Earl's Palace, Kirkwall

The ruins of the Earl's Palace, Kirkwall lie near St Magnus Cathedral in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland. Built by Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney. It was begun in 1607 and built largely by forced labour. Lord Orkney and his father, Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney, are acknowledged to have been among the most tyrannical noblemen in Scotland's history.

The Earl's Palace was built after Lord Orkney decided that the accommodation provided by the Bishop's Palace was inadequate for his needs. He decided to extend the complex by building a new Earl's 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 current owner, trying him and having him executed. However, Orkney did not hold on to the property for long. Whilst in prison, Orkney's son, Robert Stewart, Lord Stewart, rose in rebellion and seized the palace, nearby St. Magnus' Cathedral and Kirkwall Castle. An army laid siege and the Castle was destroyed. Lord Orkney and his son were later executed.

After Lord Orkney's death the palaces continued to be the residence of the Bishops of Orkney sporadically until 1688, when they became the property of the Crown, and fell into ruin in the 18th century. The ruins, though roofless, still have much of their original French-influenced Renaissance elegance (Historic Scotland; entrance charge). Turrets and decorations carved in the sandy coloured stonework, give glimpses of the former splendour of this residence.

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