got to settle in, though. His execution got in the way.
What's that still doing up there?
In 1798, one Magnus Eunson began using a hillside site overlooking Kirkwall for illegal distilling and whisky smuggling. The locals admired his wares greatly, and by 1825 the operation went legal – as Highland Park Distillery. Today, they're one of the world's most respected single malt Scotch makers. In fact, they've been named Best Spirit in the World three times since 2009 – a Kirkwall souvenir also available at home.
Please go to the ships berth area to meet your guide. Please look for our GoBe Representative with the displayed logo sign.
Time permitting, you may like to remain in the City for some free time and shopping.
Plan to walk over paved/unpaved surfaces and up inclines/steps for about 1-2 miles. This tour is neither wheelchair accessible nor suitable for those who have limited walking abilities, due to the nature of the venues and the amount of walking involved.
Scenic, Cultural, Walking Tour
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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