What should we work on seeing in Kirkwall and how to get there.
Just in town or on all of Mainland? Why are you going to take the trouble to get out there if you don't have some idea of what to see? How long will you be there? We need some kind of staring point or else you'll get a list of bars instead of a list of megaliths.
We are on a cruise. Will stop in Kirkwall Orkney for the day
Ouch! Just in town there's not much. A mildly interesting church, the waterfront, and a small pedestrian shopping area with a couple of okay places to eat. See if they have a tour of some kind that will get you to Maeshowe, Skara Brae, the Stones of Stenness, and especially the Ring of Brodgar. The whole loop can't be but about thirty-five miles or an hour of driving so you have time to see all the places. Read up and see if you're interested in these things first, obviously. If they offer something like a run down to Scapa Flow or a trip to Stromness, I'd skip those unless they're dirt cheap. I spent a great week in Kirkwall back in the fall, but only used the town as place to sleep. If I got done running around too early (before dark) there was nothing to do but sit on a wall along the front and watch the boats come and go. The best grub in town is at a pub called Helgi's on Harbor Street which is just across the road from the recreational marina inboard of the ferry terminals. I never saw a cruise ship, so I don't know where they park.
Uh-oh. What kind of a "cruise" is this?
Stromness is fantastic place (and was once my home :) but it's a long drive 'round if you only have a day. If all the tours are booked, why not pop up to the airport and island hop on LoganAirs short routes for a few hours? You'll get a view of the islands in the ocean that not many people ever see. Hop out from Kirkwall to Papa Westray, take the 2-minute flight to Westray, then back to Kirkwall (perhaps via Ronaldsay, if you've got time). I think they still do certificates for the 2-minute-flight passengers as it's the worlds shortest commercial route. Definitely a different way to spend the day if neolithic monuments aren't your thing...
Is it the Silversea 'Silver Cloud'? What an interesting itinerary! The 18-day cruise starts in London and stops in Leith, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Thorshavn, Akureyri, Isafjordur, Reykjavik, Heimaey, Stornoway, Belfast, Dublin, Cobh, and Fowey, then ends back in London. You must be experienced at cruising because this doesn't seem like an itinerary first-timers would choose. I always think that when a cruise routinely stops in a particular port for a long day - and Silversea isn't the only cruise purveyor that stops in Kirkwall - and hundreds of people deboard, there must be something there that they think people will eagerly pay to see. A quick search revealed the following, which has a few rave reviews on Trip Advisor. http://www.orkneyaspects.co.uk/ This is not a wise thing for me to do. It only adds to my already huge long list of desirable destinations. Sigh...
Orkney is a wonderful place and if you are visiting on cruise you might want to think about a tour as the sites are spread out and not necessarily in Kirkwall. It's a World Heritage Site and the key neolithic sights are the Maes Howe, Stones of Steness, Ring of Brogdar and Skara Brae. Here's the UN description. So, there are historical things to know about Orkney. For years it was part of the Scandinavian world. The Earl's Palace, the Bishop's Palace date from those days. It wasn't until the mid to late 1400's that Orkney became part of Scotland. So, that means that you have Viking history on top of the neolithic history. This website is great resource. Stromness is lovely little town. It' s the main ferry port. My aunt lived summers for years. Kirkwall has the very old St. Magnus Cathedral. There is also the Bishop's Palace and Birsay near Skara Brae is of the same time. You might want to look into reading some of George MacKay Brown's books. Or for a new take on MacBeth, check out Dorothy Dunnett's book The King Hereafter. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0375704035 It's beautiful very different place. Pam
To follow up on Pam's usual great advice on Orkney, I would really recommend seeing both the Earls Palace and the Bishops Palace, which are bundled together on one entrance fee since they are right across the street from each other, and are across another road from St Magnus Cathedral, with the Orkney Museum across another street! All are very much worth your while. I especially loved the Earls Palace there, which I would rate as my second favorite ruin on my entire 18 day trip to England and Scotland last year (second only to Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire). Also, the shopping in Kirkwall is really great, especially the Longship where they sell Ola Gorie jewelry and the shop nearby (forget its name, but it has a turquiose store front) where they have some wonderful art tiles and other artwork as well as a great little restaurant in the back and local food items in the front. Sheila Fleet jewelry also has a shop on the main street here. If you can, definitely head to the UNESCO sites. As an archaeology fanatic, I was completely geeking out over everything! Maeshowe, Skara Brae, and the Ring of Brodgar were all incredible in their own ways, and I also loved the Brough of Birsay. A great website for researching all of Scotland, including Orkney, is Undiscovered Scotland (I just wish Emgland and Ireland had equally good sites available!).