Birsay

Towns & Villages

    Birsay, in Orkney's West Mainland, boasts the ruins of the once mighty Earl's Palace.

    Occupying the northwest corner of the Mainland, the parish of Birsay.  Steeped in history, Brisay has been settled continuously for more than 5,000 years so has reminants of every historic period from the Iron Age, Picts, Norse and more.

    There are many historic sites in Birsay including the prehistoric and Norse settlements on the Brough of Birsay and the ruins of the Earl's Palace. The Brough of Birsay is a tidal island only accessible during low tide and for tide times.  Please contact the Stromness or Kirkwall VisitScotland Information Centre for tidal times.

    The Earl's Palace was built in the second half of the 16th century by Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney, using the forced labour of the islanders, who weren't even given food and drink for their work!

    By all accounts, it was a 'sumptuous and stately dwelling', built in four wings around a central courtyard, its upper rooms decorated with painted ceilings and rich furnishings; surrounding the palace were flower and herb gardens, a bowling green and archery butts. The palace appears to have lasted barely a century before falling into rack and ruin; the crumbling walls and turrets retain much of their grandeur, although inside there is little remaining domestic detail.

    With stunning scenery and wildlife, exploring the area on foot or bike is popular.

     

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