Earl's Palace



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The evocative remains of the residence of the Earl of Orkney, constructed round a courtyard. The Palace was built around 1606 by Patrick, Earl of Orkney. Known as ‘Black Patie’, the tyrannical Patrick ruled the Northern Isles with an iron fist for many years. Eventually he was hung for treason in 1615. It was declared at his trial that he used slave labour to build his residences. The Palace reflects the Earl's interest in ostentatious finery and is refined, spacious and masterfully planned. Although largely ruined it still has the power to impress. The frontal façade is the most impressive external aspect, while internally it’s the great hall with its huge fireplace. The building also reflects the owner’s obsession with privacy and security, for his own apartment lay beyond the top end of the great hall, well away from those occupied by his household officials and guests.

Earl's Palace
BIRSAY, Orkney, KW15 1PD


Opening times
  • Open all year
  • Opening Times: Open at all reasonable times

About the area

Discover Orkney

This cluster of more than 70 islands and skerries lies off the northern coast of Scotland, separated from it by the churning waters of the Pentland Firth. 

Approaching on the ferry from Scrabster or Aberdeen, the first view of Hoy, with its tall rock stacks and slabby red sandstone cliffs, is at first misleading. Only when the boat swings towards the harbour at Stromness on Mainland is a more typical view of Orkney revealed – low, green and fertile, with cattle grazing and crops growing. 

On a warm summer day, the scent of wild flowers in the clean air of these islands is invigorating. Kirkwall, on the eastern side of Mainland is the capital and the largest island in the archipelago. There is much to explore among the islands, which are linked by causeway, ferry or air. The air links include the shortest scheduled route in the world – just under two minutes for the one-and-a-half-mile flight between Westray and Papa Westray.

Orkney shares a close history with Scandinavia and today these islands ring with the Norse place names of the Scandinavians who lived here. However, the Picts and Celts pre-dated the Vikings by at least 3,500 years, leaving incredible signs of their presence at Maes Howe and Skara Brae.

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