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Baltic Cruises

About Kirkwall

Standing stones on the Orkney Islands

The history of the Scottish Orkney Islands dates back millennia. Neolithic remains here, including the ancient site of Brodgar, predate Stonehenge and the Pyramids. The 13th-century Norse Orkneyinga Saga told of Vikings who ruled here in the early part of that millennium. Remnants of that rule remain in Kirkwall’s Romanesque St. Magnus Cathedral. However, the Bishop’s Palace was the last thing King Haakon IV saw before his death that marked the end of Norse rule. The earls took over, and the French Renaissance Palace that remains is a legacy to their grandeur. Another castle, Balfour, stands regally in a stark landscape. And lest you think only northern Europeans influenced this hauntingly beautiful archipelago, consider the Italian Chapel, built and hand painted by the hands of Italian prisoners who desperately needed a place to pray while consigned to work on the Churchill Barriers during wartime.