Looking Up, in Kirkwall Part 1: Victoria Street

By Bernie Bell

I read an ‘Orkney News’ article about how the first year art students at Kirkwall Grammar School, supported by their teachers,  joined with local artists  Rebecca Marr and Francis Pelly to ‘look up’ and notice the architecture of Kirkwall.  They then produced art-work in various media, culminating in an exhibition at the Old Library exhibition room – not to be confused with the actual Kirkwall town library…….


This inspired me to walk round Kirkwall, taking pictures of some of the carvings and bits of architectural interest that I noticed.  This may not be an exhaustive compilation –  though it was a bit exhausting doing it – it may not be exhaustive.  But, I had a go, and readers might like to see if they can find any that I missed.

We parked in the car park behind Bruce’s Stores, near the end of Victoria Street and cut through to the street.  We turned right, and walked to where Union Street crosses Victoria Street, turned round, and …began…looking up.

The shape of the Kirkwall Baptist Church, leads the eye upwards, and the inscription over the door, has a message of peace……….

There are quite a  few green plaques around Kirkwall, commemorating notable local characters in various ‘fields’, this one, for Patrick Craigie,  is on the wall of Number 81, Victoria Street.

Patrick Craigie Kirkwall B Bell

There is a house which forms one side of Spence’s Square, which has a stone face on one corner, near  a metal arch.  He’s wearing a ruff round his neck, so…how old? Then, in the car park opposite Shearers, there’s another face on the back corner of the same house.

‘Solidio Gloria’ at, I think, number 53 Victoria Street

Victoria St Kirkwall Bell 3

In the forecourt of the Orkney Hotel, there are two stones of interest – the second, looks like it’s the remains of an archway.

Walking along the street, and on the side of the Orkney Hotel, we find initials, and the date 1679 – who are all these people? Are they traceable?

Victoria St Kirkwall Bell 6

The building which forms the corner of Whitechapel Lane, has a fine scroll, at either corner

And, in between, as part of the frontage of The Orkney Tweed Shop, we have two carvings over doorways.

As you look up, you might find a pigeon, looking down

Victoria St Kirkwall Bell 11 pigeon

As we took these picture we noticed how considerate folk are. When they saw what we were doing, they would stop walking,  so’s not to get in the way. I’d say, “It’s ok, we’re …looking up!” And they would smile, and carry on their way.

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