Earl's Palace, Kirkwall

The Earl's Palace is a ruined Renaissance-style palace near St Magnus's Cathedral in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland. Built by Patrick, Earl of Orkney, its construction began in 1607 and was largely undertaken via forced labour. Today, the ruins are open to the public.

Earl's Palace
The Earl's Palace
Earl's Palace, Kirkwall is located in Orkney Islands
Earl's Palace, Kirkwall
General information
Statusin ruins
Architectural styleRenaissance
Town or cityKirkwall
OwnerHistoric Environment Scotland



The palace was built after Patrick, 2nd Earl of Orkney, decided that the accommodation provided by the Bishop's Palace was inadequate for his needs. Lord Orkney is widely acknowledged to have been one of the most tyrannical noblemen in Scotland's history. 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. Lord Orkney and his son were later executed for treason.[1]

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.[2]



The palace is currently in the possession of Historic Environment Scotland as a protected scheduled monument.[3]

The palace and the nearby Bishop's Palace are closed to the public October 2023 - March 2024 during which time high level masonry inspections are being carried out as part of the building's conservation.[4]


  1. ^ Balfour Paul, Sir James, in The Scots Peerage, Volume VI (Edinburgh, 1909), pp. 575-7
  2. ^ Simpson, William Douglas; Pringle, Denys (1986). Bishop's Palace & Earl's Palace, Kirkwall, Orkney. HM Stationery Office. p. 19. ISBN 9780114924928.
  3. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Earl's Palace, Kirkwall (SM90194)". Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Inspections begin at Bishop's and Earl's Palaces". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 6 November 2023.


  • Simpson, W Douglas. Bishop's Palace and Earl's Palace. Historic Scotland. ISBN N/A.

58°58′49″N 2°57′32″W / 58.98028°N 2.95889°W / 58.98028; -2.95889