Earl’s Palace, Birsay, Orkney, Scotland

Earl's Palace , Birsay, Orkney

I’m casting my mind back to early June when we had a week’s holiday in Orkney, it was the first time either of us had been there. The Earl’s Palace at Birsay was one of the places on our list of places to visit.

Earl's Palace  Birsay

It’s a ruin, as you can see but that’s no surprise as it was built between 1569 and 1579. Earl Robert Stewart built it, he was an illegitimate son of King James V – so a half-brother to Mary, Queen of Scots and he obviously had high ambitions for himself. He was a bit of a swine by all accounts – but weren’t they all?!

Earl's Palace  at Birsay, Orkney

His son seems to have been even worse though. I always remind myself when I visit any stately homes or castles that the people who built them only managed to do so because they were the most violent bullies in an age when that was what was needed to get to the top of society. Thinking about it though – I’m not at all sure that things have changed much over the years!

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Birsay is a very small settlement, but I enjoyed a walk around the graveyard there, that was when I realised that the surnames on Orkney are so different from those in other parts of Scotland. They’re mostly of Viking descent, so no Macs or Mcs here – well very few if any.

2 thoughts on “Earl’s Palace, Birsay, Orkney, Scotland

  1. It must have been an imposing residence in its heyday – I’ve just read about its decorated ceilings.
    The first and second Earls’ lives seem not to have had happy endings, however.
    Hard times.
    I sometimes wonder, if I could travel back in time five hundred years, what “side” my ancestors would have been on!

    • Valerie,
      That is what we are always wondering – would we have been on the side of Mary, Queen of Scots or John Knox. I have sympathy with her, but – she was a Catholic. Or the Jacobites or Redcoats as lots of Lowland Scots were in that ‘English’ army. So many Scots moved from the Highlands to the Lowlands for work, or because they had been ‘cleared’ off the clan lands as I’m sure you know, so that sort of muddies the water!

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