Kirkwall

Kirkwall, the small capital town of Orkney, is characterized by sturdy grey buildings and winding flagstone streets.

A little island, a lot to offer: cruise to Kirkwall on Orkney (UK)

Starkly beautiful, the archipelago of the 70 or so Orkney Islands lies off the far northeast coast of Scotland.

 Kirkwall, previously an ancient Norse trading town, is today a key destination on our Northern European cruise itinerary and was recently named the UK's best cruise ship port of call at the annual industry awards*.

Kirkwall, the small capital town of Orkney, is characterized by sturdy grey buildings and winding flagstone streets. Dominating the skyline is the impressive St Magnus Cathedral, built of red and yellow sandstone with magnificent stained glass windows.

Leave your luxury MSC cruise liner for the day and step ashore to experience the wonder of these legendary isles, exploring the town of Kirkwall or heading further inland to admire the island’s scenery and ancient sights. We have a great selection of excursion packages for Kirkwall and its surroundings, all of which offer the best deals on Orkney’s main attractions.

Kirkwall itself is pleasant for shopping with plenty of authentic boutiques perfect for sourcing quality holiday souvenirs such as Orkney fudge, whiskies, Scottish oatcakes and hand-made woollen goods.

Along the coast, visit the amazing Skara Brae, one of Orkney’s most exciting and oldest monuments: an entire 5,000 year-old Neolithic village, only discovered in 1850, and a key touristic highlight. More myths and legend abound at the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, ceremonial circles that date back 5,000 years. Orkney is a little island with a lot to offer, and this popular destination is sure to be a memorable part of your MSC cruise vacation.

*November 2010, cruisecritic.com

Cruise to Kirkwall-Orkney Is - UK - Northern Europe - MSC Cruises

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KIRKWALL Months
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Average high °C 5 5 6 8 11 13 15 15 12 10 7 6
Average low °C  2 1 2 3 5 7 10 10 8 6 3 2
 KWL01 - KIRKWALL WALKING TOUR  (approx. 2.5 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: Strenuous - Active excursions recommended only for guests in good physical health  Limited seat  Cultural  This walking tour offers an opportunity to explore some of the most fascinating architectural sites on the Orkney Isles on foot. Starting at the pontoon, a leisurely stroll will take you through the historical old town of Kirkwall, the Viking capital of the Orkney Islands. The magnificent 12th-century, red sandstone cathedral of St. Magnus, known locally as the “Light of the North”, is the first stop on the tour. Nearby there are many narrow, winding streets and lanes, which have hardly altered at all over the centuries. Afterwards, the tour continues to the ruined Bishop’s Palace and then to the Earl’s Palace, one of Scotland’s most elegant Renaissance buildings. The tour concludes at Tankerness House Gardens, where you will have time to visit the museum or take a stroll around the town before returning to the ship. Please note : limited number of guides in languages other than English. Should a tour guide for your language be unavailable, the tour will be provided in English only. On special events the visit to the Cathedral might be cancelled. Conservative attire is recommended for visiting sites of religious importance. This tour is not suitable for guests with walking difficulties or using a wheelchair.

Price per person $33.00 Adults $23.00 Children

   


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 KWL02 - ORKNEY SIGHTSEEING TOUR  (approx. 3 hours 15 minutes) - 2014
Difficulty level: easy - May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Limited seat  Wheelchair and disabled friendly tour - Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.  Experience a haven of wildlife, breathtaking panoramas and fascinating history during this scenic island exploration. On leaving Kirkwall, you will head north via Finstown and the Parish of Evie to then enjoy stunning views across Eynhallow Sound to the island of Rousay. Skirting the nearby Birsay Moors RSPB Reserve (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), the next stop is the sandy beach at Birsay Bay with views of the imposing cliffs at Marwick head and, if you are lucky, may even spot some of the seals in the bay! Travelling inland we make our way to the heart of Neolithic Orkney, which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. The tour concludes by taking you along the beautiful coastline of the historical bay of Scapa Flow while your guide relates the sort of dramatic wartime stories that have made this one of the best known stretches of water in the world. You will then return to Kirkwall and your ship. Please note : limited number of guides in languages other than English. Should a tour guide for your language be unavailable, the tour will be provided in English only.

Price per person $50.00 Adults $35.00 Children

   


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 KWL03 - SAGAS, WAR STORIES & WHISKY (approx. 3.5 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Limited seat  Drink included  The first stop on this tour is the northernmost producer of Scotch whisky, the Highland Park Distillery founded in 1798. From humble beginnings as an illicit still, Highland Park has grown from strength to strength producing its prize-winning spirits. The guided tour of this distillery includes a brief film presentation and fittingly concludes with a traditional “peedie” dram. A scenic drive along Scapa Flow bay then follows while your guide relates wartime stories of the time when Scapa Flow was the chief base of the British naval fleet in World Wars I and II. You will also cross the first of the four Churchill Barriers. These causeways were built during WWII to protect Scapa Flow to the east and connect the South Isles to the Orkney mainland. You will also visit the lovely hand-painted chapel on the tiny island of Lamb Holm. Built by Italian prisoners of war during WWII, the chapel stands as a symbol of peace and Orkney’s enduring friendship with the soldiers from Italy. You will also have time to explore Orkney’s capital of Kirkwall, which is dominated by the magnificent 12th-century St. Magnus’ Cathedral, known as the “Light of the North”. You will then return to the ship. Please note : limited number of guides in languages other than English. Should a tour guide for your language be unavailable, the tour will be provided in English only. On special events the visit to the Italian Chapel might be cancelled. During August calls the production of whisky is stopped at Highland Park Distillery. Taking photos or shooting videos inside the Distillery is prohibited.

Price per person $73.00 Adults $51.00 Children

   


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 KWL05 - SKARA BRAE & SKAILL HOUSE (approx. 3 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: moderate - May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Limited seat  Cultural  Come and discover the beautiful west coast of Orkney’s Mainland and a major prehistoric site: Skara Brae. The scenic coach ride to this UNESCO World Heritage Site – one of the best preserved Neolithic villages in Northern Europe that even predates Stonehenge – will take you through rich farmland, rolling hills and stark moors. Occupied from c. 3,180 B.C. to 2,500 B.C., Skara Brae remained hidden under a large knoll until a severe storm in 1850 uncovered the outline of several roofless buildings. The collection of Skara Brae artefacts displayed at the visitors’ centre includes tools, beads, pottery and objects made of whalebone that reflect the region’s tough seafaring economy. The site still affords a good idea of how the village must once have looked, while the houses themselves illustrate the rigours of prehistoric life. The next stop will then see you visit the nearby Skaill House, a lovely residence built in 1620. You will also pass the great Neolithic henge called the Ring of Brodgar en route to a photo stop at the ancient Standing Stones of Stenness, another Neolithic monument that was erected more than 5,000 years ago. Your prehistoric tour ends with your return to the ship and all the comforts of modern life.Please note : the number of guides in languages other than English is limited. Should a tour guide for your language be unavailable, the tour will be provided in English only. This tour is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair. The walk from the coach car park to Skara Brae and back from Skaill House is around 1,000 m on a fairly good path, although it is sometimes exposed to the harsh weather.

Price per person $68.00 Adults $48.00 Children

   


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 KWL06 - ITALIAN CHAPEL & SCAPA FLOW (approx. 2 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: easy - May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Limited seat  Wheelchair and disabled friendly tour - Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.  Cultural  Take in some of the beautiful sights found on Orkney’s Mainland and four of the pretty neighbouring isles on this 2-hour coach-based tour. Called the Churchill Barriers, the causeways linking Mainland with these four islands were originally constructed in the 1940s as naval defences, but now serve as regular connecting roads. As you make your way through the pastoral landscape, you will see vestiges of WWI and WWII at the body of water known as Scapa Flow. Your guide will share some of the dramatic wartime stories that went to make this one of the best known stretches of water in the world. Next up is the hand-painted Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, a Roman Catholic church built by Italian POW during WWII that continues to be preserved to this day. Then it’s on to South Ronaldsay and the lovely seaside village of St Margaret's Hope. After a stop to explore the excellent craft workshop or to take a stroll through the village, your will return to Kirkwall and your ship. Please note : the number of guides in languages other than English is limited. Should a tour guide for your language be unavailable, the tour will be provided in English only.

Price per person $50.00 Adults $35.00 Children

   


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 KWL07 - ANCIENT STANDING STONES & DRAMATIC CLIFFS (approx. 2.5 hours) - 2014
Difficulty level: easy - May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing  Panoramic tour  Limited seat  Wheelchair and disabled friendly tour - Wheelchair guests must be accompanied by their own helper to get on/off the coach. Wheelchairs must be foldable as the coach is not provided with ramps or lifts. Once onboard, please contact Excursions Desk staff promptly so they can help make arrangements.  Treat yourself to an exciting tour that will take you to discover some of Orkney’s natural wonders and UNESCO World Heritage Sites – from wild cliff-top seascapes to ancient stone circles set within the peaceful countryside. On leaving the quayside in Kirkwall, your tour begins with a panoramic drive through the pastoral landscape along the west coast of Mainland, the largest of the Orkney Islands, to reach the magnificent red sandstone cliffs of Yesnaby. Some of the island’s most spectacular scenery can be enjoyed from this vantage point high above the rugged coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day, the sea stack known as the “Old Man of Hoy” and even the Scottish mainland can be seen in the distance. Continuing on to the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” – an area designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 – you will first pay a visit to the huge ceremonial stone circle known as the Ring of Brodgar, which is situated on a strip of land separating Lochs Harray and Stenness that is known as the Ness of Brodgar. This astonishing Neolithic monument is the third-largest of its kind in the British Isles and was created roughly 4,500 years ago. Once thought to have formed a perfect circle made up of 60 stones, the 27 remaining stones are an impressive reminder of the ingenuity and endeavour of these ancient islanders. On the return drive back to Kirkwall and your ship, you will also pass the imposing Standing Stones of Stenness, one of the earliest henges in Britain dating back around 5,000 years. Please note : the number of guides in languages other than English is limited. Should a tour guide for your language be unavailable, the tour will be provided in English only.

Price per person $55.00 Adults $39.00 Children

   


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Shore Excursions programs and Itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour. Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, It is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment.