Enabling Everyone To Enter St Magnus Cathedral By The West Door

The proposed plans were revealed for improvements to St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall at a public meeting on Tuesday 2nd of July. Cathedral architect, Andrew Boyce, presented the proposals and answered questions from the public.

The improvements are the next step in work which has been ongoing at the Cathedral since the 1990s. Some of those changes were:

  • new chairs
  • LED lighting
  • a cloakroom
  • improving access to the cloakroom

The proposal for the new entrance at the West door is for both visual and physical reasons.

Currently disabled access has been through a narrow door with a steep slope.

disabled access St Magnus Cathedral

It is not possible for a person in a wheelchair to do this on their own. The improvements will change that.


The slope from Palace Road to the West door will be re-graded and made level with the inside of the Cathedral.

slope at St Magnus Cathedral


This will mean everybody will be able to enter the Cathedral through the West door. All the paving will be reused and the intention is to have no protruding hand rails. The exception being a rail along the wall.

Plans 2 St Magnus Cathedral


At the moment when you enter the Cathedral you are faced with a small internal porch with 2 side doors. This will all go with the wood being reused in the cathedral, possibly with future improvements to the South Transept.

What will replace the small wooden porch is an oak timber and glass enclosure with modern  opening. There will still be side doors but also ahead will be a pair of double doors for central access.

Plans 1 St Magnus Cathedral

The existing wooden porch cuts across a beautiful archway and this will now be revealed. The new porch will follow the line of the original stone arch which also mirrors the window above it. The oak timber used will match the wood of the Cathedral chairs.

Plans 3 St Magnus Cathedral

There will be much more light with the increased glazing and on approach you will see directly up the nave to the splendid East window. The font will remain where it is.

Plans 5 St Magnus Cathedral

Outside, the new slope from Palace Road will be slightly wider but there will still be room for hearses and wedding cars to park.

parking area outside St Magnus Cathedral

The improvements will also allow other work to be done at the same time. For instance the sandstone pillars at the West door are badly eroded due to water damage. They are constructed from brown sandstone brought from mainland Scotland and not best suited to Orkney’s climate. They have also been bedded the wrong way. It is hoped to get stone from the Head of Holland to replace the damaged stonework.

steps to St Magnus Cathedral


It is intended to be able to complete the work over 2 to 3 months starting it when the Cathedral is less busy – from January up to Easter.

Despite there being a bit of a stooshie on social media there were about 30 people at the meeting but for those who missed it the plans are on show all of July at the St Magnus Centre and there is a comments box where you can leave your views. You can also view the plans and fill in the consultation here: Cathedral entrance proposals – take part in our consultation

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St Magnus Cathedral belongs to the People of Orkney and is cared for and maintained by Orkney Islands Council. The Society of the Friends of St Magnus Cathedral which has been in existence since 1958 raise and contribute money for capital projects.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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2 replies »

  1. This all looks good – especially the inside porch bit – it will open things out.
    I look forward to seeing it.

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