The sparkling Orkney’s capital
The St Magnus Cathedral
The old harbour

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Kirkwall/Orkney Is.

The mystic Stones of Stenness

Sail on an MSC cruise to the unique and fiercely independent archipelago of Orkney! For an Orcadian, the Mainland means the largest island in Orkney rather than the rest of Scotland, and their history is inextricably linked with Scandinavia.
Kirkwall, Orkney’s capital, has one great redeeming feature – its sandstone cathedral, without doubt the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland. Nowadays, the town is divided into two main focal points: the old harbour, at the north end of the town, where inter-island ferries come and go all year round, and the flagstoned main street, which changes its name four times as it twists its way south from the harbour past the cathedral.

Standing at the very heart of Kirkwall, St Magnus Cathedral is the town’s most compelling sight. This beautiful red sandstone building was begun in 1137 by the Viking Earl Rognvald, who built the cathedral in honour of his uncle Magnus, killed on the orders of his cousin Håkon in 1117.

To the south of the cathedral are the ruined remains of the Bishop’s Palace, residence of the Bishop of Orkney since the twelfth century. Most of what you see now, however, dates from the time of Bishop Robert Reid, sixteenth-century founder of Edinburgh University.

A narrow spiral staircase takes you to the top for a good view over the cathedral and Kirkwall’s rooftops. MSC Northern Europe cruises also offer excursions to the heart of Orkney’s most important Neolithic ceremonial complex. The most visible part is the Stones of Stenness, originally a circle of twelve rock slabs, now just four, the tallest of which is more than 16ft high and remarkable for its incredible thinness.

Must see places in Kirkwall

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    United Kingdom

    God Save the Queen
    God Save the Queen

    The United Kingdom is not just one country but four – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and a multitude of cultural identities: God forbid you should call a Scot or a Welshman English for example.

    Don’t miss the true London experience during your holiday to the United Kingdom; the capital is the one place that features on everyone’s itinerary. 

    Brighton and Canterbury offer contrasting diversions – the former a lively seaside resort, the latter one of Britain’s finest medieval cities. 

    The southwest of England holds the rugged moorlands of Devon, the rocky coastline of Cornwall, and the historic spa city of Bath, while the chief attractions of central England are the university cities of Oxford and Cambridge

    Further north, the former industrial cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle are lively, rejuvenated places, and York has splendid historical treasures, but the landscape, especially the uplands of the Lake District, is the biggest magnet. 

    The finest of Scotland’s lochs, glens and peaks, and the magnificent scenery of the West Coast islands, can be reached easily from Glasgow and Edinburgh – the latter perhaps Britain’s most attractive urban landscape. Finally, a cruise to the United Kingdom isn’t complete without a stop in Northern Ireland with its capital city Belfast and the spectacular Giant’s Causeway.