Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands, lies just off the north coast of Scotland. It’s a charming and quiet side place when you first arrive, but when you return after visiting one of the other smaller and quieter islands further offshore it will feel as if it’s a bustling metropolis.
Bishop's Palace in Kirkwall, by David Stanley on Flickr
Kirkwall’s harbour is the arrival and departure point for ferries from Shetland and the other Orkney Islands, as well as for the city of Aberdeen. It hosts cruise ships from large super liners to small more intimate ships, and its airport is where flights from other parts of the UK touch down. It’s also where visitors looking to explore the area can pick up their Kirkwall Car Hire, stock up on supplies and head off to explore. The town’s best feature is its cathedral which is surrounded by quaint grey buildings and narrow, flag stoned streets, bustling with typical market town life. Other points of interest are the Bishop's Palace, the Tankerness House which is now the Orkney Museum, and the Old Kirkwall Grammar School.
The old part of the town is considered to be one of the most well preserved examples of an ancient Norse town. It originally went by its Norse name "Kirkvoe" (pronounced "Kirkva" - with the "v" sounding more like a "w"). However, its name got changed by accident when mapmakers mistook the “Waa'" sound in "Kirkva" to be the same as "Wa'" which meant “Wall" in Scottish, and that’s how Kirwall got its name,
If you’re arriving by plane, this is the view your pilot will get coming into land, but don’t let put you off.