Kirkwall is the main town, the capital, of the Orkney Islands located off the north coast of Scotland. Kirkwall is located on the Orkney mainland, the largest island in the archipelago.
The main airport of Orkney, and the only one on the mainland, is located just outside Kirkwall. From here there are flights to mainland Scotland, Norway, the Western Isles, the other Orkney isles and Shetland. Ferries also come to Kirkwall from Scotland and the other Orkney isles.
Kirkwall itself is not very large. As it caters to the rest of Orkney however, it has a good range of shops and services. There is a choice of three supermarkets, a variety of restaurants and takeaways, plenty of pubs and a selection of shops.
The main shopping street of Kirkwall, Albert Street, is a pretty street near the harbour. It is not pedestrianised, but feels like it is with shoppers strolling about contentedly, and there is little traffic. There are several clothes shops, catering to most tastes, and a nice choice of little gift shops, some selling local gifts and others more general. The Orcadian bookshop is small but worth popping into – it has a good selection of local interest books, fiction by writers such as George MacKay Brown and historical writing on the rich history of the islands.
There are also a few cafes along Albert Street, highly recommended is The Reel, located close to St Magnus Cathedral.
Albert Street runs from the Bridge Street, which also features a few shops and takeaways, and leads down to the harbour, which is a working harbour with a lot of inter-island ferries going in and out. On a sunny day it’s a pleasant place for a stroll. Further along the road from the harbour is the Peedie Sea, a man made circular inlet, peedie being the Orcadian word for small.
Aside from the centre Kirkwall is largely a residential town. There is a reasonable choice of holiday cottages available, which put you close to all the amenities of the town. Driving distances from Kirkwall to the rest of the mainland are never very long, so it is a good base for a visit to the island.
Kirkwall is a good place to visit for attractions such as St Magnus Cathedral, the Earl’s Palace and the Bishop’s Palace, but also useful as a functional town and a base for visiting the rest of Orkney.