Partial Road Closures for High Level Masonry Work at Bishop’s & Earl’s Palaces

A section of Watergate between Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces and a section of Palace Road will be closed from Monday 30 October – Friday 17 November while Historic Environment Scotland (HES) carries out High-Level Masonry inspections at Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces in Kirkwall.

Bishops and Earls Palace seen from above from the top of St Magnus Cathedral
Bishops and Earls Palaces as seen from the top of St Magnus Cathedral

The road closure is part of a Temporary Traffic Order and three-way traffic lights will be in place.

The High-Level Masonry Programme is assessing the condition of higher-level structures at historic sites following deterioration caused by climate change and a number of other factors, including the materials used in the building’s construction, its age and physical location. Whilst this is not an issue unique to Scotland, HES is believed to be amongst the first heritage managers to approach it in this way and is sharing findings with peer organisations.

The specially trained High-Level Masonry team will use a range of specialist access equipment to carry out hand’s-on tactile inspections to carefully examine the culturally significant sites which are hundreds of years old.

The results of the inspections will then inform any necessary repair works or future interventions. The inspection teams will also work closely with the local works team and conservation experts to carry out minor repairs as they go, where possible.

The inspections follow on from pre-inspection work that was carried out in Orkney earlier this year. This included ground archaeology and ecology reports which were required prior to inspections being carried out. This work was vital to ensure the safety of the inspection staff and contractors and allowed HES to carefully consider the safest method to inspect sites and plan accordingly.

Christa Gerdwilker, Team Leader for the High-Level Masonry Programme at HES, said:

“Orkney is home to some of Scotland’s most significant heritage sites, and our High-Level Masonry inspections allow us to assess and mitigate the impact that climate change and other factors has had on them.

“We will aim to keep any disruption to a minimum as we undertake the inspections at Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces and apologise for any inconvenience caused during this period.”

As part of its nationwide High-Level Masonry Programme, HES has carried out more than 50 full inspections at sites across the country since May last year. To find out more visit:

For further information on the High-Level Masonry inspections in Orkney, visit:

A view down Palace Road Kirkwall in the evening as the sun sets. On the right St Magnus Cathedral and on the left the Bishops Palace.
Image credit Christie Grahame

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