Kirkwall Tourist Attractions
Kirkwall (old Norwegian "kirkjuvagr" = "church bay") lies by a broad bay and at the narrowest point on the island. Of the 14,000 Orcadians who live on Mainland, about half reside in the island's main town. Its narrow streets and gray houses with tiny windows and gables overlooking the street are reminiscent of Norwegian architecture.
Boy's and Men's Ba' Games
Since 1850 at Christmas and on New Year's Day a kind of football match has been held in Kirkwall. The Boys' and Men's Ba' Games involves a team of "Uppies" (churchmen/upper town) playing the "Downies" (king's vassals/lower town). The boys play in the morning and the men in the afternoon, but as many as 200 players can be involved. The Ba' Game reflects the conflicts within the divided town at the end of the 14th century when Earl Henry St Clair controlled the castle (now no longer in existence) and the bishop the land around its base. The boundary was Kirk Green, now the starting point for a match that takes place on the streets and in which anyone can join in.
St Magnus Cathedral
The St Magnus Cathedral is by far the most impressive building in Kirkwall. Every year in June it is the venue for a music festival. The design of the cathedral is reminiscent of the cathedral in the Norwegian city of Trondheim. It was started in 1137 by Jarl Rognvald and was dedicated to his uncle Magnus Erlendsson who was murdered on Egilsay in 1116. The 250ft/75m long church with west front was completed at the end of the 15th C, but the oldest sections are the transept and the three niches in the chancel. Note that the huge Norman pillars are not spaced equally. Haakon the Norwegian king was buried in this church in 1263, but was later taken to Trondheim. During 1926 two pine coffins with skeletons were found in two of the pillars. These are thought to be the remains of Magnus and his nephew. St Magnus and Glasgow Cathedral are the only two Scottish churches which survived the Reformation undamaged.
Diagonally opposite St Magnus Cathedral in Watergate stand the ruins of the Bishop's Palace which was started in the middle of the 12th C by Bishop William the Elder to provide alternative accommodation for the cathedral's guests. It was here in 1263 that King Haakon died. The palace was restored in the late 15th C and then again in the middle of the 16th C by Bishop Robert Reid, the founder of Edinburgh University.
Earl Patrick's Palace
Earl Patrick's Palace serves as one of the finest examples of 16th century Scottish secular architecture. The light sandstone structure, now a ruin, was completed in 1607 by the tyrannical Earl Patrick Stewart. The mature trees in the garden, mostly maples, were planted ca. 1840.
Tankerness House Museum
Tankerness House is situated where Palace Road meets Broad Street, Kirkwall's main commercial thoroughfare with many small shops and welcoming pubs. The house originally consisted of two buildings which were converted for the first Protestant priest Gilbert Fulzie in 1574. It was later acquired by the Baikie of Tankerness merchant family. This fine town house now contains an exhibition on the history of the Orkneys.
Orkney - St Magnus Festival
This annual week-long festival takes place in mid-June, with over 20 performances. Events include operas, orchestral, choral, chamber and organ concerts, theatrical and dance performances, recitals, visual arts exhibitions, children's activities and lectures. Both new and established names can be found on the program.The repertoire also ranges from early-classical to new compositions.The events take place in a number of venues, including St Magnus Cathedral, the Phoenix Cinema and the Pier Arts Centre.