10 Best Things To Do In Kirkwall, Scotland - Updated 2023


The beautiful town of Kirkwall is the largest in Orkney. With a history that encompasses a huge part of the Viking life, you can enjoy historical architecture like the Cathedral of St. Magnus. For a more modern-day attraction, the Pickaquoy is a top-of-the-range leisure facility where you can easily spend a day enjoying a wide range of activities. You can also simply enjoy the surrounding areas known for its relaxed beauty and charm. No matter how long you want to spend in the town, we’ve done the leg work for you and found the best things to do in Kirkwall. So, what are you waiting for, read on, and discover how you too can enjoy the fresh Scottish air on your next holiday.

1. The Pickaquoy Centre

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Known lovingly as “Picky’ to the locals this holds Orkney’s largest cinema, a number of pool tables, and plenty of sports activities. You could spend the day enjoying rock climbing, badminton, fitness classes and much more. The center also regularly hosts events, conferences and festivals so be sure to check online to see what’s happening during your visit. If you want something even more adventurous, you can enjoy the full camping facilities onsite.

The Pickaquoy Centre

Address: The Pickaquoy Centre, Muddisdale Road, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1LR

Website: The Pickaquoy Centre

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 6:30am - 10pm; Sat - Sun: 9am - 8pm

2. Witness the enigma at Bishop’s and Earl's Palaces

Bishops Palace in Kirkwall (4902589512)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user David Stanley used under CC BY 2.0

As you walk around you can learn lots about Kirkwall from the time it was a busy port area and had a large medieval cathedral at the center. The palace is famous for many events including the death of the great Haakon IV of Norway. Be sure to admire the design of the buildings including the oriel windows and of course, the statue of St. Rognvald. The site is extensive and is definitely worth a visit during your trip!

Bishop’s and Earl's Palaces

Address: Watergate, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1PD

Website: Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces

Opening hours: Apr - Sep: 9:30am - 5:30pm (daily); Oct: 10am - 4pm (daily); closed from Nov - Mar

Price: 7.3 USD

3. Go triking around Orkney (from USD 378.0)

This fun and exciting tour is the ideal way to explore the local and surrounding area. You’ll be able to see the Orkney archipelago. You won’t want to miss this beautiful spot which is ideal for photographs. The area includes sandstone cliffs, important historical sites, and breathtaking cliffs. It’s also home to a number of seal colonies which is a unique sight to see. You can enjoy other important historical sites on a tour and learn more about the wars that happened, the history and the modern-day.

Orkney Trike Tours of Orkney

Duration: 4 to 8 hours

13 reviews

4. Experience variety at The Old Library

Old library
Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

The Old Library has been a firm fan of visitors since it first opened its doors in 1990. Inside, Grooves, an independent record store, has a wide range of memorabilia, records, CDs. It has now extended its range and also offers homewares, books, and gifts. The Sound Archive is a live music venue that hosts a number of excellent acts. You can check online to see what acts will be performed during your stay. Before the show, be sure to grab your drink from Archive Coffee. We’d also recommend their fabulous home-baked treats, and in the evening, craft beer and a mix of local gins and whiskeys are on offer.

The Old Library

Address: 8 Laing Street, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NW

Website: The Old Library

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 8:30am - 5:15pm; Sun: 11am - 4pm

Price: Free

5. Take a stroll at Well Park Garden Centre

Source: Pixabay

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

With a fantastic selection of plants, trees, and shrubberies you can happily spend time walking around the landscaped garden. If you’re looking for a gift for a loved this is also one of the best places to visit. Since 2004, there has also been a coffee shop onsite with deep roasted coffee and delicious cakes, pastries, and sandwiches. The cakes are delicious. Also, the facility ensures the use of local produce as an when available.

Well Park Garden Centre

Address: Mill Street, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NE

Website: Well Park Garden Centre

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 9am - 5pm; Sun: 11am - 4:30pm

Price: Free entry

6. Grab a bottle of Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin

Source: PX Fuel

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Ever wondered if it is possible to bottle the taste of heritage and history? The blenders of Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin would answer ‘yes’. This infamous local gin has a history that dates back to the times when Orkney was a thriving part of the Viking Empire. The Vikings bought with them a plant, Angelica, which the blenders now use as one of the key ingredients in their delicious Gin. Be sure to spend some time at the Visitor Center, book a tour, or even the full gin experience. Got your attention?

Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin

Address: Ayre Road, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1QX

Website: Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin

Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 12pm - 5pm; Fri: 12pm - 1am; Sat: 10am - 1am (closed on Sun)

Price: Tour - 18 USD

7. Seek blessings at the stunning St. Magnus Cathedral

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, viewed from the Bishop's Palace
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Stevekeiretsu used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This beautiful and architecturally unique building took 300 years to build and is constructed from red and yellow sandstone. It was initiated in 1137 and it was dedicated to Magnus Erlendsson. However, as history ascertains, his bones are now buried in one of the pillars of the cathedral. Visitors are welcome to join in the prayers at the church, or simply admire the building structure. We’d recommend downloading the guidebook from the website to ensure that you make the most of your visit.

St Magnus Cathedral

Address: Broad St, Kirkwall KW15 1NX, United Kingdom

Website: St Magnus Cathedral

Opening hours: Apr - Sep: Mon - Sat: 9am - 6pm; Sun: 1pm - 6pm; Oct - Mar: Mon - Sat: 9am - 1pm; 2pm - 5pm (closed on Sun)

Price: Free entry

8. Try the superb whiskey at Highland Park Whisky Distillery

Highland Park Distillery - panoramio (2)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alan Jamieson used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Tour of Highland Park Whisky Distillery is a fantastic way to learn more about the area. The introductory video explains the deep Viking roots, and it is followed by a tour of the site. You’ll even have the opportunity to taste a number of whiskeys. One among the multiple products has been named as the “Best Spirit in the World” by the Spirit Journal.

Highland Park Whisky Distillery

Address: Holm Rd, Kirkwall KW15 1SU, United Kingdom

Website: Highland Park Whisky Distillery

Opening hours: Apr - Oct: 10am - 4pm (daily); Nov - Mar: Mon - Fri: 10am - 4pm (closed on Sat & Sun)

Price: 18 - 24 USD

9. Discover sauce bottle radios at Orkney Wireless Museum

Orkney Wireless Museum Kirkwall 2017
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Unukorno used under CC BY 4.0

We adore this quaint museum which showcases wireless technology through the years. You can listen to a 100-year crystal set, play on an early-made computer, or even test your steady hand with a wire and loop game. There are also a number of displays to admire, including a radio station and many items from German ships and U-Boats. Children will love the fun and unique transistor radios found in sauce bottles, cameras, and even cigarette packets.

Orkney Wireless Museum

Address: Kiln Corner, Junction Road, Kirkwall, KW15 1LB

Website: Orkney Wireless Museum

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 4:30pm; Sun: 2:30pm - 4:30pm (closed on Thu & Fri)

Price: 3.5 USD

10. Learn the secrets of Neolithic times at Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn

Cuween Hill, front external view, 2012 March
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user adrazahl used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you’re interested in the Neolithic design, Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn should definitely be on your list. This 5,000-year-old site hides the remains of men, oxen, and dogs. It was home to one of the earliest agricultural communities and has evidence of burials. This spot is definitely off-the-beaten-track, and to enter you may have to crawl.

Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn

Address: Old Finstown Rd, Orkney KW17 2EJ

Website: Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn

Price: Free entry

Discover the best things to do in Kirkwall, UK

This is just the tip of the iceberg of fun and interesting things to do in Kirkwall in the UK. Whether you’re passing through or planning to spend a long holiday, you’ll have lots of time to explore the fantastic sites of Kirkwall. So, book your holiday today and start planning.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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A full-time global wanderer and volunteer. Strong compass leading to random and remote pockets of Earth; exploring jungles, abandoned villages and the open seas. Passionate about documenting on my...Read more

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