Kirkwall  Orkney


In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Kirkwall like this:

Kirkwall, parl. and royal burgh, seaport, and co. town of Orkney, Kirkwall and St Ola par., Mainland, at head of Kirkwall Bay, 51 miles N. of Wick, which is 742½ miles NW. of London by rail--parl. burgh, pop. 3923; royal burgh, pop. 2613; town, pop. 3947; P.O., T.O., 4 Banks, 4 newspapers. ...

The cathedral of Kirkwall (1137), dedicated to St Magnus, the patron saint of Orkney, is one of the three old cathedrals of Scotland that remain in nearly perfect condition. The choir is used as the parish church. Adjoining the cathedral are the remains of the bishop's palace, where Haco King of Norway died in 1263, and the ruins of the earl's palace (about 1600), the hall of which figures in Scott's Pirate. The last remains of the old royal Castle of Kirkwall, a fortress of great strength and antiquity, were removed in 1865. To the E. of the harbour are the remains of a fort erected by Cromwell. Kirkwall has steam communication with Lerwick, and with Leith, by Wick and Aberdeen. The harbour, which has been much improved, is secure and commodious, and the trade, foreign and coasting, is considerable. (For shipping statistics, see Appendix.) Kirkwall was made a royal burgh by James III. in 1486. It is one of the Wick District of Parliamentary Burghs, which returns 1 member.

Kirkwall through time

Kirkwall is now part of Orkney Islands district. Click here for graphs and data of how Orkney Islands has changed over two centuries. For statistics about Kirkwall itself, go to Units and Statistics.

How to reference this page:

GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Kirkwall in Orkney Islands | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.


Date accessed: 11th December 2019

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