Cruises to Kirkwall

198 Reviews
Kirkwall (Photo:johnbraid/Shutterstock)

About Cruising to Kirkwall

Situated on what's known as the "Mainland" of the Orkney archipelago, Kirkwall is the capital of a group of about 70 islands north of Scotland. The town was founded around 1035, and was declared a Royal Burgh in 1486 by King James III. Kirkwall's most famous landmark is nearly the 900-year old St. Magnus Cathedral, built from beautiful pink and yellow sandstone. Its towering spire dominates the town, even from the water.

Settlements on Orkney's mainland go back to 3000 BC. You can see remains of that civilization at Skara Brae, as well as cairns (man-made piles of stone), Bronze Age stone circles and Iron Age roundhouses, at different sites around the island. The richness of the Orkney's Neolithic past has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status.

Vikings arrived in the eighth and ninth centuries and left their mark, too. The name Kirkwall is derived from the old Norse name Kirkjuvagr, which means "Church Bay." The original town is considered to be one of the best-preserved examples of an ancient Norse settlement.

Follow the streets, which snake around this town built of gray stone, and you'll find shopping, dining, banks and more, as well as a museum and historic sites. Explore more of Kirkwall on your next cruise to Scotland.

  • More about Kirkwall

  • Why Cruise to Kirkwall?

  • Kirkwall Cruise Port Facilities?

Loading...

We found you 257 cruises

Loading...
Loading...
Nieuw Statendam
Nieuw Statendam

7 Night
Islands Of Iceland & Scotland

266 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker
Sirena
Sirena

11 Night
Europe - Northern Cruise

282 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker
Star Pride
Windstar's stretched Star Pride (Photo/Melinda Crow)

11 Night
Lands Of The Midnight Sun 11d Le1-rey

126 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker
Norwegian Dawn
Norwegian Dawn

10 Night
Europe - British Isles

3,012 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker
Sponsored

Ends Soon: Up to 40% Off Cruises & More

  • Up to 40% Off Cruises
  • Drinks & Wi-Fi Included
  • Up to $400 Onboard Credit
  • Save on cruises to the Caribbean, The Bahamas, Europe & more

MSC Cruises

14 Night
British Isles Explorer

224 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

28 Night
Scandinavia & The British Isles

224 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

14 Night
Into The Midnight Sun

224 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

11 Night
Europe - British Isles

2,579 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

14 Night
Northern Isles

109 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

11 Night
Europe - British Isles

3,012 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker
Cruise Critic Favorite

28 Night
World Cruise

804 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker
Cruise Critic Favorite

8 Night
Gaelic Explorer 8d Le1-dlg

124 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

7 Night
Norwegian Fjords With Scotland

109 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

14 Night
Britain Scotland & Ireland

266 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

14 Night
Norway Cruise

282 Reviews
Leaving:
Cruise Line:
No prices currently available for this sailing.
  • Itinerary
  • Ship
  • Reviews
  • View All Prices
  • Fare Insight
  • Price Tracker

More about Kirkwall

Why Cruise to Kirkwall?

Pros:

This ancient town is abundant with beautiful historical sites, from the 900-year-old St. Magnus Cathedral to neolithic stone circles

Cons:

Chilly winds are common here, so bring a sweater

Bottom Line:

Catch a lunch of local seafood in town, then take a tour to nearby Skara Brae or Maes Howe

Kirkwall Cruise Port Facilities?

A scattering of restaurants are located just up from Kirkwall Pier, at the intersection of Bridge, Shore and Harbor streets. A pub called Helgi's (14 Harbour Street; open 11 a.m. until late) serves local brews. There's not much to be found around Hatston Quay.

Good to Know?

St. Magnus Cathedral is a popular spot for weddings, so if you're exploring the town, we recommend checking it out first to see whether it might be closed for a wedding, so you can plan accordingly.

There can be chilly winds at places like Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar, so you might want to dress in layers.

If you decide to drive, remember that the Scottish drive on the left-hand side of the road. Be particularly careful when you make a right turn, because you have to cross oncoming traffic. Be cautious crossing streets, too.

Getting Around?

On Foot: It's an easy 10-minute walk into the heart of Kirkwall from the Town Dock. Don't attempt it from Hatston Quay. Once you're in the town center, all the sites are very walkable, and some of the main shopping streets are pedestrian zones.

By Bus: Stagecoach operates a public bus route, the T11, which is designed to take tourists to Skara Brae and the Ring of Brodgar, with time to sightsee at each spot before the bus departs again. Catch it at the Kirkwall Travel Centre on W. Castle Street near the VisitScotland tourism office.

By Taxi: Several taxi services operate in Kirkwall, including Craigies (+44 (0)1856 878787), Bob's (+44 (0)1856 876543) and Kirkwall Taxi (+44 (0)1856 876972). Craigies is the largest operation and can accommodate wheelchair passengers; it also offers mini-vans available for up to eight passengers. We highly recommend booking any taxi tour well in advance of your trip.

By Rental Car: Many travelers to Orkney prefer to drive themselves, so it's essential to book ahead if you're planning to rent a car. W.R. Tullock (Castle Street; +44 (0)1856 873212) is the agent for Avis, National and Europecar, with downtown pickup available. Orkney Car Hire also has rentals available in town (Junction Road, not far from the tourist office; +44 (0)1856 872866)

By Bike: Orkney Cycle on Tankerness Lane, rents bikes at a reasonable rate.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The pound is Scotland's currency. It's comparable to -- and interchangeable with -- the British pound. You'll find convenient ATMs at the Royal Bank of Scotland (1 Victoria Street) and Clydesdale Bank (2 Broad Street) -- a short walk from the cathedral. For currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.

Language?

English with a strong Scottish accent is what you'll hear on Orkney. But you'll encounter many place names that reflect the Viking heritage. As late as the 19th century, a version of Norse was spoken there, rather than Gaelic.

Where You're Docked?

You'll end up in any of three locations:

Kirkwall Pier: Smaller ships dock at the most convenient spot. After a 400-foot walk on the pier, it's about 10 minutes walking (slightly uphill) to the cathedral; shops, restaurants and other services begin when you hit the shore.

Hatston Quay: Larger ships dock at this facility two miles outside of town. It's Scotland's longest deep-water commercial berth, about a one-minute walk to reach the spot where excursion buses wait. The ferry terminal has toilets, drink-vending machines and a parking lot. For most ships, the town operates a shuttle service to the tourism office in the city center.

Anchored: If berths aren't available, some lines anchor in the bay and use tenders to serve the port. It amounts to about 15 percent of all cruise ships.

For a list of ships stopping at Kirkwall and where they will dock or anchor, check the Orkney Islands Council Marine Services website.


Kirkwall Cruise Reviews
Beautiful church of Scotland in city.Read More
popcornisbest
The Orkney Islands were fascinating and beautiful. We booked a private tour with JPOrkney.com and Paul was a fabulous guide! Read More
Mgsrcs
We thought this was the best included tour. The Orkneys are small, but the ancient sites are amazing.Read More
Nerdfather
Such a friendly place. A fascinatingly island.Read More
cruiseshipofficer

Related Cruises

Cruises to Newport

261 Reviews

Cruises to Montreal

94 Reviews

Cruises to Puerto Limon

397 Reviews

Cruises to Rouen

121 Reviews

Cruises to Gdansk (Warsaw)

120 Reviews

Cruises to Marseille

934 Reviews

Cruises to Maui

714 Reviews

Cruises to Rangiroa

30 Reviews

Cruises to Penang

132 Reviews

Cruises to Abu Dhabi

166 Reviews

Cruises to Phuket

148 Reviews

Cruises to Hakodate

26 Reviews

Cruises to Iles des Saintes

14 Reviews

Cruises to Picton

165 Reviews

Cruises to Puerto Quetzal (Antigua)

387 Reviews

Cruises to Cochem

32 Reviews

Cruises to Mainz

18 Reviews

Cruises to Speyer

48 Reviews

Cruises to Bernkastel-Kues

37 Reviews

Cruises to Dawson City (Yukon)


Get special cruise deals, expert advice, insider tips and more.By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

© 1995—2024, The Independent Traveler, Inc.