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The Earl's Palace (Kirkwall)

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Historic Earl's palace in Kirkwall, Orkney

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      17.08.2010 15:00
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      Not bad for a quick visit but it's no Skara Brae

      The Earl's Palace is located in the heart of Kirkwall, next to St Magnus Cathedral. It was built around 1606 by the infamous Patrick, Earl of Orkney, known for his cruelty. The Palace now stands in ruins, managed by Historic Scotland. Entry is adult £3.70, child £2.20, and concession £3.00 - this gives you a joint ticket for the Earl's Palace and the adjacent Bishop's Palace. We used our Orkney Explorer passes. The building is not wheelchair accessible, so we couldn't borrow one for my mum, but the nice lady at the desk still gave us one free entry for a carer - so along with the two Explorer passes, we didn't hand over any money at the ticket desk. From the outside, despite being in ruins, the building is still very imposing. It has a lot of turrets and corbelled windows, and it is easy to see the Earl's intention of displaying his power and wealth. There is a large area of lawn around the building, which must have been pleasant for a stroll when the building was intact and in use. What struck me however is that here is a building from 400 years ago in ruins. I think of the 1600s as being relatively recent history, as so many buildings from this period have survived - not this one though. The day before our visit to the Earl's Palace we had visited Skara Brae, 5000 years old yet not in a much worse condition than the Earl's Palace, comparatively speaking. The ground floor of the building was the cellars, kitchens and so on. It is very dank and dark, full of drips. In one room there is a large display covering the history of the building and the Earl, but the damp atmosphere isn't very nice to stand in so we just skimmed over it. Most of the floors and supporting structures of the building are still intact, so we were able to go up higher, and even up to one of the highest points in the building. The fireplace of the great hall is still distinguishable, and the windowframes of what was the Earl's chamber are quite beautiful. One complaint however is that there were few "labels" telling us what each room was. Some rooms had little green notices stating "Cellar" etc, but most didn't, which was rather unhelpful. I had a guidebook which helped, but visitors shouldn't have to buy a guidebook on top of their ticket price just to identify rooms in the building. The Earl's Palace and its history are interesting, but there are definitely better things to see in Orkney. However, I do recommend getting an Explorer pass, and so this makes a visit to the Earl's Palace worthwhile to get your money's worth out of the pass.

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