Towering over the narrow streets of Kirkwall in all its red sandstone glory, St Magnus Cathedral is a testament to the Vikings’ ability to create real beauty amid all that pillaging and plundering.
Commissioned by viking Earl Rögnvald in 1137 to honor his saintly uncle, Magnus Erlendsson, it took over 300 years for St Magnus Cathedral to become the beauty we see today, all Romanesque flourishes and heavy Norman influences.
The only medieval cathedral in Scotland, look out for the hidden dungeon known as Marwick’s Hole, where hundreds of people were imprisoned over the years before being hanged for witchcraft. Today, though, the northern cathedral is much more benign. Come for a Sunday service to listen to the organ being played beautifully, and try to visit the upper tower for 360-degree views of Kirkwall and the sea beyond.
On Broad Street in Kirkwall, entrance to the cathedral is free and its doors are open from morning until 6 p.m. from April to September and until 5 p.m. for the rest of the year.