Saint Magnus Cathedral

Saint Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

Saint Magnus Cathedral
4.5
Historic Sites • Religious Sites
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9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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About
St Magnus Cathedral, built in a Romanesque style from red and yellow sandstone, is of international significance. This ‘fine minster’ took about 300 years to build, the foundations starting in 1137. It was dedicated to Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney. He shared the earldom with his cousin, Haakon Paulsson, but jealousy and greed culminated in Magnus being martyred on the island of Egilsay. The shrine of St Magnus drew pilgrims from all over northern Europe, and the tradition of pilgrimage has been revived in recent times with the opening of the St Magnus Way. St Magnus Cathedral is the only wholly Medieval cathedral in Scotland, and the bones of the saint still lie interred within the pillars of the choir.
Suggested duration
< 1 hour
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4.5
1,906 reviews
Excellent
1,362
Very good
498
Average
44
Poor
1
Terrible
1

MadamJosephine
Melbourne, Australia1,195 contributions
St Magnus Cathedral is a beautiful building with soaring red stone pillars and arches either side of the nave, but to us what made the visit special was the large number of ancient tombstones, going back to the 1500's that line the walls of the Cathedral, all having their worn engraving transcribed on a plaque adjacent to each tombstone. Please take a silver coin or two to put into the provided box that helps with the upkeep of the Cathedral. Given that many people don't have cash these days, can I suggest to the authorities that a credit card reader be installed, just like in Newcastle Cathedral.
Written August 4, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

ElenaLM123
Aberdeen, UK18 contributions
This cathedral is extremely beautiful. It dominates the town of Kirkwall. I was absolutely stunned by its size. It's built of two different colours of stone in unusual combination. The cathedral is surrounded by a cemetery. It's across the road from the ruins of Bishop's and Earl's palaces which are worth a visit as well. Cathedral is beautiful and interesting inside. Although I found it a little bit dark and oppressive and busy with tourists. Note, there are toilets there. The entrance to the cathedral is free, but of course it's recommended to leave at least £1 donation for the upkeep. We also visited St Magnus Centre, which is situated very near the cathedral on one of the side streets. The visit is free. We watched a very interesting and well made film about St Magnus and the history of the cathedral. The film was only about 15 minutes long, but very informative. After the film we visited the souvenir shop in the same building. It was small but well stocked. We had the most enjoyable chat with an elderly gentleman who worked there (we assumed a volunteer). He was so friendly, and among general chat told us a lot about the islands' history. This conversation really made our day.
Written August 13, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

SiberianEmo
Omsk, Russia75 contributions
Solo
St. Magnus Cathedral is claimed to be the most northern cathedral of Great Britain. It is open 9 in the morning to 5 in the evening. (However, I was not there on Sunday, so perhaps hours might differ on that day). The entrance was free. The construction started in the 12th century.
The cathedral is located right in the middle of Kirkwall. So, in an Orkney spin to a famous proverb, 'All roads lead to St. Magnus.'
The cathedral is not as big, so in all honesty, you would not need to spend more than 30 minutes.
Even though the cathedral is Protestant, and thus somewhat plain, you still feel the sense of enchantment and that of old age when you look up and admire the arcades. There are many old tombstones placed on the inside walls of cathedral, so any taphophiles here will appreciate it. Make sure to read little placards next to the tombstones since they translate the inscriptions into modern English. In addition, an attendant was playing a piano, creating a charming vibe for the visitors.
There is an old cemetery adjacent to the cathedral. Some Graves dated to 18th century. So, if you are into the tombstone tourism, allow yourself at least an hour. The consistent cackling of crows, created rather menacing feel. (+When I visited, the cemetery gate remained open even in the evening).
If you have a short time in Kirkwall and want to stick to traditional sightseeing, Cathedral and nearby Earl's & Bishop's Palaces, and an Orkney History Museum is great way to spend 2-3 hours. (But no, check that graveyard out as well).
Written July 2, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

kmofr
149 contributions
A gorgeous cathedral, with beautiful pieces of stained glass, a magnificent view from the top... and a rude guide. She knew perfectly her script and it was nicely rendered, even with some jokes that made it more enjoyable... until I committed what she considered an offense: I approached her to ask her to explain something I had not properly understood. Even though we were both wearing a mask, she told me in a very rude manner to stand back and then answered my question by rolling her eyes and starting her reply with "as I already told you" and then she went on repeating a part of her explanation that as a matter of fact was not an answer to my question. I did not dare to repeat my question. A few minutes later, when we got to an upper floor, one of the visitors almost got lost and did not meet immediately the rest of the group. She rolled her eyes again visibly annoyed and added: "And now we will all have to spend a lot of time here because I need to go and find the last person of the group." A few seconds later the last person arrived proving there was no need to lecture us, but she did it again: "I told you not to stay behind." It really spoiled my visit, I was having such a lovely time. Moreover, the visit was not cheap: it was 9,60£. It is a pity: the rest of the staff was caring and polite, like Lorraine, the woman who took my reservation the day before, who explained everything to me about the visit and was such a sweetheart. Unfortunately, her colleague the guide left me with bittersweet memories of the visit.
Written June 2, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

23SnapHappy
Buckie, UK126 contributions
Friends
Stunning! This is a magnificent building. The architecture inside and out is amazing. There are lots of information points inside and wall carvings. There are also leaflets. The woodwork and sculpturing at the alter and pallpit are extremely intriquite. Sit and look up at the ceiling and balconies and you will see more intriquite designs. You can take photos and there is an area where you can get headphones and listen to further info via your smartphone. The cemetery is full of very old stones, some with very beautiful words.
Written April 5, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Happiness615835
Glasgow, UK5 contributions
My Mum found St Magnus Cathedral the most lovely in Britain. It isn't very big, but the red and cream sandstones gives it a glow! The West Window (modern) is wonderful - see it at different times of day - and it casts delicate shadows on the floor on the pillars. The 17th/18th century wall memorials (to right as you enter) are very special. Kirkwall & Glasgow are the only Medieval cathedrals not wrecked by Presbyterian hordes and both date from the 12th century. St Magnus escaped by its remoteness, St Mungo was defended by the townsfolk of Glasgow.
Written February 28, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Henry Tapper
London, UK352 contributions
A really great cathedral. This place is packed with historical detail, make sure you find out about St Magnus from the exce;lent information on the walls and soak up all the history. But what is really special is the combination of stain glass and titanic sandstone which makes this massive place seem full of light and colour too.
Written August 21, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

NomadSue
London, UK19 contributions
Beautiful historic sandstone building. When the sun shines through the stained glass windows and illuminates the inside of the cathedral it is spectacular and you can believer or non believer you can feel the light of God. An oasis of intimate beauty and calm in a strange world
Written September 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Helen B
Teignmouth, England, United Kingdom13 contributions
We attended a family wedding here and were very impressed by the Cathedral’s warmth of welcome and quality of service. We returned again as visitors a few days later and enjoyed the peace and beauty of the many details. Thank you for both.
Written August 11, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

shetlandfi
Shetland200 contributions
We were a group of Vikings down from Shetland on a little tour of Orkney and we called along the Cathedral for a visit and some pictures.
The town was very busy due to three cruise ships being in and I think that some of the visitors thought our group had been laid on by the tourist board. There were dozens of cruise ship passengers who crowded around us to get photos with Vikings.

The staff at the Cathedral were very nice and invited us in to get some photos taken inside the magnificent building.

It was very busy and would be best visited, if at all possible, during a quieter time.

The Cathedral is perfectly situated in the heart of the town and is definitely a must visit, whether you have on your Viking garb or not!
Written March 2, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Saint Magnus Cathedral

Saint Magnus Cathedral is open:
  • Sun - Sun 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Mon - Sat 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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