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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Kirkwall by night....

These pix were taken by Steven Heddle (AllaboutOrkney), who is (in no particular order) a local Orkney Islands councillor (politician), IT guru, physicist, decent chap, some-time musician and trick cyclist (I almost made the last one up!). He was cycling up the top of a hill outside Kirkwall and took these shots. Brilliant!  He kindly let me put them on my blog - hence the build up to the introduction ;-)

Anyway to serious matters. Kirkwall is the main town in Orkney. Technically a city as it has a cathedral (any place in the UK with a cathedral is designated a city, whatever the size, apparently).[[see note below amd comments! - I'm confusing Kirkwall with being a Royal Burgh, it was given this status in 1486 by King James III of Scotland]].  St Magnus Cathedral is magnificent and construction began in 1154. It's a must to visit.

The population of Orkney is about 20,000 folk, and most of them live in or around Kirkwall which is the main centre for the Orkney Islands Council, Orkney Health Board, Hospital, supermarkets, banks, leisure centre and a variety of other local shops, businesses and schools. Orkney's airport is just outside Kirkwall, planes fly to Scottish Mainland airports, Shetland, the North Orkney islands and, occasionally, Norway. Most of the North Isles ferries come into Kirkwall Harbour. The main ferry to and from Aberdeen berths at Hatston, which is on the edge of the town. I always refer to Kirkwall as "The Metropolis"!

But remember Orkney is North of Scotland - and in this photo you can see the Scottish mountains in the background - this is looking South!4. The lights in the mid-ground are on the island of Flotta, which has the oil terminal. Orkney gets a share of North Sea Oil (goes into the Council Reserve Fund), along with Shetland.

Note: - Bad me, making statements without checking the evidence!  In England and Wales up until the 16th Century a town was recognised as a city if it had a cathedral. I knew THIS was true because Wales (the Land of My Fathers) has St David's. So I was a bad researcher and extrapolated this in a very unscientific way to the rest of the UK!  See Wikepedia - what would we do without it! And bear in mind THIS isn't necessarily robust evidence either ;-)


  1. with this photo and you description, it seems like a bustling pace!

  2. Interesting to see the night photo. I didn't realize Kirkwall was so big...and I was there

  3. Great photos and yes you're a long way north... did you see any Aurora this week? Just begun to think about a Northern Isles special for radio, could be fun in the summer . . . . when there's less wind - hah!

  4. Lovely night photo. City size is all relative. Living on an island of 26 people, 20,000 must seem BIG.

  5. The cathedral = city thing used to be true (at least on England; not sure how much it applied in Scotland, given its general lack of cathedrals!) but isn't any more. City status is granted by royal charter (I think) and there are quite a few examples of cities without cathedrals, and vice versa.
    Don't know what Kirkwall's formal status is, though I never heard it described as a city when I was there.

  6. VioletSky - Well Kirkwall likes to think of itself as "bustling"!

    Bev - A lot of it's size is due to the residential area around.....

    Wessed Reiver - Missed the Aurora.....sigh... saw lots of photos though....SIGH. OOoh do get in touch if you are coming this far North!

    Sybil - well see my amended post - it's not city. I was getting it confused with being a Royal Burgh...sigh.... But yes it's all relative :-)

    Simon - thanks for that correction! Honestly what am I like! Extrapolating ENGLISH stuff to Scotland -arrgggh!!!! Thanks for making me check my facts..... It's a Royal Burgh (Thanks to King James III) But NOT a city....

  7. I thought the cathedral city thing was the case in Scotland too. Certainly Dunblane, where I grew up, is a cathedral city. The sign on the way in says "Welcome to the City and Burgh of Dunblane." I always thought Kirkwall was a cathedral city too.